Lady Gaga's meat dress

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Lady Gaga's meat dress
Designer Franc Fernandez
Year 2010
Material Raw flank steak
On display at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

American pop singer Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef, which was commonly referred to by the media as the meat dress,[1][2][3] to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Designed by Argentine designer Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti, the dress was condemned by animal rights groups, and named by Time as the top fashion statement of 2010. The press speculated on the originality of the meat dress idea, with comparisons made to similar images found in contemporary art and popular culture. As with her other dresses, it was archived, but went on display in 2011 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being preserved by taxidermists as a type of jerky. Gaga explained following the awards ceremony that the dress was a statement about one's need to fight for what one believes in, and highlighted her distaste for the US military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy.

Background[edit]

Gaga was the most nominated artist at 2010's Video Music Awards with a record thirteen nominations, including two nods for Video of the Year (the first female artist to achieve this feat).[4] She arrived in an Alexander McQueen dress and changed into a Giorgio Armani number before donning her third and final outfit of the evening: a dress, hat, boots, and purse made of raw meat. Gaga wore the meat dress to accept her Video of the Year trophy for "Bad Romance"; as she accepted the award from presenter Cher, she joked, "I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse."[5] Gaga continued to wear the dress after the awards show for press photos and an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.[1] Gaga explained her interpretation of the dress to DeGeneres, stating, "If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights[,] pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones."[6] "Now, I love Lady Gaga, but as someone who also loves animals, it was really difficult for me to sit next to Lady Gaga while she was wearing that outfit," DeGeneres, who is vegan, later wrote. "But it did make me ask myself, what's the difference between her outfit and an outfit made of leather?"[6]

Design[edit]

Faux-meat dress, during the The Born This Way Ball Tour.

Fernandez was approached by fellow designer and stylist Formichetti to produce the dress, with it planned out over the course of a week,[1] Formichetti having styled the look.[7] The dress was asymmetrical, with a cowled–neck.[8] Fernandez specifically chose cuts to ensure that the dress kept well.[1] Flank steak was chosen as the material to use,[3] with the meat coming from his family butcher.[7] The dress required Gaga to be stitched into the outfit backstage.[9]

Fernandez said of his design, "I knew the dress would be one of other amazing pieces Gaga wore that night. It's very well made and looked great on her, on and off camera. We didn't get a chance to have a fitting. The only time she had it on was for the VMAs. Only when I saw it in the monitor did I know it would be big."[3]

Fernandez reporting Gaga's opinion in an interview said that Gaga herself said it smelled good, because it smelled like meat.[1] The designer talked of what was to happen to the dress after the awards show, "The dress will be put in an archive with all of her dresses. The Gaga Archives, I suppose. It won't last, that's the beauty of it. When it is brought out again, hopefully it will be in a retrospective, and it will be a different dress, which is the best thing. I like the idea of it changing and evolving into something else".[1] He later explained that the dress would be preserved and made into a type of jerky before being archived.[10]

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid $6,000 to taxidermist Sergio Vigilato to preserve the dress. It had been frozen following the two television appearances, although Vigilato discovered signs of decomposition on the dress which had occurred prior to it being frozen, and noted it was emitting an odor once it was defrosted. It was treated with bleach, formaldehyde and detergent to kill any bacteria which had formed, and was reconditioned by being dyed dark red once it was preserved so to give it the same appearance as when first worn. However, after the preservation there were several pieces of beef left over and not included in the reworked dress.[11]

Lady Gaga brought a new version of the meat dress back in 2012 for her Born This Way Ball Tour. She wore it during the songs "Americano" and "Poker Face", with the difference that it is not made of real meat.[12]

Influence[edit]

An extended glass pyramid in front of a tall gray building with strangely shaped outcroppings
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where the meat dress went on display in 2011

Previously, Gaga had worn a bikini made of meat on the front cover of the Japanese edition of Vogue.[13] It was originally worn by Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to accept her award for Video of the Year.[7] Although it was Gaga's third costume change of the evening, the meat dress was immediately described as "most outrageous fashion moment" of the evening.[7]

Fernandez credits the dress with an upturn in his career, saying, "I feel like I have a voice now as an artist and as a designer".[9] He had previously created items for Gaga, including a costume for the Bad Romance music video for which she won the MTV Music Video Award,[13] and went on to create a hat that she wore to the 53rd Grammy Awards in February 2011.[9]

During Halloween in 2010, re-creations of the meat dress were popular in New York, and in 2011, a group of students from the University of Cumbria made a re-creation of the dress with the help of local butchers.[14] The dress went on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2011 as part of an exhibition entitled "Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power".[15]

A poll by website MyCelebrityFashion.co.uk placed the dress as the most iconic outfit of 2010, beating Kate Middleton's engagement dress into second place.[16] In summing up 2010 through a series of lists, Time voted the meat dress as its top fashion statement of 2010.[17][18]

When "Weird Al" Yankovic did a parody of Gaga's "Born This Way", titled "Perform This Way", he included a lyrical reference to the meat dress ("I strap prime rib to my feet / Cover myself with raw meat / I'll bet you've never seen a skirt steak worn this way") and had a dancer dressed in a similar outfit in the music video.[19]

Reception[edit]

Following the VMAs, media outlets attempted to analyse the meaning of the dress with suggestions by BBC News ranging from anti-fashion, to feminism, aging and decay, and society's attitude to meat. Chef Fergus Henderson explained this meat attitude as "People often don't want meat to look like meat. They want it to be neatly wrapped in plastic from a supermarket."[20] PETA condemned the dress, releasing a statement that said "wearing a dress made from cuts of dead cows is offensive enough to bring comment, but someone should whisper in her ear that more people are upset by butchery than are impressed by it."[21][22] The Vegetarian Society also condemned the dress, releasing a statement that said "No matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal. Enough animals die for food and they should not be killed for stunts like this."[23]

Another controversy surrounding the dress was the question of its originality. Many in the art and fashion press remarked on its similarity to Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, a meat dress made by Canadian sculptor Jana Sterbak in 1987 exhibited to considerable controversy at the National Gallery of Canada in 1991.[24][25][26] Karen Rosenberg from The New York Times compared the dress to a series of photographs of Francis Bacon posing with sides of beef attached to his torso like wings in 1952,[27] while The Daily Telegraph compared the dress to the original cover of The Beatles 1966 album Yesterday and Today, and noted its similarity to the cover of the November 1983 The Undertones album All Wrapped Up, which showed a female model wearing a dress and gloves made of cuts of meat (mostly bacon) held in place with plastic wrap and a sausage necklace.[23][28] Architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro had also designed a meat dress in 2006.[2]

Some media sources proposed that the dress could be interpreted as anti-vegan.[29] Vegetarian singer Morrissey stated that he felt the dress was acceptable as long as it was a social or political statement, and not just a "loony idea",[30] pointing out that artist Linder Sterling had previously worn a meat dress in 1982 to protest against what she believed to be the perception of women by men.[30] Ellen DeGeneres presented Gaga with a bikini made of vegetables when the singer appeared on her talk show, and the singer used the platform to respond to the controversy surrounding the dress saying, "... it has many interpretations. For me this evening, if we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights pretty soon, we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat."[21] She explained further that she was also using the dress to highlight her distaste for the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Vena, Jocelyn (September 16, 2010). "Lady Gaga Meat Dress Designer Tells How To Re-Create His VMA Look". MTV (MTV Networks). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Music Piracy: Lady Gaga Is To Blame". Lovelyish.com. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Padilla, Max (September 24, 2010). "Lady Gaga Meat Dress Designer's Lips Are Zipped About Animal Rights". The Huffington Post (Arianna Huffington). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  4. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (2010). "Lady Gaga, Eminem Top VMA Nominations". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  5. ^ Ganz, Caryn (September 12, 2010). "Meet the Mystery Meat Dress: Lady Gaga Explains Rare VMAs Outfit". Stop the Presses!. Yahoo!. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "So about Lady Gaga's meat dress...". The Marquee Blog (CNN). September 14, 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Clott, Sharon (September 13, 2010). "Was Lady Gaga's VMA Meat Dress Real?". MTV (MTV Networks). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ Topping, Alexandra (September 13, 2010). "Lady Gaga's meat dress angers animal rights groups". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c Vazquez, Anna (March 9, 2010). "Lady Gaga Meat Dress Designer Franc Fernandez Q&A". Stylelist (Gannett Company). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ Gornstein, Leslie (September 22, 2010). "Did anyone ever eat Lady Gaga's meat dress?". E! Online. Time Inc. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ Pool, Bob (July 22, 2011). "Taxidermist preserves Lady Gaga's meat dress for posterity". Los Angeles Times (Eddy Hartenstein). Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  12. ^ Dumaual, Miguel. "Review: Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way Ball'". ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN Corporation. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Quigley, Rachel (September 14, 2010). "Lady Gaga, dressed like a dog's dinner! But is offal MTV outfit real or fake?". Daily Mail (London: Associated Newspapers). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  14. ^ Whitelocks, Sandie (May 11, 2011). "Lamb breast corset and a Cumberland sausage bustier... A group of aspiring designers recreate Lady Gaga's meat dress". Daily Mail (London: Associated Newspapers). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  15. ^ Mapes, Jill (May 13, 2011). "Women Who Rock' Exhibit Opens, Features Lady Gaga's Meat Dress". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  16. ^ Lee, Ann (December 16, 2010). "Lady Gaga’s meat dress ‘most iconic’ of 2010". Metro (Associated Newspapers). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Top 10 Everything of 2010". Time (Time Inc.). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Lady Gaga's meat dress 'No. 1' fashion statement of 2010". The Independent (London). December 17, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Weird Al Yankovic lampoons Lady Gaga in "Perform This Way"". CBS News. June 21, 2011. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011. 
  20. ^ Winterman, Denise; Kelly, Jon (September 14, 2010). "Five interpretations of Lady Gaga's meat dress". BBC (BBC Online). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b Roberts, Laura (September 14, 2010). "Lady Gaga's meat dress divides opinion". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Ltd.). Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  22. ^ Newkirk, Ingrid E. "Lady Gaga's Meat Dress". 2011-07-31. PETA. Retrieved September 13, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b Bloxham, Andy (September 15, 2010). "Lady Gaga's meat dress link to the Beatles". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Ltd.). Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Lady Gaga, meat Jana Sterbak". Los Angeles Times. September 13, 2010. 
  25. ^ http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-09-16/lady-gaga-s-fleshy-outfit-echoes-artistic-lobsters-maggots.html
  26. ^ Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress and the Question of Authenticity
  27. ^ Rosenberg, Karen (May 12, 2011). "Two Meaty Visions of Flesh and Blood". The New York Times. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Dressed to grill: From The Undertones to Lady Gaga". BBC News. November 15, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Is Lady Gaga's Meat Couture an Anti-Vegan Statement?". Good (GOOD Worldwide). September 13, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b Deacon, Michael (June 17, 2011). "Morrissey on... Lady Gaga and modern pop". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Ltd.). Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  31. ^ Kaufman, Gil (September 13, 2010). "Lady Gaga Talks VMA Meat Suit With Ellen DeGeneres". MTV (MTV Networks). Retrieved November 28, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]