It was the moment that had the paparazzi in a panic and PETA furiously drafting a fiery statement: the raw meat dress Lady Gaga chose for the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards. Though the look was her third costume change of the event (where she won eight awards), her flank steak fashion was immediately dubbed the most outrageous moment of the night and had so many people talking Gaga took to ‘The Ellen Degeneres Show‘ to set the record straight.
As we prepare for whatever iconic look Gaga will wear to present at this year’s Oscars, where many felt she was snubbed for a House of Gucci nomination, look back with us on a very different time in Gaga’s fashion journey, and one that surely smelled quite a bit stranger.
Back in the mid-2000s, it felt like three things were inevitable: death, taxes, and unhinged fashion choices from Stefani Germanotta. From a mini dress made entirely of blonde hair to the full red leather gown she wore to meet the Queen of England, Gaga constantly kept the paparazzi guessing (and somehow avoided an endless minefield of wardrobe malfunctions.)
But nothing could compare to the statement piece she chose for the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards, which had the media in a frenzy and animal rights groups at the end of their rope: a fitted dress and matching headpiece made entirely of raw beef. Designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formachetti, the look was even complete with raw beef platform heels attached to Gaga’s feet with trussing rope.
Though the dress caused shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry (and according to Franc, got him real credibility as an artist and designer,) animal activism organizations like PETA were far from impressed. In a statement released the day after the awards, PETA called Gaga’s look “offensive” and wrote: “Someone should whisper in her ear that there are more people who are upset by butchery than who are impressed by it — and that means a lot of young people will not be buying her records if she keeps this stuff up.” Over ten years on, it’s PETA was far from right about that…but then again, maybe they just failed to predict the rise of streaming!
Responding to the uproar in an appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show to explain her own motives behind the fashion statement, Gaga defended herself and shared she meant “no disrespect.” Explaining that the fashion statement was actually tied to Gaga’s feelings on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the rights withheld from gay soldiers, she said: “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.“
Though all raw meat spoils eventually, the legacy of Gaga’s bloody, bizarre dress has endured. In 2011, the meat dress went on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of an exhibit titled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” To display the piece, they dried out the meat in a process similar to creating beef jerky. Today, the dress is permanently on view at the Haus of Gaga museum in Las Vegas, and forever an iconic part of the Gaga fashion canon we’ve grown to know and love. Father, Son, and Haus of Gaga, forever.