Sunday, 26 June 2016

Lady Gaga's meat dress

At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, American singer Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef, which was commonly referred to by the media as the meat dress. Designed by 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.

Fernandez reporting Gaga's opinion in an interview said that Gaga herself said it smelled good, because it smelled like meat. 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". He later explained that the dress would be preserved and made into a type of jerky before being archived.

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.

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.

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". He had previously created items for Gaga, including a costume for her music video for "Bad Romance". He went on to create a hat that Gaga wore to the 53rd Grammy Awards in February 2011.

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. 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".

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

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.

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." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (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." 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."

Some media sources proposed that the dress could be interpreted as anti-vegan. 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", 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 (specifically a dress of chicken meat stitched onto black net). 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." 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.

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