Lady Gaga has spent the bulk of her nine-year run as a pop star being known for statement couture when it comes to her fashion choices. Throughout her time, Mother Monster has worn heel-less platformed shoes and dresses both made of Kermit the Frog heads and raw meat. But as widely seen throughout 2016 when she promoted her latest album, Joanne, Gaga’s look became decidedly more conventional . Cut-off jeans, vintage tees, classic gowns and an assortment of hats from her go-to L.A. designer have been her staples lately. So when she announced last fall that she’d be performing at Super Bowl LI’s halftime show, one question prevailed as her big day neared: Would fans see the ’16 Gaga or the one with the wild style come showtime?
Well, it turns out it was a balance of the two. Soaring from roof to stage, Gaga started in a custom Atelier Versace jumpsuit with beaded Swarovski bling, bold shoulders and matching knee-high boots singing “Poker Face.” Designer Donatella Versace eagerly posted a shot of her and Gaga in the outfit on Instagram right before the performer was about to begin. (Gaga also wore Versace at a Super Bowl press conference earlier in the week.)
“Every diva wears a body suit,” veteran stylist and fashion pundit Cameron Silver tells Billboard, noting that it’s customary for any female performer that dances and moves as much as Gaga to wear something that encourages mobility. “It’s required of these super athletic, over-the-top, hyper-technical performances. She needs something that’s like ath-leisure on steroids.”
The piece that Silver found most intriguing was Gaga’s final look: silver sequined hot pants combined with football shoulder pads-like cropped sculptural jacket, also custom Versace. “That expressed what this is about,” Silver says. “She played with the iconography of a football jersey and Gaga-fied it. I appreciate that she expresses herself so profoundly in clothes.”
Beyonce longtime stylist Ty Hunter was most impressed by the opening bodysuit. “Versace was able to capture the Gaga style we grew to love with the huge shoulder pads,” he tells Billboard, noting its modern take “with chain mail and crystals.”
Hunter certainly knows the process of determining the perfect look intimately. In 2013, Beyonce kicked off her 13-minute halftime set with her smash “Crazy In Love” from her debut album wearing designer Rubin Singer’s “liquid nylon” mini dress with a moto jacket, then ripped it off to reveal a leather bodysuit with a black lace and fishnet stockings.
“Whatever Beyonce’s final thought is,” Hunter tells Billboard, “we have to bring it to life. There’s a huge process that goes with it. You just want to shock and woo the crowd.” Hunter played a key role in pulling together pieces for Queen Bey’s 2013 performance, which helped propel unlikely choice Singer to star-status in the fashion world.
“We had a lot of high-end designers coming at us,” Hunter adds. “But we actually gave it to Singer, an up-and-coming designer who we believed in. We didn’t tell her who the designers were. We just let her pick them. He blew up after that. It just goes to show that it you believe in your dream or vision and keep on pushing, you could dress Beyonce for the Super Bowl.”
Back in 2015 fellow lady icon Katy Perry’s Super Bowl fits were all handled by Moschino designer Jeremy Scott. She began her set in a yellow, orange, and red leather flame dress while riding a massive gold metallic tiger as she sang hit single “Roar.” Then she transitioned into “Teenage Dream” and the bubbly “California Gurls” by removing the leather opener and a dress that brought beach balls to mind with its red, blue, yellow and white patterns. Even the black sweatshirt Perry wore while dancing with Missy Elliott had some sparkle to it with crystals adorned all over. She wrapped her performance with “Firework” by being lifted off into the air via shooting stars. Fittingly, Scott dressed her in a Moschino gown made of holographic silver mylar that transformed her into a shimmering meteor.
Where Perry’s outfits were overwhelmingly vibrant and Beyonce’s sleek and seductive, Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl style choices — by then Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci — were more regal, giving off the vibe of a warrior goddess. And considering she made her grand entrance by being carried on a throne as “Vogue” and her other pop classics boomed from the speakers, her choice made sense.
For tonight’s 13-minute dramatically illuminated performance, Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl style gave nods to her costumey past without alienating an audience that maybe wouldn’t receive her eccentricities with seven-layer dip and open arms. It was a solid balance of glam and sexy without overdoing it and certainly lives up to the legends that came before her. “It was accessible to suburbia,” Silver adds. “But it still gave fantasy to her fans. She looked great. She sounded great. It’s like she was playing football in heels. I hope she has a nice massage after that performance.”