Lady Gaga’s most joyful outfit?

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


From time to time this blog needs to consider serious subjects. Fortunately, today is not one of those days. This week the NYT style section gives us a thoughtful discussion of Lady Gaga’s significance to fashion culture, accompanied by a retrospective of sorts in slideshow-form. With so many examples and such a diverse array of looks to choose from, it’s hard not to have favorites. (See more looks here.) But which are the most joyful?

The overly burlesque looks are out of contention, as too much sex crosses the line from joy into some other sort of emotion. The fact that we’re going for inner child here, and not inner sex kitten, rules out a lot of looks. Most of her looks are evoking cool, or anti-cool, or just plain weird. While the ethos is playful, the aesthetics are by and large very adult.

But I found a few examples joyful aesthetics in the mix. The bubble-dress, below, has my vote for the most absurdly, childishly delightful look of the bunch. It’s almost as if she got swept away by a cluster of dishwashing suds and dropped onto the stage with no time to change. I love the way the colored lights reflect in the surfaces of the spheres, iridescent. The radiating hair-halo, above, also has a joyful quality to it — a costumey echo of a Medieval nimbus, or a warm, golden sun. I also like the reflective, light-scattering quality of the mirror ball look (bottom). The curves of the skirt have a joyful arc, but the sharp triangular panel earns demerits. Sharp things trigger a primal fear reaction deep in a part of the emotional brain called the amygdala. The heightened alertness and emotional intensity of sharp things is odds with joy, though it’s probably just right for the kind of reaction Gaga is typically going for.

Any other Lady Gaga styles that give you a sense of delight? Any joyful looks I overlooked?

NYT: When Lady Gaga Appears, So Do Her Many Influences



December 29th, 2009


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    Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. Anonnie Muss on January 24, 2010

    I don’t think it’s intuitive that the aesthetics of joy are connected to some sort of “inner child” more directly than they are to adult sexuality. I can see how one would make an argument for the connection between aesthetic joy and actual childhood, but the phrase “inner child” is so problematic for me. It conveys the sort of adult who rides around on a scooter in a contrived effort to be (or to appear) whimsical, and that’s just as much of a pose as burlesque is. At the same time, I think it’s possible to conceive of adult sexuality being expressed in a way that is pure, direct and without artifice (probably not by Lady Gaga) . . . in my view that could be as articulate an expression of joy as anything distinctly related to childhood.

    1. Ingrid on January 24, 2010

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      To your point about the phrase “inner child”: in my research I have found that many people tend to associate joy with childhood, and “inner child” is a term that resonates because it embodies the way that playful spirit tends to stay with us into adulthood, even if not expressed in most attire, demeanor, or other behaviors. I recognize, though, from your description, that the term does not resonate with everyone. Certainly the person you describe (who seems to me something of an “outer child,” a Peter Pan or joker kind of character) is not what I mean in using the term.

      The larger issue you raise — whether adult sexuality has equal claim to aesthetics of joy as childhood — is profoundly interesting. I was probably too dismissive and/or cursory in my treatment of the subject in the post. I’ve been wrestling with this question for some time. The fact is that aesthetics of sexuality can very well be expressed in way that is joyful, but often are not, at least in pop culture. The prevailing aesthetic of sex in pop culture emphasizes intensity and titillation, rather than joy and delight.

      Of course, nature sets a beautiful precedent. Flowers are aesthetics of sexuality, and are nothing if not joyful. I’m reminded also of the brilliant Isabella Rosselini’s Green Porno series on the Sundance channel. And Georgia O’Keefe’s nature-inspired abstractions also marry the erotic and joyful aesthetically.

      This is an area that merits more thinking and discussion. I’ll definitely raise it in future posts.


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