Fashion

Our Top Ten Biggest Fashion Moments of the Decade

From the meat dress to J.Lo's Versace walk, the past ten years have been full of sartorial milestones.
Reading time 15 minutes

Even though the past fashion month saw designers showing their Spring 2020 collections, it’s still somehow hard to believe that we're on the brink of a new decade. It’s been a whirlwind—as all decades are—though it was faster than ever before as internet culture reached a new height. But if you need a reminder it’s also been really long: ten years ago, we were reading print magazines, wearing neon jeans, and marveling over brand-new sensations like Lady Gaga and Zendaya. Oh yeah, and New York Fashion Week happened inside some tents in the middle of Bryant Park.

So much has happened over this decade that it can be hard to remember which moments rocked the world the most, but we’ve picked out ten that no one can forget, whether due to their viral qualities or the way they irreversibly changed fashion. We do not claim this list is entirely definitive—there were so many important happenings that it was hard to narrow it down—but the below, at least, give a tiny glimpse into how far the industry has come in the past ten years. Get ready to take a very chic (and sometimes cringeworthy) trip down memory lane.

Alexander McQueen's Death

Starting off on a serious note, the decade began with the premature loss of Alexander McQueen, just weeks before his Fall 2010 show was set to happen. After a long mental struggle, the designer known for his wildly creative shows—no one can forget the mirrors (and plot twist) from VOSS or the time robots spray-painted Shalom Harlow for Spring 1999—he tragically died by suicide, leaving the industry shaken. 

McQueen’s team went on with presenting his final collection a month later, though it was a small, somber affair as private groups witnessed the ornate beauty of his 80-percent-complete vision. And though his house has lived on under Sarah Burton, and his image has survived through plenty of tributes and a recent documentary, the creative hole that his loss left—dark as his visions may have been—remains.

Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress at the 2010 VMAs

Remember when Lady Gaga wasn’t an Oscar-winning film guru with an Amazon beauty brand? Well, I certainly do as an admitted stan since the beginning, but if you needed a reminder that Gaga’s stage name is much more than a Queen reference, nothing will bring that back like her dress made of raw flank steak. The infamous “meat dress” was the then-budding pop star’s look of choice for the VMAs in 2010, and it actually was a statement against the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It was the biggest moment of an era when LG was showing up to awards shows inside of eggs and shocking the world with her avant-garde headpieces.


The dress has its own Wikipedia page, and it defined what the world thought of Gaga’s style pretty much until she reinvented herself with a slew of glamorous gowns while promoting A Star is Born. And while we recently learned that the triple threat’s Valentino dress from the Golden Globes wound up at an auction after a housekeeper discovered it in a hotel room, the whereabouts of her sartorial steak are a little less discussed. Ultimately, it didn’t rot: taxidermists preserved it as a type of jerky, and it went on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. This revelation makes us wonder why the dress failed to make its way to “Camp: Notes on Fashion” when it’s one of the campiest things of all. Sigh.

Angelina Jolie’s Leg Pose at the 2012 Oscars

Years before Taylor Swift insured her legs for $40 million, a limb of Angelina Jolie’s broke the internet. At the 2012 Oscars, the actress hit the red carpet in a black Atelier Versace dress with a side slit, which seemed like a classic glamour moment until everyone analyzed how she was posing. There was Jolie’s right leg, stealing all the attention as she popped it out of the skirt.

The event spawned plenty of talk and parodies (two leg slits!!), and while it’s unclear exactly why this outshone all the other times celebrities have posed to emphasize a single bare leg, it’s become the one we can instantly reference. And if you have gone formal dress shopping at any point since then, you know that side slits are everywhere now, though all too many are not as chic as Jolie’s, as I learned the hard way ahead of attending the Oliviers in 2017. I can’t help but think we have the Maleficent: Mistress of Evil star to blame for this phenomenon.

Rihanna's 2015 Met Gala Look

Ten years ago, most people thought of Rihanna as just a music artist. Can you believe? Anyway, about a decade into her career, the Barbados-born musician we all know and love decided to expand her horizons and take over the fashion world as well, because of course she did. We would pinpoint the rough start of this to the 2014 CFDAs, when she stunned in a Swarovski-covered dress by Adam Selman, but RiRi the style icon truly blew up a year later, when she showed up to the Met Gala in a maximalist, fur-trimmed yellow gown by Guo Pei. The glamorous “China: Through the Looking Glass” ensemble marked the beginning of an era in which the bad gal has dominated each Met theme—think when she wore Comme Des Garçons to Rei Kawakubo’s year (obviously, because nothing else would suffice) or her papal look for “Heavenly Bodies”—and keeps us guessing about what she will wear next.

 

The rest, as they say, is history—Fenty x Puma, Fenty Beauty, Savage x Fenty, a lot of trademarks we’re still waiting to hear more about, and most recently Fenty, the brand that marks LVMH’s first house in decades and a history-making moment for the music star-cum-entrepreneur, who became the first black woman to collaborate with the conglomerate on a new line. Would she have gotten here without the Guo Pei moment? Honestly, probably, but it certainly created a viral spark to make Rihanna irrevocably a fashion icon. Now, where is R9?

All the Yeezy Drops

Just like Rihanna, Kanye West entered the 2010s as pretty much just a musician. Though he had experimented with fashion a little bit during the aughts (remember his Louis Vuitton shoes and his Fendi internship?), the rapper’s true transformation into designer happened around the turn of the decade, when he launched his first Yeezys in collaboration with Adidas. Fast-forward a few years later and West had become a veritable king among hypebeasts, with regular limited shoe drops that spawned ultralong lines (both physical and virtual) as well as a Yeezy clothing line, with the collections of which making memorable debuts in places like Madison Square Garden and Kim Kardashian’s Instagram. Now, the wave-making multi-hyphenate is getting a fresh start, instead drawing attention through Jesus Is King, Sunday Service, and a corresponding clothing line, but we will never forget that one friend we all had who planned their lives around the shoe drops. 

Dior and Givenchy Appoint Their First Female Artistic Directors

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For a field so commonly associated with femininity, fashion has been awfully dominated by male designers. Of course, this isn’t to lump said designers into a box, but it goes without saying that it’s a bit unbalanced to be marketing something towards women without many, well, actual women having a say. 

We still have so far to go in this realm, but the 2010s did see two female designers make history at the helm of France’s biggest fashion houses. The first of these was Maria Grazia Chiuri, who became the artistic director of Dior in 2016 following Raf Simons’ departure. Her work has touched upon feminist themes and targeted a younger clientele, certainly making a mark on the septuagenarian brand. A year later, Clare Waight Keller made history when she replaced Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, and highlights of her acclaimed work over the past two-and-a-half years include an Audrey Hepburn-inspired couture collection and a royal wedding dress (more on that later).

Kaia Gerber’s Cindy Crawford Walk at Alexander Wang Spring 2018

There’s been an undeniable wave of ‘90s obsession over the past few years. And while it was a given that designers could bring back the tiny sunglasses and wild neons that defined the end of the millennium, it’s a bit harder to replicate a specific person’s cultural place. Lo and behold, Cindy Crawford gave birth to her clone, allowing for nostalgia and new excitement all at once. 

Though Kaia Gerber made her runway debut at Calvin Klein just after turning 16 (AKA coming of modeling age), the internet really noticed the déjà-vu they were experiencing a couple of days later, at Alexander Wang’s #WANGFEST (otherwise known as the Spring 2018 extravaganza where he sent models on a bus to Tribeca, Astor Place, and Bushwick). The young model opened the show in a simple white going-out dress with a studded accent on the side, but what really stood out was her walk, which went all over the internet as everyone realized she was Cindy Crawford Part 2. People compared videos, noting everything from the way her hips swayed to her flowing mane, and she rode the fast track to supermodeldom.

Now, Gerber is still one of the industry’s biggest models, and though her Guido Palau “drama cut” helps to differentiate her from her famous mom, the duo regularly makes appearances together, satisfying everyone’s nostalgia cravings. To boot, all the ‘90s supermodels have somewhat made a comeback, so even beyond this doppelgänger moment, no one ever has to look far to see their pre-Y2K favorites in action.

The Royal Wedding Dresses

This decade, both of the UK’s highest-profile young princes got married, which means—you guessed it—two unforgettable wedding dresses. Maybe this is when you remember just how long ago the start of the decade was, as though it feels like William and Kate have been married forever with their full-blown family and all, they only wed back in 2011. The now-Duchess of Cambridge had become a style icon while dating the prince, so all eyes were on what she would wear down the aisle. Her ultimate choice? An elegant v-neck gown by Burton for McQueen, along with her long hair worn down. Kate still collaborates with the designer on important looks to this day, and it’s hard to think of one without the other.

Seven years later, Meghan Markle left an American-Canadian life of acting and lifestyle blogging behind to marry Harry, and she unsurprisingly did so in style—publications were writing about the “Meghan Markle Effect,” through which clothing she wears sells out almost immediately, since well before the big day. (A similar phenomenon happened with Kate.) She went with a boatneck Givenchy number that Waight Keller designed, sparking her own lasting partnership and creating a moment that was meaningful all around, from the British designer for an international house to the commonwealth flowers on her veil. Both of the above moments were so massive that it’s unsurprising that the designers behind them have also wound up in other places on this list.

Karl Lagerfeld's Death

The start of 2019 got the industry talking when Karl Lagerfeld failed to emerge for the Chanel Haute Couture bows due to health reasons. Not long after, he passed away in Paris right in the middle of fashion month, creating a commotion just days before the designer (and veritable fashion powerhouse) was set to send his Fendi Fall 2019 collection down the runway. Ever busy as he planned dozens of shows a year, Lagerfeld always said he would never retire, and this proved true, as he gave last-minute instructions to his team from his deathbed.

If you’re at all oriented with this world, you couldn’t have missed the news—on that morning, I spent 40 minutes scrolling through Instagram before seeing a single post about anything other than Lagerfeld. That’s all to emphasize the massive impact his loss left: after over 30 years running a minimum of three fashion houses at once (Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous brand), he had become larger-than-life, almost as much so as his maximalist creations. Naturally, that means the runway shows that followed became tributes of sorts, and though his first memorial was private, an industry-wide event was planned for that summer.

Now, the world has been on the edge of their seats as Virginie Viard and Silvia Venturini Fendi figure out how to meld Lagerfeld’s influence with their own visions, and a Met exhibition surrounding the late designer’s work is a possibility for 2022. Lagerfeld’s death was undeniably the biggest moment of the year, if not of the decade, and it will be some time before fashion fully adjusts to life without him.

Versace Brings Back the J.Lo Jungle Dress

Donatella Versace has a way of creating viral moments. How could you not when your brand is built around maximalism and supermodels? Anyway, as we all know, one of her most viral moments was when she designed a Grammys dress for J.Lo back in 2000, and the plunging neckline caused so much interest that Google Image Search became a thing. Nearly two decades later, Versace brought back the jungle print made famous on that dress via a tribute collection. The nightlife-ready looks and supermodel cast (Gigi! Irina! A blonde Kendall!) were fun enough, but Donatella shook it up at the end of the show by sending J.Lo herself out in a new version of the iconic dress. The crowd went wild, and so did the internet mere minutes later, creating a moment that truly won fashion month. The runway walk struck our nostalgic culture at its core, which was the perfect way to (almost) cap off 2019.

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