The query of what the crimson carpet, that bizarre movie star type ritual that reached its apogee in the early 21st century as a advertising and marketing/social media/vogue Frankenstein’s monster, would change into in a Covid-19 world — may it nonetheless exist in any respect, when most individuals have given up on social gathering dressing fully — was lastly answered Sunday evening at, of all locations, the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. And it was answered by Lady Gaga.
Held dwell round New York City, socially distanced however with out an viewers, the V.M.A.s have been the final of the summer time award exhibits, and the first to aim some semblance of outdated days pizazz, relatively than Zooming-from-your-living-room relatability. Keke Palmer hosted, and each acknowledged the tragedies of the day — the demise of Chadwick Boseman, the taking pictures of Jacob Blake — and engaged in multiple-dress modeling.
Not everybody wished in. Taylor Swift accepted her prize remotely. So did BTS, although the band carried out in a prerecorded section in very snazzy fits and ties. There was an area the place hosts and performers may pose on their ownsome for arrival pictures to point out off their garments, however they didn’t fairly attain the standard vital mass: Sofia Carson, in crimson Giambattista Valli with a large poufy peplum; Joey King in a brief rose-print Versace; Machine Gun Kelly in sizzling pink Berluti.
It was good to see them make an effort, and to expertise a little bit of a vicarious dressing-up thrill, even when with out the attendant crowds and paparazzi. It additionally felt as if one thing have been lacking, like a hot-air balloon slowly deflating. (Why are these individuals all gussied up and standing there by themselves?)
But then got here Lady Gaga. She puffed it again up all by herself.
She accepted her many awards in individual. She carried out. She modified garments each single time she appeared, and she or he appeared seven occasions. And nearly each time she appeared in her seven completely different outfits, she wore a special face masks.
In the course of she used her picture to do for masks vogue and designers what was once achieved for, say, Dior and Chanel.
First got here her entry-making silver round Area coat, with an identical clear face protect/astronaut helmet by Conrad that made reference to the V.M.A. Moonman himself. To settle for her artist of the 12 months award, she wore an Iris Van Herpen chook of paradise gown with a swirling pink Cecilio Castrillo face mask; for the song of the year award, a gigantic iridescent emerald green shirtdress ball gown from Christopher John Rogers and a matching bejeweled and tusked Lance V. Moore mask. She looked like some sort of superglamorous mastodon.
And so it went. In her performance from “Chromatica,” Gaga appeared in a pink and black bodysuit, mask by Diego Montoya and Smooth Technology. And finally, she wore a giant feathered Valentino couture cape and silver bodysuit with a silver Maison Met mask, which she also wore for her last change into a silver cape by Candice Cuoco to accept the Tricon award.
Her clothes were eye-catching, but her masks were unforgettable. Even on an evening that also included Miley Cyrus poking fun at her own history in a sheer Mugler dress, not to mention wearing a sequined tank top and panties on top of a disco ball.
Thanking everyone at the end, Gaga said: “I might sound like a broken record, but wear a mask. It’s a sign of respect.”
Masktivism! That’s one way to inject meaning into what had become, by any measure, a format increasingly sapped of its soul and original purpose (self-expression). As we move forward into more red carpet events — next up is the Venice Film Festival, which starts this week and where Cate Blanchett, as jury president, has vowed to wear only gowns from her own closet — the bar has been raised.