Madonna is one of the most memorable artists of the ’80s and ’90s. From the way she exploded onto the scene with her Like a Virgin album through her erotic dabblings in Sex to the way she took over the world on her Blond Ambition tour, Madonna was unstoppable.
Music, dancing and nude photos aside, one of the things that we associate most with Madonna in this time period is her fashion-forward and style icon position in clothing, make-up, and accessories. Often combining diverse elements like hard and soft, erotic and innocent or girly and aggressive, Madonna has consistently had an eye for leading the way in fashion.
Read on to remember some of Madonna’s greatest ’80s and ’90s fashion hits!
Shredded Shirts and Rubber Bracelets
When Madonna first appeared on the scene on MTV in 1983, her appeal was almost immediate. Sexy but a tomgirl, tough but approachable, her style mixed elements of sensual appeal with an attainable aesthetic. Madonna’s outfits weren’t couture, but rather looked like something you could put together yourself from a thrift store. Two elements of this look were the cut-up t-shirt and the black rubber bracelets. Taking a black t-shirt, cropping it, cutting off the sleeves and cutting out the neck was easy and produced a garment for fans that was sloppy (but sexy) in the way it revealed bra straps and hinted at more. And what can we say about the rows and rows of black rubber bracelets? They were cheap. They were easy. And best of all, they were just a little goth and naughty without going all in.
Bridal Wear Chic
In the mid-’80s, Madonna shocked and stunned again by combining the innocence of a wedding-dress vibe with sexy and outrageous touches. In her music videos and tour for 1984’s Like a Virgin, Madonna often combined white lace and a rosary around her neck with her signature exposed underwear and see-through fabrics. One iconic outfit from this period is the “wedding dress” that she wore to the MTV video music awards. The look consisted of a see-through lace corset and skirt, combined with heavy silver and pearl necklaces (including a rosary), arm-length white lace gloves and heavy silver bracelets. The finishing (and most remembered) touch was a wide white and silver belt that spelled out the message “BOY TOY.”
The 1990 Jean Paul Gaultier Bra
In 1990, Madonna toured in support of her albums Like a Prayer and I’m Breathless. On this tour, she debuted one of her most memorable and copied looks: a pink bustier and corset with stylized cone cups in the bra. Gaultier had been experimenting with the cone-shaped cups since his 1984 collection (seen and appreciated by Madonna). Working with Gaultier, she ordered a stage costume that would incorporate the erotic and exotic nature of that silhouette. The result was a sexy, aggressive, feminine outfit that has become iconic.
Material Girl and Vogue
While the above fashion moments highlight Madonna’s willingness and interest in pushing the envelope of taste and fashion, over her career in the ’80s and ’90s, she also had classic moments. Two of these famous looks came in the videos for the megahits “Material Girl” (1985) and “Vogue” (1990). In “Material Girl,” Madonna channels Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with a vintage hairdo, old school pink dress and of course, diamonds. She reprised this kind of style in her video for the bestselling “Vogue.” In that video, she embodied a timeless look with a black lace dress and diamond cuffs. In this video, she also harks back to a classic Marilyn Monroe hairdo.
Gothic Princess: The Frozen Era
As the 1990s wound down, Madonna changed her style again, though she maintained some of the same elements. Working with relatively unknown designer Olivier Theyskens, she designed a series of outfits for performances of her 1998 Ray of Light album. In this period, her look is much darker (as evidenced by her look in the award-winning video for “Frozen”). She has long black hair and gothic gowns in rich colors and textures. These gowns maintain the corset structure, and her accessories still tended toward “more is more,” but the look of dark princess or witch became as iconic for the singer as her more revealing outfits had been two decades earlier.
Madonna’s not done yet. Older and arguably less of a fashion leader, we are still always interested to see what she’s wearing!