How Lady Gaga Became a Symbol of Surrealist Style

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Gaga, ooh-la-la. The “Bad Romance” and “Shallow” singer is not only versatile in her music style. From the jaw-dropping meat dress to more grounded fashion in A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s fashion choices range well between tame and absolutely frenzied. So it’s about time we jump head-first into a dissection of her more unusual style.

Surrealism is characterized as dream-like, illogical juxtapositions, distortion, a revealing of the unconscious mind. Sound familiar? Just about every award show, music video, and album cover of Gaga’s seems to fit this narrative effortlessly. But in order to fully understand Gaga’s unique flair, we must start at the beginning: the “Poker Face” music video of 2009.

While this music video isn’t as expressively surrealist and envelope-pushing as her others, “Poker Face” was her first step into provocativeness. Emerging à la “wet look” from a pool, Gaga wears latex, mirrored glasses, and surrounded by very large dogs (huh?). The video is a dynamic commentary on pop culture told through over-the-top visuals and L.A. drama.

Just after, Gaga shocked the 2009 MTV awards with a bloody performance of “Paparazzi” and later wearing an abnormal yet chic Alexander McQueen look to accept her award. Almost naked underneath, Gaga’s red lace dress acted as a sheer covering of everything above her knees – including her face. Keep in mind: there was no pandemic 2009, so a dramatic face covering was very unexpected. On top, Gaga donned a matching crown, her entire look reminiscent of a “red queen.”

Another collaboration with McQueen took place in her iconic “Bad Romance” video, where every person wore the designer from head to toe. While the futuristic video is seemingly all about fashion (“ra-ra fashion, baby”), Gaga’s video shares visuals conveying rebirth, fear, and exploitation in a dream-like form. Other specific motifs within the film contain a more specific meaning, down to the white crowns identical to her VMA red look and a terrifying corpse at the end.

Not so much later, the egg and bubble outfit turned the media on its head. Each of these internet-breaking pieces were designed by the innovative Hussain Chalayan. Avant-garde is an understatement for this unstoppable pairing, especially when the result was an egg (or, “vessel”) that represented the birth of “a new race.” As for the bubble outfit, Gaga implemented her dream-like aesthetic in a dress of unconventional materials.

Obviously, we can’t forget about the meat dress. Franc Fernandez, Nicola Formichetti, and Lady Gaga’s collaboration shocked the fashion industry while simultaneously using her platform to project a message within her style. Although animal rights groups condemned the look, Gaga remained unfazed in her explanation of why would anyone wear raw meat? Simply put, the dress represented the result staying silent instead of fighting for your rights. All you’d be left with is the “meat on your bones.”

As for 2020, Gaga’s Chromatica era came in full force with loud hints of surrealism. Her short film called “911.” Drawing from the dream inspirations of her past, Gaga illustrates an odd, fantasy world with bold colors and references of royalty. At the end of the video, it is revealed that none of her dreamscape was real-life, instead a car accident-induced loss of consciousness and overuse of pills. Through the use of surrealist imagery, Gaga paints a powerful chronicle regarding mental health, more particularly the relationship between reality and dreams common in emotional disorders.

Most recently, Lady Gaga made a smash at the 59th Presidential Inauguration wearing Schiaparelli, better known as the founder of an extensive surrealism movement (lobster dress, anyone?). Gaga’s dress was a more conservative look than usual, but of course not lacking in meaning. According to Schiaparelli’s artistic director, Daniel Roseberry, the large mockingjay motif is not a copy of the Hunger Games logo, but rather a symbol of healing.

Whether Lady Gaga’s relationship with surrealism is intentional or just who she is, not many other musicians use the art and fashion movement so fervently. Who knows what she’ll do next.

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