The Most Fashionable Time Of The Year

Looking back at some of the most memorable GRAMMY red-carpet moments
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
    Wearing Tina Knowles, Destiny's Child perform at the 42nd Annual GRAMMY Awards
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
    Gwen Stefani wearing Vivienne Westwood at the 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2003
  • Photo: Kirby Lee/WireImage.com
    Jennifer Lopez wearing Versace backstage at the 42nd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2000
  • Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.com
    Taylor Swift wearing Kaufmanfranco at the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2010
  • Photo: Arnold Turner/WireImage.com
    Jay-Z wearing Ralph Lauren at the 47th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2005
February 11, 2012 -- 4:53 pm PST
By Hal Rubenstein / GRAMMY.com

A few rare souls with an eye for beauty may actually have chosen the wall-to-wall color for their living room. However, for those of us who relish the spectator sport that features competitors in high heels, stacked wedges and combat boots, we can hardly wait to hit a remote and fill our living rooms' 50-inch screens with the glorious sight of a red carpet serving as a glamour-filled pathway to a host of gold and crystal trophies. This is awards season. When scarlet rugs unroll in every direction, replete with fashion that induces euphoria, ignites desire, widens eyes, inspires dreams (and sometimes diets), and sparks the occasional envious swipe of lacquered claws. So, on behalf of all of us who shamelessly admit to this vicarious style addiction (and millions more in denial that they're unable to resist the rush of fashion any more than a starving moth would pass up an uncamphored cashmere turtleneck), and with apologies to past GRAMMY host Andy Williams, welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

Amid the glittering parades that take place throughout the year, there is one sparkling red-carpet stroll that stands out from all the others. Every year, the walk-up to the GRAMMY Awards is fashion's most singular sensation because it never fails to celebrate a gleefully unpredictable mix of brilliantly crafted couture, let-it-all-hang-out daring, enviable sophistication, unabashed sensuality, in-your-face swagger, and brilliantly engineered showstoppers. Why does GRAMMY night guarantee such glorious and occasionally outrageous diversity? Because Music's Biggest Night celebrates a different breed of stars.

For our favorite music idols, the GRAMMY red carpet is just another version of a live performance, so it's only natural that the line between onstage costumes and on-the-carpet sartorial is closer than in other pop culture worlds. Add to that the fact that the wardrobes for hip-hop hyphenates, jazz masters, smooth crooners, brash rockers, country stars, soul stirrers and pop icons are likely to have less in common than the music itself. So how can we not get giddy and near delirious anticipating what's about to come into view on GRAMMY night? 

But just in case you need a refresher course to pump you up for this extravaganza, feast your eyes on some of our favorite past GRAMMY moments. Get ready to sigh, smile and maybe even scratch your head. But wouldn't you be disappointed if music's best offered anything less?

And with that said, when it comes to fashion, the GRAMMYs are …

Oh So Glamorous

Move over Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, because for the most dynamic of music divas, knocking us out is simply doing what comes naturally. These are the women who designers fight to dress because their bodies, brains and beauty are bound to do them proud. And still there is such range. Taylor Swift boasts the sleek radiance of youth; Patti LaBelle embraces the elegance of maturity; Mary J. Blige has emerged as a sophisticated urbane clotheshorse; Adele proves stereotypes are meant to be broken; and Beyoncé, well, she is in a category all by herself.

Fearlessly Sexy

Do you really expect music's hottest women to be demure? Do you think that before singing while doing dazzling acrobatics high above a stage wrapped around a silk bolt of fabric, Pink is going to show up as merely pretty? Can Rihanna not turn up the heat, even when dressed ironically flirty? Our newest dream weaver Katy Perry doesn't need special effects to create fireworks. Melissa Etheridge proves that talent, courage and celebrating life make for a mesmerizing combination. And Jennifer Lopez? She gets bragging rights for the greatest, most celebrated and audaciously plunging red-carpet moment of all time.

Not Afraid Of High Fashion

Top designers used to hesitate to lend their best to our favorite singers. Not anymore.  Fashion's biggest names have come to appreciate the buzz-fueled resonance instigated by these gifted women who are far more fascinating than mannequins. Besides, it takes a heaping dose of confidence and self-assurance to pull off these looks. Which one of these women would you call shy? It's no wonder the best of New York, Milan, London and Paris now vigorously compete for the right to dress these ladies in their most fashion-forward creations.

Also About Sharp-Dressed Men

On other red carpets, handsome men rarely do more than show up with a good haircut, a perfectly cut tuxedo and movie star magic, not that that doesn't go far. But music's coolest studs, having happily abandoned the misguided desire to appear like they just came in off the street after a game of pickup basketball, have adopted an unbridled swagger and desire not to fade into the background. The divas may still command center stage, but fashion fans are not about to ignore these men. 

Sometimes Absolutely Wild

Admit it. We live for the grand entrance of music's stars because they know no boundaries, strategize their appearance on GRAMMY night like the invasion of Normandy, and because whether they hit or miss their fashion mark, they're guaranteed to instantly trend on all social media platforms. Their choices are the essence of entertainment, confirm music's constant craving for independence and, above all else, are inseparable from their spectacular artistry. When they don't show up, we're bummed. When they do, the GRAMMYs shoot for the moon.

Sometimes Just Too Much … And That's Why We Love Them

This was the GRAMMYs' most dazzling fashion trifecta. The night the women of Destiny's Child — Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams — wore three sets of matching outfits that quite simply killed. The fact that the trio sounded as mind-blowing as they looked didn't hurt either. Three more reasons why the GRAMMY Awards is the show of shows.

(Hal Rubenstein is the fashion director for InStyle magazine and one of its founding editors. He has worked as the men’s style editor for The New York Times Magazine and is the creator of Egg magazine. In 2011 Rubenstein was presented with the Founders Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He is the author of 2011’s 100 Unforgettable Dresses and his next work, The Gentry Man: A Guide To The Civilized Male, will be published this year.)   

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