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Lady Gaga’s New Toned-Down Style

After a six month hiatus, Lady Gaga has returned with a vengeance – and, shockingly, a more simple style. Erin Cunningham on the singer’s newfound minimalism. 

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In 2010, Lady Gaga shocked audiences – and animal rights activists – by accepting her Video of the Year award at the MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made of meat. At the Grammys a year later, she was carried down the red carpet concealed in a giant egg, which later "hatched" her on stage.

But on Sunday night, Lady Gaga attended the 2013 VMAs in something much more shocking: a simple black dress by designer Prabal Gurung. Some may have been underwhelmed by her lack of surprise -- but others wondered how the same designer could dress both Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama. Should we be praising Gaga’s newfound fashion maturity?

Gone are the days of dresses adorned in miniature Kermit the Frogs and 3-D geometric cubes. Her wild, almost cartoon-like style has been replaced with higher-end pieces fresh off the runway, muted colors, and longer, draped fabrics. Even her performance of “Applause” on Sunday night featured a series of wild costume changes (one of which, albeit, ended with her wearing nothing but a shell bra and a thong) but she spent much of the performance in a simple garment made out of black spandex. With all her newfound minimalism, it’s hard not to wonder: is this Gaga 2.0?

On August 19th, Lady Gaga debuted her new single, “Applause,” on Good Morning America, signaling her return to the spotlight after a hip surgery and a cancelled tour. Yet instead of making an “I’m back” splash in typical Gaga fashion -- which would be timely, with a new album being released November 11th -- the singer sported a plain black Balenciaga shift dress. Her hair was simple in both color and cut (with no hair bows or crazy color wigs in sight), and her accessories were nothing more than a pair of simple Ruthie Davis black heels, aviators, and matching gold bangles and earrings.

Later that day, the Queen of Costume appeared on the Howard Stern show in head-to-toe Balmain -- including a long-sleeve, fur turtleneck, and baggy white pants -- fresh off the Fall 2013 runway. She looked great, but her Tom Ford sunglasses and Alaïa boots weren’t much to write home about.

It seems that since Lady Gaga resurfaced to the public while doing performance art with Marina Abramovic in Watermill, New York, the singer has taken to muted tones and longer, oversized fabrics -- not unlike Abramovic herself. Never did anyone think they’d see the day when Gaga would wear a green Calvin Klein raincoat when it was actually raining, or abandon all of her neon ensembles for a series of blacks, grays, and whites. It’s clear that, looking back on our reaction to Gaga’s style, we haven’t cared so much about who she wears -- but rather what.

Now, all that seems to be changing. As her stylist Brandon Maxwell told WWD in July, the singer’s new fashion direction would be “more toned down and pulled back and chic.” He added: “But it’s also that we’re making suits out of things that they would not normally be made out of, like plastic, but they’re super well-tailored and clean. Maybe she’s just wearing a simple catsuit and a head wrap like she’s wearing here, but we sort of do the craziness on the face.” That explains Gaga parading around town with a face painted in wild colors.

And while we may still be waiting for that splash of craziness, besides her “Applause” video featuring the aforementioned face paint and an array of bras, things have been pretty simple. But maybe it’s a good thing. After all, where is there to go when you’ve already done it all?