How Women at the 2018 Grammys Reclaimed Power through Fashion

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Kesha (C) performs with (L-R) Bebe Rexha, Cyndi Lauper and Camila Cabello onstage during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards, Madison Square Garden, New York, January 28, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NARAS)

It was less publicized than the red carpet blackout at the Golden Globes last month, but guests and performers at last night's Grammy Awards made a clear statement with their wardrobe choices too.

In solidarity with Tarana Burke's #MeToo movement, most of the biggest stars of the evening showed up either wearing or carrying white roses -- host James Corden, Pink, Rita Ora, Kelly Clarkson, Sarah Silverman, Camila Cabello, Trevor Noah, Miley Cyrus, Nick Jonas, Zayn Malik, and Anna Kendrick, to name a few.

Other, braver souls -- including Lana Del Rey, SZA, Cardi B, Sam Smith, Childish Gambino, and Hailee Steinfeld -- took the plunge and arrived dressed completely in white.

What was less talked about, and less obvious than the color theme of the evening, was the extraordinary lack of skin on display during the performances by female artists. It couldn't have been a coincidence. We have grown accustomed, year after year, to seeing female artists in leotards, skimpy two pieces, and outfits that leave little to the imagination.

This year, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus both opted to wear full gowns for their performances. The women of Little Big Town were covered from neck to toe (in a full-length white coat, and silver, long-sleeved dress, respectively). Pink wore slouchy jeans and a loose-fitting white T-shirt. SZA wore a white shredded basketball tee and gigantic jeans. Rihanna wore a corseted dress that did show a lot of left leg, but in Rihanna terms, it was pretty conservative.


To give this some context, let's look at outfits past vs present for some of the artists that have performed at the Grammys before.

Left: Lady Gaga performing at the Grammy's 2017 (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NARAS.) Right: at the 2018 Grammy's (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NARAS)
Left: Miley Cyrus at the 2014 Grammy's (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS.)
Right: At the 2018 Grammy's
Left: Pink performing "Glitter in the Air" at the 2010 Grammy's. Right: Pink performing "Wild Hearts Can't be Broken" at the 2018 Grammy Awards.

It's not that all of these artists haven't covered up at previous awards shows -- they've just never all done it at the same time before.

It was in Janelle Monáe's introduction to Kesha's extraordinary, emotional, and at times furious, rendition of "Praying" (performed alongside Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, Andra Day, and the Resistance Revival Chorus) that the mass cover-up was given an explanation.

"Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist, but as a young woman with my fellow sisters, in this room, who make up the music industry," Monáe said. "We come in peace — but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s Up… And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well."

There is, of course, zero correlation between how much skin someone shows on any given evening, and how good they are at feminism. In addition to the white clothes, the roses, and the shout-outs to Time's Up, by skipping skimpy outfits last night, the female artists at the Grammys simply set a far more serious tone. This clothing cover-up, at what is usually a reasonably risqué show, was an assertion; an affirmation of image control; and ultimately, a united declaration of taking the power back.