Billboard Music Awards Style of the Year 2011
Billboard Music Awards Style of the Year 2011

Billboard Music Awards Style of the Year

Kids, too, seem to be successfully experimenting in fashion determinism -- if you consider the phenomenal-offspring-projects of will and Jada Pinkett Smith to be actual "kids." Willow Smith's "Whip My hair" video, with its Krush Groove, goofy-cool, anarcho-'80s-androgyne style and sneering neneh Cherry affect, sets a pretty good example for the children in America. Little-girl fashions finally seem to be breaking free of the hyper-stripper, oversexualized sort that have dominated the post-Britney era.

JUSTIN BIEBER THEN AND NOW Other relatively young artists had varying degrees of luck coming of age on the red carpet. Miley Cyrus attended the Grammys in a Herve Leger dress seemingly made of blue-gray venetian blinds, which suggested that her stylist was venetian - and blind. Justin Bieber's $750, blown-sideways hairstyle (see his Then & Now gallery)-- which always seemed to be hovering on the event horizon of a collapsed Flowbee -- made news in 2010. This was taken by some to be a sign that society is returning to softer, more feathered bangs on young men, and softer, more feathery pop to go with it. It's at least a haircut that moms won't fear-and at best, will probably imitate.

Jessica Simpson's style and up-and-down waistline were constantly criticized, but she had the last laugh with a billion-dollar fashion business that outpaced fellow rag-traders Justin Timberlake and Victoria Beckham.

Taylor Swift FAshion EvolutionThe country-western crossover fashion parade seems to have intentionally rounded off all its own edges, much like the rubberized table corners in a toddler-proof dining room. the fact that Taylor Swift's straightened hair (see her fashion evolution gallery) at the 2010 American Music Awards somehow sent actual shock waves through the media shows how little else there was to cling to, in terms of style statements in the country sector.

Katy Perry (see her outrageous outfits gallery) turned heads with a blue wig at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, but became persona non grata on Sesame Street by infamously appearing in what could be called her "Suckle Me Elmo" gown. She immediately responded by toning down her former fashion recklessness. the chastely pale-pink strapless Badgley Mischka cocktail dress that she wore to the AMAs in 2010 was the almost apologetic sartorial equivalent of "i'm only drinking club soda tonight, thanks."

KAty Perry Outrageous outfitsSusan Boyle's defiant commitment to her own caterpillar eyebrows and tea-cozy frumpishness was so bone-deep and sincere that when stylists tried to reupholster her look in 2010, she lost it. respect must be summoned for a woman so dead-set against the tyranny of fashion that a mere pluck, blowout and new blazer caused her entire psyche to implode. in her own small, unwaxed way, Ms. Boyle is a cultural hero.

Although the mesh-Daisy-Dukes-and-white-bustier looks that Rihanna sports on magazine covers and in music videos (see her fashion evolution gallery) are not her most shining fashion moments, she never steps onto a red carpet looking anything short of retro-glam-yet-modern -- and scorchingly hot. The best of her outfits -- usually a very strong, monochrome couture statement -- are by Elie Saab, who seems to understand precisely the mood that a Rihanna gown must evoke

Rihanna Fashion EVolutionSaab's creations are architectural tour-de-force extravaganzas (for example, the white number Rihanna wore to the 2010 grammys was a monolithic, Joan Crawford power-goddess feat of classical construction) that pack enough of a visual wallop to keep pace with the attention-getting tantrum theatrics of Gaga's "royal Drag Queen Academy of Art" style. But instead of turning Rihanna into a swan boat or a tumbleweed composed entirely of hot wheels tracks or an electrocuted gyroscope, her stylist Mariel Haenn and Saab actually allow Rihanna to be a sexualized female.

It's important to understand these paradoxes in fashion -- the balance between sweet and scary, hard and soft, sculptural threats and flattering whispers. Rihanna is cleaning all clocks on the red carpet-and for the sake of societal beautification, we can only hope that a new generation of fashion-watching music fans follows her lead.

-Text by Cintra Wilson