This Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons will attempt to upset Tom Brady and his Patriots in Super Bowl LI. For many viewers, though, that tilt will be a secondary concern. Instead, they’ll be tuning in for the halftime show, an event-within-an-event that has become even more eagerly anticipated than the football game that bookends it — 111.9 people watched last year’s Super Bowl 50, compared to the 115.5 who watched Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé perform midway through. What was once a kitschy interstitial involving college marching bands and Elvis impersonators has evolved into a glossy, star-studded, mega-performance. In the pantheon of American spectacle, the Super Bowl halftime show is now peerless in its reach.
As the caliber of the halftime performer has increased, the corresponding media coverage has grown. The event itself is preceded by a week of speculation over which songs will be performed, what sorts of elaborate staging will be on display, which guests will accompany the headline, and, more recently, what the headliner will be wearing. For her 2012 halftime performance, Madonna wore custom Givenchy, and performers in subsequent years have largely followed suit with designer looks of their own.
This year’s halftime performer, Lady Gaga is as deeply embedded in the world of fashion as any previous headliner, a front-row fixture at fashion shows and a sartorial provocateur throughout her career — lest we forget the meat dress. Last year, she sang the national anthem clad in a red sequined suit designed by Alessandro Michele for Gucci, and on Sunday, styled by her friend and longtime stylist, designer Brandon Maxwell, she is likely to pull out all the stops.