Dubbed “the meat dress,” Lady Gaga’s provocative ensemble from the 2010 MTV VMAs went down in history almost instantaneously, sparking public discussion over how, exactly, one wears an outfit made of raw meat. Now, in a new exhibit opening today (May 13) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, fans will have the opportunity to see the Mother Monster’s meat dress up close and personal.
“They had to dry out the meat… it was an ongoing process,” Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at the Rock Hall, tells Billboard.com in regards to the “meat dress,” which is currently in transit to the museum. (No promise its smell will be pleasant.)
The Franc Fernandez-designed raw ensemble will not arrive in time for opening of the exhibit, titled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” But even for pop music fans, there’s no shortage of exclusive artifacts to pour over — including more Gaga goodies. “We have the upright piano she [Gaga] learned to play on when she was really little, and her parents actually sent pictures of her as a little girl, doing handstands on the keyboard,” Henke says.
With famous costumes, instruments and handwritten lyrics spread across two floors at the Cleveland museum, “Women Who Rock” is perhaps more comprehensive than one might imagine. The exhibit begins with 1920s blueswomen Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and spans all the way to current chart-toppers like Rihanna and Taylor Swift, with plenty of room for ’70s rock chicks, classic country pickers, soul queens and Riot Grrrls along the way.
Aged artifacts, including the leather vest Grace Slick wore on stage at Woodstock and a fox fur stoll from Billie Holiday, are nestled alongside handwritten Madonna lyrics and VMA performance outfits from Britney Spears, not to mention an extensive array of artifacts from Yoko Ono and guitars from the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Sonic Youth‘s Kim Gordon.
“When people look back at the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, they tend to think of it as a boy’s club,” Henke says. “The reality is that there were a lot of females playing a hugely important role… Looking at the charts today, women dominate them, so we wanted to bring the exhibit up to the present to include women like Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Janelle Monáe.”
R&B ingénue Monáe, just one of the many contemporary female artists highlight in the exhibit, donated a dinner jacket and a pair of saddle shoes, in addition to handwritten lyrics to her song “57821.” “I donated those pieces because those were the very first pieces I started off performing in,” Monáe tells Billboard.com. “It marks the beginning of when I was developing my style, and what I considered my uniform because I wore the hell out of those clothes.
“Redefining what it’s like to be a young black female in today’s music industry, redefining how we can dress and the type of music we can make… I make that my duty,” Monáe says.
“Women Who Rock” kicks off with an all-star concert to be held Saturday (May 14) at the Rock Hall. Performers include Wanda Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Darlene Love and Mavis Staples, all of whom have artifacts spotlighted in the exhibit.