Lady Gaga has a soft spot; and it's filled with meat. On Andy Cohen's talk show Watch What Happens Live on Wednesday night, the Lady got nostalgic for the raw beef dress she wore at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.
Out of all the outrageous looks that Lady Gaga has sashayed in front of cameras with—from an egg carried by latex-clad models, to a hologram flying saucer, to a bird cage head piece and beyond—the meat dress still reigns as the filet mignon Gaga's fashion legacy. The first reason she loved it? Because she was able to say, "Cher, will you please hold my meat purse?"
But in all seriousness, Gaga said the second reason was that, "It represented something very special to me, which was at the time "Don’t ask don’t tell" was not repealed and gays were not able to openly serve in the military. I wore the meat that night as a statement about equality, that we're all equal because we're all flesh. It's kind of morbid, but when we're dead it doesn't matter what our sexuality is."
"And also I didn't want to talk to any celebrities and it smelled really bad," the singer quipped.
"It started as just a purse for the red carpet," meat dress creator Franc Fernandez told us. "I remember Casey Spooner [of Fischerspooner] was with me when I got the call, and he said, 'You should just do a dress.' Then later at dinner [Gaga head stylist] Nicola [Formichetti] called, and he said we should just go for it and make a dress too. It was just this natural conclusion to do a whole outfit"
Given a heads up only about a week before the VMAs, Fernandez could only do so much to prepare the dress that would become Lady Gaga's most iconic look. Starting with 60 pounds of beef and ending with about two-thirds of that, the designer could only have the general shapes cut and salted the meat to keep it as fresh as possible, but the singer never tried it on until the day of.
Fernandez continued, "When we presented it to her, she was kind of like, 'Oh, I never thought it would actually happen.' And obviously she couldn't try it on the day before because there would be no way to get it off and didn't want her to get greasy. So she just said to do it the day of the event."
Option B if the meat dress didn't work out? The designer revealed Gaga would have likely worn an Alexander McQueen ensemble instead.
But the close call wasn't cause for the designer to fret. "It was actually the least nerve-wracking because there was really no option about how the material would behave. With fabric there are a million different things you could do, but with meat, that alone was the design. It was this both rude and beautiful expression of life."
The meat dress currently resides in a preserved state in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has even warranted it's own detailed Wikipedia entry.
Looking back on the experience, Fernandez's life changed overnight since Gaga debuted her most controversial fashion choice. His social following exploded, suddenly found himself on every media outlet from TMZ to National Geographic, received the expected backlash from PETA and even death threats.
A particular highlight from the meat dress legacy was that Fernandez had beef jerky companies at his beck and call. "I went on something like three personal tours of different jerky factories, they flew me out and everything. I think they wanted to be the ones to jerky the dress then eventually come back and offer some kind of lean protein, fashion product with our faces on the package [laughs]."
As much controversy, criticism and hate Lady Gaga got for her meat dress, there is no denying that the look will remain imprinted in music history forever. However elaborate, strange, expensive, or forward-thinking Gaga's looks will get, it will be hard to ever top something that is fundamentally so simple, but existentially so visionary.
"It's funny, the day after the show I went to go pick the dress up at her hotel," Fernandez recalled. "There were all her fans waiting outside in Gaga drag and here I was walking out with this piece of history in a trash bag. If they only knew!"
You can check out more of Franc Fernandez's work at francfernandez.com.