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Why Lady Gaga's suit may become the aesthetic that ultimately shapes her legacy

‘Today I wear the pants.’

LADY GAGA’S WARDROBE choices, both on and off the stage, have consistently garnered headlines ever since the New York native rose to public prominence in 2008.

2013 Glamour Women of the Year Awards - New York Source: EMPICS Entertainment

From the flamboyant costumes she sported on the set of her music videos to the overly elaborate ensembles she modelled at red carpet events, the singer has been synonymous with theatrics for the best part of a decade.

And while there is little doubt that her ever-changing, and always extraordinary aesthetic helped to shape her image in the eyes of the public, one of her most pared-back looks may be the one that ultimately defines her.

Last night, Lady Gaga arrived at Elle’s Women in Hollywood event not as a performer, not as a recording artist, and not as an actress tipped for an Oscar at next year’s Academy Awards, but as the woman she says she longs to be; the woman ‘wearing the pants’.

25th Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Celebration Source: Faye SadouAdmedia/PA Images

In her speech, the 32-year-old acknowledged that her appearance was a far cry from Hollywood tradition – let along Gaga tradition – and she offered an insight into her thought process when determining how she wanted to look at an event which celebrates women.

“I tried on dress after dress today getting ready for this event, one tight corset after another, one heel after another, a diamond, a feather, thousands of beaded fabrics and the most beautiful silks in the world,” she told the audience.

To be honest, I felt sick to my stomach. And I asked myself: What does it really mean to be a woman in Hollywood? We are not just objects to entertain the world. We are not simply images to bring smiles or grimaces to people’s faces. We are not members of a giant beauty pageant meant to be pit against one another for the pleasure of the public.

“We women in Hollywood, we are voices. We have deep thoughts and ideas and beliefs and values about the world and we have the power to speak and be heard and fight back when we are silenced,” she said.

The singer went on to say that after vetoing countless gowns, she tried on the Marc Jacobs suit and was suddenly moved to tears.

25th Annual ELLE Women in Hollywood Celebration Source: Chris Pizzello

“In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut. And then wondering what I wanted to say tonight become very clear to me,” she continued.

As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today I wear the pants.

For ten years, Lady Gaga purposely bucked the trend when it came to the aesthetic expected of women in the entertainment industry, but in doing so, she may have – to a greater or lesser extent – inadvertently silenced the woman behind the costumes.

Bambi 2011 Awards - Wiesbaden Source: Uwe Geisler

This approach coupled with the sense of shame she refers to when discussing her sexual assault, the isolation she endured when she was denied help in its aftermath and the mental trauma she experienced over the course of her career impacted her ability to articulate her truth.

Determined to remedy this at last night’s event in Los Angeles, she said:

I had a revelation that I had to be empowered to be myself today more than ever. To resist the standards of Hollywood, whatever that means. To resist the standards of dressing to impress. To use what really matters: my voice.

Over the course of the last year – from her Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, to her unadorned role in A Star Is Born – the public have gotten a far greater insight into Stefani Germanotta, the woman behind Lady Gaga, than she had ever before permitted.

Slowly but surely, we’re seeing Stefanie, and last night, she allowed the public even more.

Put simply, Gaga hasn’t stopped using her clothes as a vehicle with which to express herself, she’s simply put a larger microphone behind her script.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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