Pop divas wearing skimpy outfits is nothing new. But a skimpy outfit that later turned into a historical artifact? That’s noteworthy. And believe it or not, more than a few ladies have donned costumes that fit this category.
It happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the get-ups spawned parodies and became cultural punchlines. Other times, the sexual gravitas of the clothes broke new ground for females in pop. Whatever the case, there’s no denying these 10 outfits are important to the way we see women in music. Take note.
Why it makes our list: X-Tina’s leather chaps—grimy, sweaty, and practically peeling off—exude a brand of brazen sexuality not seen in pop videos. Gone are the coquettish come-ons of Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” and what remains is a wild child in her early 20s embracing the most provocative elements of her body.
Why it makes our list: Kylie’s gold hot pants became an institution, with The Sunday Times deeming her butt in them a “wonder of nature.” They’ve been featured in museums all over the world. For a solid year, Kylie’s bum was more famous than Kylie herself. That’s quite a feat for one pair of shorts.
Why it makes our list: Ahhh, the 3D cone bra. It was a staple in Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour and also made its way into the “Vogue” video. Such an overt, almost comical reference to women’s sexuality was unprecedented in the early ’90s. It makes a tongue-in-cheek (but effective) statement: Women, embrace and celebrate your bodies and do not give a shit what stupid boys say about it. Damn straight.
Jessica Simpson, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”
Why it makes our list: Jessica’s derrière in this pair of Daisy Dukes—oh, and those red boots—ignited a beer-soaked celebration of the female form that felt aggressively ’Merica. A tad objectifying, yes, but we can’t deny Jessica’s rump a place on this list. She certainly made the world stop and stare.
Why it makes our list: Bey’s skin-tight leotard might be the most parodied outfit in pop video history. (Remember when Justin Timberlake paid homage to it on Saturday Night Live?) For its sheer cultural novelty (and nod to girls with curves), “Single Ladies” makes the cut.
Why it makes our list: Cher’s fishnet stockings exposed her booty almost in full, which sent the world into a tizzy. MTV originally banned the video but later played it after 9 p.m. Similar to Madonna, the sexual oomph the stockings symbolize (especially during a time of puritanical innocence) makes them indisputably legendary. In fact, they’re timeless—eh?
Why it makes our list: Katy-style sexiness comes with a heaping side of saccharine, sprinkled with a peekaboo wink—and her “California Gurls” brassieres are the epitome of that. People couldn’t stop talking about these bad boys, and for good reason. (You tease us with the whip cream reference, Ms. Perry!)
Why it makes our list: This was one of 2014’s most buzzworthy videos, and we understand why. Finally, girls with hips got their mainstream-sexy day in the sun. And Nicki was the ringleader. This pink bikini captures exactly why this clip is so important. Heck, Nicki can say it better than us: “F—k them skinny bitches.”
Why it makes our list: With her meat dress, cigarette sunglasses, and latex skirt, Gaga inserted a weird sexiness into a pop world dominated by gratuitous cleavage and glittery body suits. This robotic cone bra from “Bad Romance,” a clear tribute to Madonna, depicts this. As if we needed to be told, it is possible to have boobs and brains.