The MTV Video Music Awards have been home to many iconic performances from the biggest stars in the music world. And one of the most crucial elements of a memorable appearance is selecting an outrageous costume. To mark the 2021 MTV VMAs on Sept. 12, we're taking a look at some of the most outrageous performance outfits in VMAs history, starting with this unforgettable look… Britney Spears had quite a few legendary MTV VMA ensembles, and first up is her 2000 MTV Video Music Awards getup. The singer kicked off her performance covering the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" in a two-piece suit. But halfway through, the pop princess cemented her icon status when she stripped down to a shimmering flesh-toned two-piece ensemble to perform "Oops… I Did It Again."
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Miley Cyrus hosted the show in 2015, but two years prior, she raised plenty of eyebrows with her 2013 MTV Video Music Awards performance — which was definitely one for the history books. Starting out singing her hit "We Can't Stop" in a bizarre teddy-bear onesie getup, the pop star later stripped to a latex two-piece outfit and twerked on Robin Thicke while joining him for a rendition of his hit "Blurred Lines."
Opting for a much more covered-up look than her typical performance ensemble, Beyonce donned a sparkly purple jacket and black pants while performing at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. The reason for the more conservative look? At the end of the performance, Beyonce unbuttoned the jacket to reveal her burgeoning baby bump! Daughter Blue Ivy Carter arrived about four months later.
At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga performed in an outfit that made her completely unrecognizable. Hitting the stage dressed as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone, the menswear-clad pop icon sang her song "You and I," all while staying in character as Jo.
At MTV's first Video Music Awards in 1984, Madonna really set the bar high for future performances. Wearing a white wedding gown and writhing around on the floor, the superstar sang her song "Like a Virgin" and solidified her spot in outrageous VMA performance history.
Jennifer Lopez took to the stage to perform before accepting her Video Vanguard Award at the 2018 MTV VMAs, and she did it in true J.Lo style — in head-to-toe Versace. The superstar sported various Versace ensembles during a performance that included a medley of her hits — like this gorgeous gown adorned with the fashion house's famous Medusa logos and iconic baroque print, which Jennifer later stripped off to reveal a shimmery bodysuit that was later topped with a variety of additions, including sparkly track pants and, at one point, a massive fur coat.
Though not intentionally meant to be outrageous, while performing at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, Nicki Minaj served up a scandalous moment on stage. While singing "Bang Bang" with Jessie J and Ariana Grande, the rapper suffered a wardrobe malfunction when the zipper on her dress failed to work. Nicki had to hold the dress closed during her entire performance.
*NSYNC's 2001 MTV Video Music Awards performance might have been pretty epic — especially considering that Michael Jackson joined them on stage for "Pop" — but that doesn't mean Justin Timberlake gets a pass for this horrendous outfit. Take a good look at this tie-dyed, graffiti-covered pink, blue, yellow and brown mess.
Britney Spears once again makes the list of most memorable performance outfits with this look that involved some wild props. At the 2001 show, Britney performed "I'm A Slave 4 U" in a blue and green two-piece number while surrounded by tigers — then rocked a seven-foot albino Burmese python named Banana around her neck.
A human basketball? Only Katy Perry would get inspired by sporting equipment! The star, who also served as the host of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, sported this white minidress with a basketball-emblazoned corset while performing her aptly titled single "Swish Swish."
Lenny Kravitz took a page out of the Victoria's Secret Angels' book for the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards. The rocker joined Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder on stage for a performance of Stevie's song "Higher Ground" and opted for a pair of wings and a fringed collar instead of a shirt.
Marilyn Manson performed his song "The Beautiful People" at the 1997 MTV Music Video Awards. The controversial rocker took his already outlandish look up a notch for the big performance: He wore black lingerie on stage.
At the MTV Video Music Awards in 1990, the one and only Madonna performed "Vogue" in what can best be described as her "Marie Antoinette" look. The superstar rocked a dress fit for a member of the French aristocracy while flanked by equally elaborately costumed backup dancers.
Don't be fooled by how innocent this outfit looks from the front! When Prince performed at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, his outfit was so risqué from behind that we can't even show it to you! While singing his song "Gett Off," the late superstar wore a bright yellow suit featuring chaps that left little to the imagination… and covered very little of his derrière.
Back in 1989, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora gave one of the best classic rock performances in MTV Video Music Awards history. Playing an acoustic version of "Wanted Dead Or Alive," the rockers came armed with big hair, tight denim and plenty of accessories. While it was all the rage back in the '80s, nowadays, these ensembles are pretty entertaining to see.
Back in 2008, Rihanna performed her song "Disturbia" at the MTV Video Music Awards in this black studded leather ensemble complete with fishnets, buckles and arm bands. But the most confusing part of the outfit? The white bustle on her backside!
The Weeknd brought his performance art to the MTV VMAs stage in 2020 when he sang his hit "Blinding Lights" in a black-and-red suit — with a bloodied and beat-up face. It was all makeup, of course, recreating his look from the song's video in which he was injured by bouncers. He sported a similar bashed-up mug at several performances in 2020, but it still elicited a double-take from many MTV VMA viewers.
Skin was in during the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City: Pink performed "Just Like a Pill" in nothing but some tiny leather lace-up short shorts, a lace-up crop top and some pretty intense fake tattoos.
Though Miley Cyrus's outfit got a lot of attention during their performance, Robin Thicke also rocked a notable ensemble at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. While performing "Blurred Lines" with Miley and her foam finger, Robin wore a black-and-white-striped suit reminiscent of the titular character in "Beetlejuice."
It was one of the most iconic performances in MTV Video Music Awards history: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera took the stage in 2003 singing "Like a Virgin," paying homage to Madonna's legendary first VMAs performance complete with wedding dresses and veils. Then Madonna herself joined them on stage in a top hat and tails before stripping down to a skin-tight look to perform her song "Hollywood" with her pop protégées — both of whom she kissed.
For her 2003 MTV Video Music Awards performance, Beyonce started on a very high note while hanging suspended above the stage. After being lowered to perform, the superstar had a quick wardrobe change — which included this super-long fur accessory that gives us major "Banana" vibes! (You know, the python Britney danced with in 2001.)
Katy Perry rocked the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City with her performance of "Roar," selecting this funky boxing-themed ensemble for the stage.
The 2015 MTV Video Music Awards had its fair share of drama leading up to the big night, including a major fight between two big players in the music world. Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj exchanged words on Twitter after nominations were announced but ended up reuniting on stage to put their feud behind them. Almost eclipsing the major moment? Nicki's insane red feathered headpiece!
While performing a tribute to her late brother, Michael Jackson, at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Janet Jackson wore this black-and-white high-collared leather getup featuring layers and embellishments galore.
In 2016, Britney Spears returned to the MTV Music Video Awards stage to perform her hit "Make Me" with G-Eazy. But no Britney VMA performance would be complete without a scandalous ensemble. Fifteen years after wearing her iconic "I'm a Slave 4 U" costume, Britney opted for this teensy neon yellow look.
Miley Cyrus pulled double duty at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. Aside from hosting the show, Miley also performed her song "Dooo It!" that night with some help from a group of drag queens — and wore this one-legged, one-armed candy-colored funky frock while she did it.
While performing the remix of his hit single "P.I.M.P." at the 2003 Video Music Awards, 50 Cent rocked this all-white ensemble — plus plenty of chains and a matching fedora. His performing partner, Snoop Dogg, dressed the part in an all-purple look that included a long scarf and a fedora of his own.
After getting a lifetime achievement award, the Rolling Stones performed at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City in some pretty interesting outfits. Singing their hits "Love Is Strong" and "Start Me Up," Mick Jagger rocked a memorable "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired outfit — complete with a bedazzled top hat.
For one of Rihanna's four — yes, four! — performances during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, the superstar donned this strange pale pink ensemble. The outfit consisted of a Hood By Air T-shirt, a corset, sleeves that fell at the waist, knee-less (and waist-less!) pants with zippered patches and, finally, fuzzy flats, tiny red sunglasses and red earrings.
Austin Mahone sang "What About Love" for his 2013 MTV Video Music Awards performance, but we've got other questions for the pop star. A leather tank top? Leather sweatpants? Austin topped off his questionable fashion choices with an even stranger hat selection for the late-summer outdoor appearance — a beanie!
Musician will.i.am stirred up controversy with his 2010 MTV Video Music Awards look when he hit the stage to perform "Check It Out" with Nicki Minaj wearing black face paint. Many fans took to Twitter to claim it was a racist move. Will defended himself on social media, tweeting: "Let go of the past. there are far more important things 2 bark about. (Jobs, health, education) not a black man wearing all black everything."