Fashion is a great way for anyone to express themselves. However, people with large platforms don't always consider the message they're sending with their outfit choices — or, on rare occasions, they purposely make choices that will offend other people.
Some, however, find themselves in hot water simply because other people decided to judge them for wearing something "too ridiculous" or "too revealing."
Here are 19 celebrity outfits that faced a lot of controversy:
1. In a since-deleted Instagram post, TikToker Addison Rae posed in a Christianity-themed Holy Trinity bikini from the brand Praying.
Addison didn't publicly acknowledged the backlash, but she took down the post.
2. At the 2022 Met Gala, Kim Kardashian wore the same dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang "Happy Birthday" to president John F. Kennedy in 1962.
On the red carpet, Kim revealed that she lost 16 pounds in 21 days to fit into the dress — which garnered criticism from fans, fellow celebrities, and dieticians.
Registered dietician Elaina Efird told BuzzFeed, "The issues that arise from Kim Kardashian perpetuating a narrative to alter yourself to fit into a garment have many negative implications."
She continued, "Most notably, it perpetuates the narrative that you shouldn't wear clothes at your current size and that instead you should be changing your body. It perpetuates the narrative that thinner is 'better.' It perpetuates the narrative that you have to look a certain way in order to wear nice clothes, which is absolutely NOT true; you can wear nice clothes at ANY size."
Riverdale actor Lili Reinhart called Kim's actions "so fucked on 100s of levels." On her Instagram story, she said, "The ignorance is other-worldly and disgusting. ... Please stop supporting these stupid, harmful celebrities whose entire image revolves around their bodies."
In response to criticism over her own statements, Lili tweeted, "I speak up because I don’t see enough people with large platforms calling out toxic behavior in our industry."
Defending her weight loss, Kim told the New York Times, "To me it was like, 'OK, Christian Bale can do it for a movie role and that is acceptable.' ... Even Renée Zellweger gained weight for a role. It’s all the same to me. I wasn’t saying, 'Hey everyone, why don’t you go lose this weight in a short period of time?'"
3. However, that wasn't the first time Kim came under fire for promoting unrealistic body standards at the Met Gala. In 2019, her silicone wet look Thierry Mugler dress faced similar controversy.
Particularly, the corset she wore with the dress led to concerns that she was promoting unrealistic body standards to her young audience.
Kim's personal trainer, Melissa Alcantara, addressed the criticism on her Instagram story, writing, "Kim trains her ass off 6 fucking days a week...I paved the road for her but SHE did the work!"
Discussing the look herself a few months later, Kim revealed that her corset was so tight that she could barely sit and had to take breathing lessons.
4. In 2014, Khloé Kardashian wore a war bonnet to her niece's Coachella-themed birthday party.
Khloé made this decision only days after the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled the "Redskins" trademark for the NFL team in Washington, DC after ruling the term was disparaging to Native American people.
Cliff Matias, the cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, told Page Six, "There’s no way [Khloé is] not in tune with what’s been happening in the media. ... I can’t even say she’s not even aware."
He continued, "It’s really sad that people who are celebrities don’t take the responsibility and the understanding that they are trendsetters and they influence people, especially young people. It’s a responsibility that I don’t think a lot of them acknowledge that they have."
"I just can’t believe she would be that insensitive to think it was OK to wear that war bonnet at a kids’ party. ... Now you have a celebrity at a kids’ party creating a whole new generation of insensitive thinking," he said.
5. While on vacation in Dubai in 2015, Khloé again faced criticism for cultural appropriation when she posted a selfie wearing a niqāb.
Many fans called out the fact that many Muslim women who choose to wear a niqāb face harassment and prejudice.
Previously, Khloé was criticized for similar insensitivity when she posted a Halloween selfie with Scott Disick and Chris Reda — who wore sheik-inspired outfits as costumes — and captioned it "Sheik Pussy."
On an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she asked two Muslim employees at her family's Dash boutique why she was being criticized.
Afterward, she said, "After talking with Nazy and Durrani, I’m really upset that I’ve offended anybody. ... I’m even more bothered that the commenters think I’m poking fun at their culture. I didn’t realize how offensive it was. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. I really just have to be more aware of what I write, even if I think it’s tongue in cheek, and I have to be more sensitive to that. I’m sorry to anybody I offended. That was the last thing I ever wanted to do."
6. While performing at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, Selena Gomez wore a bindi.
Rajan Zed, the leader of the Universal Society of Hinduism, told WENN, "The bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance. ... It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed."
He continued, "Selena should apologize and then she should get acquainted with the basics of world religions."
In response, Selena told Z100’s Elvis Duran, "The song ['Come and Get It'] kind of has that almost Hindu feel, that tribal feel. I kind of wanted to translate that."
She continued, "Plus, I’ve been learning a lot about my seven chakras and bindis and stuff. I’ve learned a lot about the culture, and I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s fun to incorporate that into the performance."
7. Similarly, Gwen Stefani has faced criticism throughout her career for wearing bindis as an accessory in the '90s.
In 2019, Gwen told Vogue, "I was just so unbelievably fascinated by Indian culture in particular because Tony Kanal — who was my boyfriend at the time and he's the bass player of No Doubt — is Indian."
She continued, "I never, growing up in Anaheim, spent any time with anyone from India, and his mom would come down the stairs ready to go to these Indian parties all dolled up with a bindi and jewelry and these beautiful fabric dresses. ... She gave me a lot of bindis, and I was just like, 'Hey, what's up! Boom!'"
8. During their 2012 comeback, Gwen and her No Doubt bandmates faced criticism for appropriating Native American culture in their "Looking Hot" video.
In response, the band removed the video from their YouTube channel.
They also issued an apology, which said, "As a multi-racial band our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures. Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history. Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people. This is of great concern to us and we are removing the video immediately."
"The music that inspired us when we started the band, and the community of friends, family, and fans that surrounds us was built upon respect, unity and inclusiveness. We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video. Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are."
9. At the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy Perry dressed as a geisha for her performance of "Unconditionally."
In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Jeff Yang wrote, "The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, 'unconditional' worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy."
In the Atlantic, Nolan Feeney wrote, "while Perry’s skin-exposing interpretation of the kimono could have been more sexualized, it’s these kind of stereotypical visuals that plays into white fetishization of Asian women — something Perry doesn’t have to deal with when she takes off her costume."
Four years later, Katy addressed the criticism during an interview with civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. She said, "Even in my intention to appreciate Japanese culture, I did wrong with a performance. And I didn't know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong."
She continued, "I will never understand some of those things because of who I am. But I can educate myself, and that's what I'm trying to do along the way."
10. Katy Perry's 2015 Met Gala look garnered criticism over alleged plagiarism of the graffiti artwork it featured.
Brooklyn graffiti artist Joseph Tierney (aka Rime) sued Moschino and creative director Jeremy Scott for plagiarizing his mural Vandal Eyes, which he painted in 2012.
11. Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat to the 2010 VMAs, angering animal rights groups.
In a blog post, PETA founder Ingrid E. Newkirk said, "Wearing a dress made out of cuts of dead cows is offensive enough to bring comment, but someone should whisper in her ear that there are more people who are upset by butchery than who are impressed by it — and that means a lot of young people will not be buying her records if she keeps this stuff up."
She continued, "The stunt is bringing lots of people to PETA.org to download a copy of our vegetarian/vegan starter kit, so I guess we should be glad."
However, Lady Gaga told Ellen that the meat dress was intended as a protest against the US military's anti-gay "don't ask, don't tell" policy, not a statement against animal rights.
Eleven years later, she told British Vogue, "At the time, they were trying to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.' We decided to do the meat dress because I thought to myself, 'If you were willing to die for your country, what does it matter how you identify?'"
12. US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sought to send a political message with the "Tax the Rich" gown she wore to the 2021 Met Gala.
She received criticism from both the political right and left. On social media, she was called hypocritical for trying to address economic inequality while at an event that cost $30,000 to attend.
In a responding Instagram story, she said, "Ultimately the haters hated and the people who are thoughtful were thoughtful. But we all had a conversation about Taxing the Rich in front of the very people who lobby against it, and punctured the 4th wall of excess and spectacle."
She also made an important reminder: "Our culture is deeply disdainful and unsupportive of women, especially women of color and working class women (and LGBTQ+/immigrant/etc) from the bottom up — whether it's lack of childcare support or especially reserving pillory for elected women and femme people."
Additionally, she clarified why she attended the event, writing, "Many elected officials regularly attend due to our responsibilities in keeping cultural institutions accessible to the public."
13. However, not every red carpet political message is well-intentioned. At the 2019 Grammys, singer Joy Villa wore a "Build the Wall" dress with a "Make America Great Again" purse.
It was her third controversial Grammys gown in a row, following the anti-abortion dress she wore in 2018 and the MAGA dress she wore in 2017.
According to the Washington Post, she was "often parroting misleading statistics about illegal immigration that have been repeatedly voiced by Trump and his supporters."
Joy told the Hollywood Reporter, "I grew up in theater, so I’ve always used costume as a way to express myself. ... It’s an opportunity to show the world who I am on the red carpet, which to me is the same as a stage. I approach it as a show. I want to 'wow' people."
She continued, "My heroes on the red carpet have always been Cher, Madonna, the wild ones; the worst dressed. Or Lady Gaga with the meat dress. Who even talks about the best dressed? No one even remembers who was best-dressed last year!"
14. While boarding a plane to Texas to visit immigrant children who'd been separated from their parents, former first lady Melania Trump wore a jacket that read "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?"
Her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, told BuzzFeed News, "It's a jacket. There was no hidden message."
However, Melania told ABC News, "It's obvious I didn't wear the jacket for the children, I wore the jacket to go on the plane and off the plane. ... It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. I want to show them I don't care. You could criticize whatever you want to say. But it will not stop me to do what I feel is right."
She continued, "I often ask myself, if I had not worn that jacket, if I will have so much media coverage...I would prefer they would focus on what I do and on my initiatives than what I wear."
15. Scarlett Johansson's 2018 Met Gala dress garnered criticism because of its designer. She was the first high-profile celebrity to wear Marchesa — the line founded by Georgina Chapman, Harvey Weinstein's wife — since the allegations about Weinstein's serial sexual harassment and abuse came to light.
Weinstein also reportedly intimidated famous women — including Felicity Huffman, Renée Zellweger, and Kerry Washington — into wearing Marchesa on the red carpet.
Marchesa cofounder Keren Craig told Grazia, "In the future, I am sure you will see our dresses on the red carpet. But right now, it’s time to step back from that. That’s always been a great marketing tool for us, but it’s not our core business."
Scarlett told the Cut, "I wore Marchesa because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers."
16. Some celebrity outfits are considered controversial not because of the message they send, but because of the way they look. One of the most notable examples is Björk’s swan dress from the 2001 Oscars.
Her outfit was widely ridiculed. TV fashion pundit Steven Cojocaru called the Marjan Pejoski design "one of the dumbest things I've ever seen." Joan Rivers said that Björk "should be put into an asylum."
However, the designer defended her — especially her decision to "lay eggs" on the red carpet — telling Vogue, "It was fantastic of her. So rebellious, at a traditional occasion like the Oscars. I respect tradition, of course, but everybody and everything deserves to be laughed at from time to time."
A few years later, Björk told the New York Times, "They wrote about it like I was trying to wear a black Armani and got it wrong, like I was trying to fit in. ... Of course I wasn't trying to fit in."
17. When Gwyneth Paltrow wore an Alexander McQueen dress without a bra to the 2002 Oscars, she was criticized for wearing "unflattering, figure-flattening goth getup" and "the worst dress ever."
In a 2013 Goop Q and A, she said, "There were a few issues; I still love the dress itself but I should have worn a bra and I should have just had simple beachy hair and less makeup. Then, it would have worked as I wanted it to — a little bit of punk at the Oscars."
Nearly 20 years after wearing the dress, Gwyneth remembered how the backlash made her feel. She told Vogue, "I had a weird hangover about it for a while because people were really critical. I think at the time it was too goth, I think people thought it was too hard, so I think it sort of shocked people. But I like it."
She also said, "Everybody really hated this [dress]...but I think it’s kind of dope. ... I’m into it."
18. Rose McGowan was widely shamed for wearing a see-through dress to the 1998 VMAs.
In 2020, she told Yahoo Entertainment, "I hadn't really ever dealt with global media shaming. But it prepared me for later on it happening to me a whole bunch."
Revealing the reason behind her decision to wear the dress, she said, "It was my first big public appearance after being sexually assaulted. ... I just felt like, 'Oh Hollywood, would you want a body just that you can use and throw away? Then I've got one for you!' It was like at the end of Gladiator when he comes out and he's like, 'Are you not entertained?' And if you look at me, I did it with power."
She continued, "I didn't do it with my hand on my hip to be sexy. ... Most of the women that are dressed like that on the red carpet, it's a calculated, sexy move to turn people on. Mine was like, 'I’m gonna f*** with your brain. I'm going to blow your brain up.' And nobody had done it."