“Ohhhhhhhh, well, of course,” seemed to be the collective reaction to Rihanna’s extremely thin, crystal-coated dress inside Lincoln Center Monday night at the CFDA Fashion Awards.
I was at the event, and in person, the sheer fabric blended beautifully with her skin tone, creating a nude effect without blatantly exposing her breasts. However, under the glare of flash bulbs and spotlights, the dress bared all, and the exquisite effect of the Swarovski-covered dress blending with the pop star’s already radiant skin simply vanished.
Even so, it takes more than nipples to scare a fashion crowd. After all, bras and pasties are not exactly required underpinnings at runway shows. And most designers who were at the event can likely recall a time they’ve sent a model out in a translucent top.
“I’m here tonight to talk about how Rihanna communicates through fashion because that, of course, is what style icons do,” said Anna Wintour, who presented Rihanna with the CFDA’s fashion icon award. “They tell us captivating stories about themselves and about the world we live in through the boldness and beauty of their clothes.
“Rihanna speaks to her fans with her every look,” Wintour continued. “And what she says to them, and I include all of us in that group, is that it’s fun to be a little boyish one day and dress up like a dazzling diva the next, I think that is what she was going for tonight.
“The point is to be audacious, even jaw dropping or button pushing. And yes, we know she enjoys pushing buttons, while remaining true to yourself. She proves that incredible style can help take a young woman from a small island to the world stage and along the way spark a lot of conversation about elegance and empowerment.”
Mel Ottenberg, who helped dress Rihanna, told Style.com en route to the awards ceremony that it was a bit naked.
“I don’t know if it’s shocking — I’m with her all the time, so my shock gauge is off, but I told her that I thought she was ready for this dress a while ago, and that I wasn’t. I’m the prude, and I’m just catching up.”
Ottenberg’s boyfriend and frequent Rihanna collaborator, Adam Selman, designed the look, which Ottenberg said was held together by “fishnet and crystals and a couple of fingers crossed.” Selman has created costumes for Rihanna’s tours since 2011, and co-designed her River Island capsule collection.
Perhaps the most marvelous thing — and fitting for her role as fashion icon — was Rihanna’s relative ease in the sheer ensemble. She glided into the auditorium after most guests had been ushered to their seats, stooping down to hug founder’s award recipient Bethann Hardison, chatting easily with Blake Lively and warmly greeting Lupita Nyong’o, who sat a few seats down.
If boundary-pushing fashion takes the courage to bare it all, then Rihanna has style in spades.
More on the CFDA Awards: