At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Cardi B’s vintage Thierry Mugler gown joined Bjork’s swan dress and Rihanna as the pope on the list of truly revolutionary red carpet gowns. And don’t let today’s Instagram drama (there will always be an account to reactivate, you only get one chance to wear a Thierry Mugler shell gown!) distract you from continuing to celebrate Cardi as a style icon.
The Mugler dress—a sculptural half-shell aquatic masterpiece accented with pearl detailing and pink gloves—came from the designer’s Fall 1995 collection. As is the case with most modern-day fashion miracles, Instagram was the vehicle for the connection. Cardi’s stylist Kollin Carter messaged Mugler, who now prefers to go by Manfred, to ask about loaning an archive piece to Cardi for her “Money” video, Vogue reports.
While the designer denied that request, it was just a few weeks later that he allowed our current Queen of Rap to wear the stunning mollusk shell.
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But Cardi wasn’t the only Grammys attendee dressed in Mugler. Miley Cyrus wore a current piece from the label’s Pre-Fall 2019 collection, a black satin evening blazer and trousers. And just last week, Kim Kardashian wore a vintage, sequined snakeskin gown from his 1983 collection on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The dress featured overtly ‘80s touches, including sharp shoulders and a cutout neckline.
If I were famous, I think I’d wear Mugler every night. Much like wrestling costumes are designed to be both theatrical and functional, so is a vintage Mugler piece. It communicates drama and an otherworldly vixen quality, effectively turning wherever you are in that moment into a stage, while also having the sort of on-trend bodycon silhouette that allows for ease of movement and relatable sex appeal.
Back in 2008, Mugler stepped back into the spotlight—a huge deal for the typically reclusive designer—to design all 58 costumes for Beyoncé’s 2009 “I Am…” World Tour. In a 2017 interview with Elle, he talked about the fantastical, transportive effect of his creations.
“You can be vomiting, you can detest who you are, detest the world, detest every single thing, and the next moment you are in the light and you glow,” he said. “You forget everything, and you are just flying. When you’re onstage, you are someone else. Beyoncé is very conscious of this. She said to me, ‘I’m another person when I’m onstage.’ And I said, ‘Oh yes, you are! You are an animal when you are onstage. You are a stage animal.’”
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Mugler has always created for the stage animal, and his Fall ’95 show—the collection Cardi’s “Birth of Venus”-inspired dress is from—was a futuristic camp spectacular complete with a James Brown performance. And just as Venus is the goddess of love and beauty, Mugler is still dressing the modern-day Venuses with their Botticelli qualities.
The current trends of tropical vacation snake prints, latex, western wear, and chandelier dressage? All Mugler. And style trends aside, the homage to the designer’s archives feels particularly fitting considering, in his couture prime, he was dressing supermodels alongside porn stars.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Carter pointed out the designer’s relevance today.
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“[Mugler] was one of the first to dress [transgendered] people, one of the first to dress exotic dancers and have exotic dancers in his show,” he said. “Areas that so many others were afraid to touch on or be associated with. He was the first one to say, ‘I’m gonna do it.’ I feel like that’s everything [Cardi B] represents as well. The whole situation felt legendary.”
Continuing the season of Mugler, the first presentation of his life’s work will open March 2 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Called “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime,” the exhibit may not have the famous shell dress (which was a great marketing move), but will honor an icon of design who has always celebrated the future. Now, thanks to Cardi and her stylist, young stage animals everywhere can pay him tribute.