The 25 Most Epic Tour Costumes of All Time

The 25 Most Epic Tour Costumes of All Time
25 Start slideshow

If you want to see how closely tied fashion and music are to one another, look no further than the stage at your nearest music festivals, stadium show, or rock concert.

Musicians without clothes, well, they’d be naked, but beyond that they’d be missing a key branding tool—a way to communicate who they are to the public beyond their sound and their sound bites. The best tour costumes can etch a performer into your brain forever, something artists such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson knew intrinsically, and Lady Gaga and Kanye West have considered since the start.

Today, outfitting stars is bigger business for brands than ever before: Calvin Klein was just announced as the official apparel partner of Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” tour, not only providing clothing for the singer and his backup dancers but also airing campaigns, opening pop-up shops, and offering “immersive experiences” at several shows.

This summer, Rihanna will be touring in Giorgio Armani and Manolo Blahnik, with whom she has a new collaboration due out this spring; Adele will be belting out “Hello” in 105 cities in exclusively Burberry; and Florence Welch and Grimes will be making the rounds in the U.S. and Canada in Gucci and Stella McCartney, respectively. Beyoncé is also kicking off her world tour on April 27, and no doubt has had designers working round the clock to clothe her for every leg.

Until then, however, we’re taking a look back at some of the most influential, innovative, and out-there looks to ever hit the stage. Read on to see the best tour costumes of all time.

0 Thoughts?
1 of 25

Michael Jackson's flair for the theatrical was on full display during his last solo tour—his signature military jacket was rendered in metallic lamé, his arms and legs were sheathed in buckled armor, and he emerged from a space shuttle at the beginning of the performance in a gold robot suit complete with matching helmet. (Yeah, we wish we had been there, too.)

(Michael Jackson, HIStory world tour concert at Ericsson Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, 1996)

Photo: Getty Images

With this look, Madonna cemented her place in fashion history and canonized Jean Paul Gaultier’s conical corset. More than 25 years later, the pop star is still going strong with her style on stage, with costume designer Arianne Phillips enlisting designers such as Miuccia Prada and Gucci's Alessandro Michele to create custom looks. (Even still, we can't help but be partial to the classic.)

(Madonna, Blond Ambition Tour in Tokyo, Japan, 1990)

Photo: Getty Images

Kanye West’s outfit choices have always been a matter of grave importance to his identity as a musician, but his bedazzled Maison Martin Margiela mask era stands out as one of his flashiest fashion turns. According to Ye, however, the point was to subvert his celebrity: As he explained on stage at one concert, "Fuck whatever my face is supposed to mean and fuck whatever the name Kanye is supposed to mean—it’s about my dreams!"

(Kanye West, Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, 2014)

Photo: Getty Images

The women of TLC were pioneers at conveying political messages through the clothes they wore on stage. Sometimes, they'd have condoms pinned to their outfits; others, they'd have World Peace and Safe Sex scrawled down the back of their denim maxiskirts.

(Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas, Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins, and Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes of TLC, MTV 20th Anniversary party at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, 2011)

Photo: Getty Images

Even among the pantheon of music legends, no one, perhaps, has influenced onstage style as much as David Bowie. The late performer crafted an array of elaborate characters—Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke—that reflected the shifts in his music, and he used fashion to transform into them before our eyes.

(David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane tour in London, 1973)

Photo: Getty Images

Post-Supremes Diana Ross has never met a scrap of marabou, yard of chiffon, or swatch of sequins she doesn't like—and for that, we love her. Here, she wears a feather-trimmed beaded gown at one of her legendary (and legendarily rained out) free concerts in Central Park.

(Diana Ross, For One and for All concert in Central Park in New York City, 1983)

Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to the incomparable Erykah Badu, no two outfits are alike—she's worn baggy overalls with stilettos, diaphanous silk caftans, and pinstriped skirt suits, all accessorized with an array of headwear and ample jewelry. Here, she pairs one of her signature wrapped turbans with a supersized raffia vest. Now this, folks, is what festival fashion should look like.

(Erykah Badu, Lilith Fair at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, 1998)

Photo: Getty Images

The only thing better than one Grace Jones should be two—but the plastic mannequin is kind of giving us the creeps. No matter, though—the legendary singer, model, and actress never sought to be too pretty or too safe in her personal style, instead favoring dramatic headwear, sculptural bustiers, and sometimes simply body paint on stage.

(Grace Jones, Night of the Proms at Gelredome in Arnhem, Netherlands, 2010)

Photo: Getty Images

Lady Gaga's showstopping concert outfits must number in the hundreds by now—disco-ball bra tops, motorized dresses, flaming bustiers—but this fire-engine-red studded … suit, would you call it? … is one of her best.

(Lady Gaga, KIIS FM's Jingle Ball at L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre, 2011)

Photo: Getty Images

Needless to say, Elton John has never been much of a wallflower. In his early shows, though, he was really a sight to behold, sitting behind his bedazzled piano in pom-pom sweaters, bell-bottomed jumpsuits, or full military regalia.

(Elton John, in concert at Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, 1976)

Photo: Getty Images

The Supremes make a strong case for bringing back coordinated costumes—of course, it helps that theirs were also supremely tasteful. Their sparkly halter necks, fringed shift dresses, and feather-trimmed gowns were groundbreaking in their unapologetic glamour and are still beloved by fashion fans today.

(Cindy Birdsong, Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson of the Supremes, 1965)

Photo: Getty Images

Whatever you think of Katy Perry, the girl commits to going big for her fans. She doesn't shy away from the cartoonish, the outrageous, or the occasionally offensive—and sometimes, just sometimes, a Technicolor Marie-Antoinette-on-acid look is exactly what the world needs.

(Katy Perry, Prismatic World Tour at Odyssey Arena on May 7, 2014, in Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Photo: Getty Images

You didn't think we'd forget the outfit that introduced the world to the phrase wardrobe malfunction, did you? Our apologies to Janet Jackson, who's rocked many worthy ensembles over the years, but the bustier that led to Super Bowl Nipplegate is going down in history.

(Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in Houston, Texas, 2004)


Photo: Getty Images

Beyoncé must have one of the most extensive libraries of bodysuits in the world by now, but somehow, designers like The Blonds, Emilio Pucci, and Ralph & Russo continue to find new ways to rework the style to outfit Queen B. This pearl-encrusted design was made custom for the Mrs. Carter Show tour by stylist Timothy White and is one of the most appropriately regal looks she's worn.

(Beyoncé, the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, 2013)

Photo: Getty Images

The only performer on this list to accessorize with a live snake, Britney Spears wins extra points for bravery. Plus, her belly-dancer moment has gone down as one of the most memorable in "VMA" history.

(Britney Spears, MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City, 2001)

Photo: Getty Images

If you grew up in the '90s and didn't rock the Spice Girls' signature look as a costume at some point or other, I don't know how you managed to pull that off. Since then, Geri's Union Jack dress has become one of the most iconic pieces of the era, and Victoria's—sorry, Posh's—getups never fail to entertain.

(Mel C, Emma Bunton, Mel B, Geri Halliwell, and Victoria Adams [later Beckham] from the Spice Girls, Brit Awards, London, England, 1997)

Photo: Getty Images

If this doesn't prove that Prince—or rather, at the time, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince—can pull anything off, we don't know what does. And on a slightly tangential note, doesn't this look like something Riccardo Tisci might send down the runway today?

(Prince, performing at San Jose Event Center in San Jose, California, 1997)

Photo: Getty Images

Trailblazing German electro-pop foursome Kraftwerk has been committed to its band uniform for the past 40-odd years, first sporting matching red shirts, black trousers, and black ties, and then switching to illuminated bodysuits, which the group wears in front of giant 3-D avatars of their more classically outfitted selves.

(Ralf Hutter, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz, and Falk Grieffenhagen from Kraftwerk, performing at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, France, 2014)

Photo: Getty Images

Of course, Björk, the woman who wore a swan to the Oscars, would have wings for the stage, too. This time, her showpiece was by designer Nikoline Liv Andersen and featured fur painted to look like a butterfly in the light.

(Björk, Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island in New York City, 2015)

Photo: Getty Images

Miley Cyrus may have her naysayers, but her Bangerz tour will no doubt go down in history as one of the greatest rebrands in celebrity history. Exhibit A: this pot-leaf getup by The Blonds, which the singer wore hiked up, spread-eagle on a car, and crawling across the floor, effectively ensuring horrified looks from mothers across America.

(Miley Cyrus, Bangerz Tour at Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio, 2014)

Photo: Getty Images

Before Miley was even born, though, Cher had mastered the ultra-high-cut thong bodysuit look—and thrown in a little S&M flair for good measure. (Way to let your freak flag fly, girl!) This was one of nine custom Bob Mackie looks the star wore on the tour, all of which flashed ample skin and were accompanied by a variety of wigs.

(Cher, Love Hurts tour at the Wembley Arena, London, England, 1992)

Photo: Getty Images

The newest entry on this list comes courtesy of Rihanna’s Anti tour, which just kicked off in the U.S. We didn't think it would be possible to get more quintessentially Ri than an entirely sheer crystal-embellished fringe jumpsuit, but then she topped it off with a hooded Giorgio Armani cloak with a sweeping train, and, well, we stood corrected.

(Rihanna, Anti World Tour at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, 2016)

Photo: Getty Images

You'd think performing in helmets all the time would get a little stuffy, but French electronic duo Daft Punk has pulled it off for decades. Of course, robotic life does have its perks: Few current unmasked photos of the artists exist, so they're able to go about their lives in relative anonymity.

(Daft Punk, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, 2006)

Photo: Getty Images

Gwen Stefani’s always had a knack for knowing her best assets—in this case, her abs–and showing them off in a way that's all her own. Crop tops and baggy jeans might work for everyone, but for Gwen, they were practically a uniform.

(No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, VH1 Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, 2001)

Photo: Getty Images

Even as teenagers, the Jackson kids had swag in spades. Bright-red bell-bottoms, platform boots, and oversized collars: These coordinating ensembles are as gloriously '70s as they come.

(Jackson 5, performing on stage in London, England, 1972)

Photo: Getty Images

Next slideshow starts in 10s

Outraged Fans Are Calling Photoshop on Ashley Graham's 'Maxim' Cover

Outraged Fans Are Calling
Photoshop on Ashley Graham's 'Maxim' Cover