Gwen Stefani’s outfit of choice at this year’s CMT Music Awards was not a hit. In a reel she shared to her Instagram showcasing the look, fans didn’t hold back with their opinions.
Gwen wore Valentino Haute Couture and kept it the exact same as it was styled on the runway. It featured a black blazer, a white shirt with a thin tie, a gold sequinned skirt with fishnets and knee-high black furry boots. She wore her signature red lipstick and tied her iconic blonde hair into two buns.
Despite a few fans supporting her fashion choice, people flooded the comments suggesting she missed the mark. One person likened her lower body to Sasquatch, another suggesting “this isn’t style”, and another issued a half-compliment, saying she’s “too gorgeous for a male look.”
Despite Gwen being well-known for her bold fashion choices and out-of-the-box aesthetic over the course of her music career, being photographed next to husband Blake Shelton, who looked country to the core in a simple look that featured a blazer, jeans and cowboy boots, she did look just a little out of place – but in the most Gwen Stefani way possible.
She’s not the first artist to have her look and aesthetic questioned, but now that she’s got closer ties to the country scene – so much so that she performed Just A Girl at this year’s show alongside Carley Pearce – was there an expectation to conform?
In the comment section of the performance, there’s a pretty even divide between people who appreciated the duet, and others expressing disappointment at the amount of musical acts from yesteryear, one of which was Alanis Morissette, with very few of them actually being country. Some even went as far as saying they won’t be watching anymore.
Recently, Shania Twain came under fire for changes to her signature brown hair and bold fashion choices as preparation and publicity for her 2023 concert tour ramps up, which I wrote about here. Something that’s been cited in some of the reviews and criticism is her age – suggesting her lyrics and willingness to bare it all is uncharacteristic of a woman pushing 60. And being just a few years older than Gwen, you have to wonder if it’s ageism that’s at the root of refusing to embrace these stars as they are.
It's an especially important question to ask when you consider the acceptance and grace country fans have extended to Taylor Swift over the years. Taylor and Gwen both share an affinity for blonde hair and a red lip, yet Taylor, who has sported some bold looks, just not nearly as bold as Gwen’s, has always been held in high regard within the genre.
I’ve written before about how exclusionary country music has been over the years when it comes to race and sexuality – but it seems that it’s also not the softest place to land for older women who deviate from their signature aesthetic. Wynonna Judd has maintained her image for years, so has Dolly Parton. But the minute women try their hand at something new, especially later on in life, people have a lot to say.
It’s interesting, considering that this year’s CMT Music Awards red carpet was the most diverse I’ve ever seen. There were drag queens, interracial couples, gay couples and Black girl bands. And people seemed to welcome it. This year’s show garnered the largest audience ever at 5.43 million people. That’s a 5% jump from ratings last year. And given the relentless effort to prevent it from becoming anyone’s genre, why hang on to the fashion choices of women like Gwen?
With all the changes to country as we’ve known it, it’s becoming harder to maintain the status quo of keeping LGBTQ+ and Black people on the fringes. But what can be controlled? Or at least talked about? Women, their bodies, and their choices.
Accepting the Equal Play Award Monday night, presented by none other than Megan Thee Stallion, Shania Twain called for “all-inclusive” country music, thanking CMT for helping pave the way forward for women in country – and that’s exactly what we’re seeing unfold. More inclusion. More representation. And while it sure is great to see how the music is advancing and becoming a more welcoming space, it’s unfortunate that some of the very people fighting for inclusion still remain the easiest target for people looking to express their frustrations with the state of the genre in some way.