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The VMAs Remind Us How Much Clothes Matter to Music

Music isn’t technically a visual medium, but music today is nearly inseparable from the imagery that goes along with it — whether that be an outfit a singer wears when performing, the cover art of an album, or the video that goes with the song. Visuals can give lyrics alternative meanings, convey the artist’s mood, and help connect with a certain kind of audience.

The VMAs are the ultimate recognition of that fact. While the Grammys celebrate what you hear, MTV’s Video Music Awards have always celebrated what you see, and that includes clothing.

The outfit, hair, and makeup choices that artists make help give dimension to their music and their identities as we know them, which is why we spend so much time talking to the designers, the directors, and the artists themselves about those choices. Here are some of the highlights from the past year.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

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