NEW YORK — When it comes to fashion, New York City and the VMAs go together like Dolce & Gabbana.
The Big Apple is, after all, a fashion capital of the world. And the VMAs, known for eye-catching, eyebrow-raising red-carpet wares, always generate a lot of buzz. But unlike 2005's Miami madness, where wild style met wilder weather, at the historic Radio City Music Hall this year, stars' styles were definitely more subdued.
For one thing, celebs didn't go overboard with the bling. Even heavy hitters like Ludacris, who sported a fresh buzz-cut and a classy white dinner jacket, opted for just one key piece of jewelry to accentuate his look. Pharrell took the prize for the biggest, and certainly the heaviest, chain — a diamond replica of the illustration from his latest LP, In My Mind, designed by Jacob the Jeweler. Other guys who rocked the rocks included Chris Brown, who ran with a bedazzled Chicago White Sox cap, and Lil Jon, whose necklace spoke for itself: "Crunk Is Not Dead."
As for the ladies, Ciara sported the evening's monster piece: a 100-carat necklace of yellow heart-shaped diamonds worth $1 million, while Paris Hilton accessorized her Julien MacDonald with a little help from Chanel.
Speaking of dresses, form-fitting gowns were all the rage on this year's carpet. Christina Aguilera's silver Versace number was the perfect throwback to old Hollywood glamour and a welcome respite from the more outrageous outfits she's worn in previous years (remember her pink peacock feathers?). Shakira's black gown showed off those famous hips and Beyoncé was a siren in a glitter-tastic Cavalli dress. Jessica Simpson may have taken the look a little far with her skin-tight black mini-dress, though.
For the most part, the men on the red carpet went the traditional route with well-tailored suits and tuxes. Justin Timberlake best demonstrated the elegance of the three-piece gray suit, not only making his arrival in it, but also gyrating and sweating in it during his opening performance.
Emo-rockers put a twist on the classic look, however: Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy went for a more Victorian vibe, incorporating scarves, frilly handkerchiefs and even a cloak (Pete Wentz's was designed by Dolce & Gabbana). It all felt very Sherlock Holmes, but the look worked, and surrounded Fergie's preshow performance of "London Bridge" with a little English flavor. Clad in a Dsquared customized shirt, a half-tie, Burberry short-shorts and knee-high boots, Fergie (who later changed to a Max Azria Atelier designed especially for her) showcased the kind of fashion sense that would make fellow Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am proud.
As usual, a handful of stars went the low-key route. Nick Lachey's jacket didn't do much for the V-neck T-shirt he wore underneath, while Ringtone of the Year winner Mike Shinoda of Fort Minor simply wore a True Love & False Idols hoodie. Lil Wayne sported the low-maintenance "just out of bed" look.
Other stars looked to sweeten up their styles with smart accessorizing. Enter the hat: the instant solution to a bad hair day (Ashley Parker Angel, Johnny Knoxville, we're looking in your direction). Fortunately, nobody needed a rain hat — despite nearly a week of poor weather, the skies stayed clear for VMA night — or suffered from a face-full of drippy eyeliner. This year, makeup emergencies were almost as much of a concern for the guys as the girls, as My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds to Mars, Panic! and Fall Out Boy all broke out the black eyeliner.
Not that anyone was complaining, though. At the VMAs, anything goes — even the Killers' mustaches.