Lady Gaga‘s Monster Ball graced Planet Earth from 2009 through 2011. The worldwide tour truly was a monster, with 8 legs, 201 shows in total (every single one sold out) and it even spawned it’s own HBO DVD release - Lady Gaga Presents The Monster Ball Live from Madison Square Gardens.
Diva-centric and flamboyant Miss Gaga had all eyes on her during the planning of the tour, and expectations were high for her to present a glamorous spectacle of a show and boy, did she exceed the expectations. The tour was revamped when it arrived in the UK, changing the complete synopsis of the show and virtually bankrupting Gaga but the tour went from strength to strength and had continued success around the globe. It followed a jovial Gaga as she made her way through the 4 segments of the show: City, Subway, Forest, Monster Ball. Each segment had a variant atmosphere and contained songs which corresponded with the theme (e.g. Glitter and Grease during City, Teeth during Forest etc).
While I could write all day about the tour (which sadly I didn’t attend personally), this post is solely about one landmark fashion piece featured during The Monster Ball. The Living Dress was worn by Gaga while performing “So Happy I Could Die“, in which she was raised up above the crowd on a scissor lift. The name of the dress corresponds with it’s characteristics - the dress is free to move of its own accord.
The dress was six weeks in the making and is made from stainless steel, various forms of nylon fabrics, sheet and rods, different weights of plastic sheeting and coutil for the corset. As is evident, the dress is very heavy but the weight is distributed making it wearable. It was created by designer Vinilla Burnham and made at Elstree Studios, the same place in which the giant angler fish (the Fame Monster) which Gaga fights during “Paparazzi” was constructed. The dress was completed 2 hours before it’s debut on stage.
At the beginning of the performance, two pieces from the breast of the dress cover Gaga’s face. They then close and retract themselves while the headdress begins to fan out along with the skirt of the dress opening and closing to reveal her legs and the trail lifting up and down, quoted ”just like a dragonfly coming out of its shell.” The headdress, dress movements and face fans are all connected to motors and remote-controlled from offstage and an elaborate system of motors and pulleys was used to pull the skirts up and back, and to enable the wings to spring up from behind Gaga’s back. The dress was worn only for the tour but was used on The Jonathan Ross Show during a performance of “Brown Eyes” in which you can see all the dresses functions clearly.
Also, you can see the wing release during “So Happy I Could Die” here.
Personally, I think this dress is a landmark piece of fashion and a spectacle within itself. Not only can it move of it’s own accord, the fabric and general design of the dress is just stunning. As far as tour costumes go, it’s right up there with one of the best and exemplifies dexterous craftsmanship and imagination. I was very sad to see The Living Dress go, I hope Gaga will use it during a performance in the future!