The 30 most defining fashion moments of 2018

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The year in style

In 2018, we found ourselves in the midst of a cultural moment that was all about finding one’s voice. There are a lot of different ways to make yourself heard, though, and some of them don’t require any words at all. Clothes have always been a powerful tool of self-expression, but in the past 12 months more than ever, it seems, the stars seized their platform to proudly — even defiantly — wear their politics, their heritage, and their hearts on their (actual) sleeves. Read on for the most defining sartorial statements of 2018, when fashion spoke louder than words.


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The year in style began on a somber note: The stars in attendance at January’s Golden Globes hit the red carpet wearing black in protest of Hollywood’s culture of institutional sexism. Among them was Oprah, who was this year’s honoree for the HFPA’s Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. The only thing that made more of an impact than Winfrey’s elegant, off-the-shoulder Atelier Versace gown was her rousing speech that got Twitter (and some celebrity fans) calling for her 2020 candidacy.  

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A Grammy goddess

Twenty-nineteen will be the year of Lana del Rey (get ready for Norman F—ing Rockwell), but the singer reminded us of her trendsetter status when she delivered one of the best celestial looks (and there have been a few) we’ve ever seen in this angelic Gucci gown topped with a halo of stars.  


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A star is born (part 1)

Though she had departed Fifth Harmony just over a year prior, Camila Cabello truly arrived when she released her debut solo album, Camila (one of EW’s best of the year), at the top of 2018. Not two weeks later, the singer hit the Grammys carpet in a bright red, strapless Vivienne Westwood gown selected, per Cabello’s Twitter, for its resemblance to the dancing-girl emoji.


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Wakanda forever

Black Panther itself was an unstoppable, zeitgeist-altering, culture-defining moment, so it should come as no surprise that the film’s January premiere (two weeks before its record-breaking February release) brought a purple-carpet fashion show in the same vein. The invitation to the Hollywood screening read “royal attire requested,” and the film’s stars dared not disrespect the Wakandan monarchy by underdressing. Many of the vivid colors and vibrant prints evoked traditional African style (which the film’s costumes did explicitly); among the regal carpet’s many highlights were Lupita Nyong’o in purple Atelier Versace; Angela Bassett in a fringed bright yellow Naeem Khan jumpsuit; and T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman, in Emporio Armani.  


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Adam Rippon’s glittering glory

All eyes were on Adam Rippon — the first openly gay male athlete to compete for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, not to mention medal in one — when he hit the ice in Pyeongchang. The outspoken fan-favorite led Team USA to the bronze with a free skate set to Coldplay’s “O,” for which he sparkled in an eye-catching bedazzled mesh shirt befitting a self-described “glamazon bitch ready for the runway.”


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Bringing back a classic

Everything old was new again in 2018, and Rita Moreno embraced that ethos like no one else. The Oscar winner hit the red carpet at the Academy Awards, where she was a presenter, in the same dress (with a few alterations) she wore to the 1962 ceremony whe she won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in West Side Story. Nothing like the right dress to make a girl feel pretty and witty and bright.  


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Badass blush

Pink has been having a moment for the past 12-plus months (keep reading for more), and Danai Gurira’s Oscar look perfectly captured why. The Black Panther star was equal parts femininity and ferocity — and if 2018 demonstrated anything, it’s how well those qualities complement each other — topping her lovely blush strapless gown by Gabriela Hearst with a fierce metallic detail, inspired by traditional tribal African designs, in her hair.


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Call me by Timothée’s name

We all became Timothée Chalamet devotees this year, but none of the young thespian’s superfans put their money where their mouth was more than Call Me by Your Name screenwriter James Ivory. The Best Adapted Screenplay winner — who, at 89, became the oldest Oscar winner ever — wore a dress shirt hand-painted with the image of Chalamet’s face taken from a frame from the romantic drama.


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Roseanne gets cozy

The entire Roseanne debacle was horrible for everyone. Some were outraged the revived sitcom was canceled after its star tweeted racist remarks, others were furious that she was given such a platform to begin with, and the actress herself was especially unappreciative of some of the choices made in the Roseanne-free spin-off. But no matter what kind of bad taste it left in your mouth, there’s no denying that the whole mess was peak 2018, year of Twitter shame and reboot fever. And no garment so efficiently encapsulated a moment as the referential blanket-skirt that Barr wore to the revival premiere — so weird but so ordinary, warmly familiar but undeniably ugly.


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We got the pink

For the second single from her excellent Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe released a music video with a wardrobe that left even less to the imagination than yoga pants. The rose-colored, girl-powered clip — and its dancers’ “pussy pants” resembling the female anatomy — made the defiantly feminist track’s joyous celebration of womanhood all the more brilliantly, blushingly real.


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Bow down at Beychella 

In April of 2018, Beyoncé officially broke Coachella, descending upon the California desert to deliver the set of a lifetime (or maybe of a generation) as the first black woman to headline the festival. As an artist, Queen Bey has proudly embraced and explored femininity, blackness, and the intersection of the two, and she brought these elements to the fore in her now-legendary Coachella performance — and in its wardrobe, on which she collaborated with Balmain artistic director Olivier Rousteing. She had five costume changes over the course of her two-hour set, but the two most indelible looks had to the gleaming caped leotard that channeled Egyptian Queen Nefertiti and the yellow faux-Greek life hoodie for a sequence inspired by HBCUs (backed by a full marching band).

A few months later, Beyoncé made history once again, appearing on the cover of Vogue’s legendary September issue in photos by 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer in the storied magazine’s 125-year history to shoot a Vogue cover. In the cover story, “Beyoncé in Her Own Words,” the pop icon opened up about giving birth to the twins, performing at Coachella, and building her legacy.


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Killing it

Did we not mention there’d be more pink? BBC America’s hit-woman hit Killing Eve got in on the cotton-candy trend with this dreamy Molly Goddard frock, worn by the ruthless assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Who says girly can’t be gruesome?


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A religious experience

The stars went to church for the 2018 Met Gala, for which the theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Keeping with 2018’s trend of highly intentional style, it was a first Monday in May that brought more on-theme dressing than the Met has seen in recent years, with popes, saints, and countless angels in attendance. Among the most divine were papal Rihanna (in Maison Margiela), Zendaya as Joan of Arc (courtesy of Versace), and Ariana Grande wrapped (by Vera Wang) in the Last Judgment.


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Red-hot Lando

Donald Glover was technically shirtless for his biggest political statement of 2018, but the Atlanta and upcoming Lion King star brought his fashion A-game (as usual) to the red carpet of the Solo: A Star Wars Story premiere, just a few days after releasing the single and video for “This Is America.” Glover’s singular style was all over this impeccably tailored, painstakingly matched suit, proving once again that the rising star is a game-changer in menswear as well as film, TV, and music.  


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Pretty in pink

We live in difficult times. Hate is growing. Fear abounds. But in May, Lupita Nyong’o wore pink Prada to Cannes, and she twirled. And we were all reminded, for the sweetest and briefest of moments, that the world can be a beautiful place.


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Barefoot on La Croisette 

Three years ago, it caused un scandale at the Cannes film festival when some women were turned away from a premiere for wearing flat shoes, a failure to adhere to the dress code. Attending the BlacKkKlansman premiere at Cannes this May, Kristen Stewart showed the French fest exactly what she thought of its sexist policy by removing her Louboutins entirely (in full view of the carpet’s photographers) to ascend the stairs barefoot. Mon dieu!


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Style: A Star Wars story

At a Cannes screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Thandie Newton honored Star Wars history with a custom Vivienne Westwood gown decorated with the images of all of the franchise’s black characters that came before her. The star’s stylist Erin Walsh shared a sketch of the dress, made out of a fabric designed after Newton’s own action figures, noting in the caption that “[Newton] wanted to celebrate her role in the iconic history of the franchise! She is the first black woman onscreen in a @starwars movie with a leading role.”


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Happily ever after

On May 19, the global spotlight was on Windsor Castle, where an American actress would marry an English prince. Meghan Markle knew that the world would be watching, that her dress would be discussed for years to come, and that she was stepping into a new role that was completely unlike any she’d ever had before (even on TV). So the soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex made the most daring statement possible: She dressed exactly like herself. Her gown, designed by Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller, was not a frothy fairy-tale wedding dress but an understated piece, sewn in six seams in a heavy silk, with three-quarter sleeves and Markle’s preferred bateau neckline. Her stunning veil, stretching five meters behind her, was embroidered with the California poppy to represent her home state; wintersweet, representing her home with Harry, Nottingham Cottage, where it grows; and 53 more flowers representing each county of the Commonwealth. Finishing off the highly symbolic ensemble with some sparkle, she borrowed Queen Mary’s diamond and platinum bandeau tiara from the groom’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth.


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A real-life superhero

Cannes isn’t the only venue where the French need to drop some sexist style rules. When Serena Williams competed in the French Open in May, in her first match since giving birth last fall, she hit the court in a stunning black Nike catsuit with a red waistband — in part because wearing pants helped her circulation after she developed a blood clot following the birth of her daughter. She dedicated the outfit to “all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy.”

“I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess,” Williams said, likening the catsuit to a look from the world of Black Panther. “It’s kind of my way of being a superhero.” It was a fierce, fabulous statement (and she won the match). But in August, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said that such a uniform would no longer be permitted: “One must respect the game and the place.” Williams — whose body has been cruelly policed and objectified for her entire career — accepted the rule with queenly grace. Nike (more from them later) responded by tweeting a photo of the athlete with the caption, “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers. #justdoit.”


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Here we go again

One of the greatest feats pulled off by Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was the perfect harmony struck between the musical sequel’s ‘70s setting and contemporary styles and attitudes. No single moment better represented this flawless synergy than Young Donna’s (Lily James) discovery of her new signature look, when she very pointedly opts for baggy dungarees over a pretty dress. “[The outfit says] that she’ll have a go, that she’s sort of quite feisty, and she’s sort of not scared to muck in,” costume designer Michele Clapton told EW. So much more than just a dancing queen!  


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Melania Trump really doesn’t care

In June, the world was shocked when Melania Trump wore a jacket that read, “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” Critics called out the First Lady for being insensitive, considering she was wearing it on her way to Texas to visit migrant children being held in detention centers in accordance with her husband’s policies.

Trump, who was a model before she was First Lady, understands the communicative power of fashion and always very clearly dresses with intention and care. Still, her team originally argued that the jacket (which retailed for $39 from Zara) was not a statement, though Trump shared her own perspective in October, when she said the jacket was a message “for the people and the left-wing media to show them that I don’t care. You will not stop me to do what I feel is right.”


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Crazy rich fashion

This summer, moviegoers were gripped with Crazy Rich Asians mania. Jon M. Chu’s irresistible and fabulously stylish rom-com, based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, was a box-office smash and a landmark moment in Asian-American representation onscreen. Constance Wu stars as an American woman who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend to discover that his family is unfathomably wealthy — and not especially welcoming. When Wu herself walked the carpet (glittering in white Ralph & Russo couture) at the film’s August premiere, it made just as much of an impact as her character’s triumphant onscreen Cinderella moment (in Marchesa). It was clear that a true star had arrived.


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The Lady is a star 

Lady Gaga speaks fluent fashion. The pop star has repeatedly and deliberately reinvented herself through carefully chosen style signifiers, and in 2018 she entered a definitive new era — both sartorially and professionally — with her first lead role in a movie. Gaga has always toyed with clothing as costume, and she leaned heavily into the image of herself as a star being born while promoting A Star Is Born. She evoked Old Hollywood glamour with every stop on the film’s press tour, beginning with its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August. After first making her grand festival entrance by cruising up to the palazzo perched on the side of a boat holding a single red flower, Gaga hit the carpet on the film’s big night in this voluminous feathered Valentino haute couture gown, accessorized with Chopard jewels and her director and co-star Bradley Cooper on her arm. Welcome to Hollywood, Mother Monster.


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A brand takes a stand 

Colin Kaepernick’s actual clothing is not really visible in this Nike ad, launched in September. But that’s beside the point. The label’s partnership with the free-agent quarterback — whose choice to peacefully protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at football games has caused major controversy within the NFL and among its fans — made a fashion statement louder than light-up disco-mirrored glow-in-the-dark music-playing Air Jordans. It’s 2018. Activism is a look.  


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Looking fab, you five

Honey, the stars of Netflix’s beloved Queer Eye reboot looked gorgeous at the Emmys this year (the show had won three Creative Arts Emmys at that ceremony a week prior), demonstrating brilliantly that men’s red-carpet fashion doesn’t have to be one boring black suit after another. Jonathan Van Ness toyed with genderbending fashion in Stella McCartney and Prada; Bobby Berk was elegant in classic blue Prada; Tan France continued to demonstrate a commitment to print in a plaid Thom Browne suit; Antoni Porowski served looks in a well-cut black tux from Balmain; and Karamo Brown made a statement in a maroon vest topped with a black cape by CE Clothier.


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Tracee Ellis Ross’ night of quick changes

Tracee Ellis Ross hosted the AMAs for the second year in a row in 2018, and the ever-stylish star gets a perfect 10 for the 10 outfits she wore over the course of the gig — all of which were chosen to showcase the work of black designers. Among the most memorable statements were an airy pink-and-cream tulle gown by Off-White; a tee reading “I am a voter” made in collaboration with Ross’ stylist Karla Welch, paired with full red skirt by Shanel Campbell; and a Lavie by Claude Kameni gown in a vibrant, playful print.


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Gaga wears the pants

Choosing an oversized Marc Jacobs suit for the ELLE Women in Hollywood celebration in October, Lady Gaga made a fashion statement once again — and in case the outfit didn’t quite make it for her, she said it out loud. Trying on outfits “with a sad feeling in my heart that all that would matter was what I wore to this red carpet,” Gaga noticed the suit across the room, and tried it on despite her team’s arguments for the pretty dresses she’d rejected. “In this suit, I feel like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut,” Gaga said. “I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today, I wear the pants.”


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A very floral Chalamet

Everyone’s 2018 obsession Timothée Chalamet demonstrated, along with Donald Glover and the Fab Five, that fun in fashion isn’t just for the ladies. The boy looked beautiful at the London premiere of Beautiful Boy in October, wearing a bold floral suit by Alexander McQueen.


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Welcome to Congress

One of the biggest stories of 2018 was the midterm elections, one of the biggest stories of the midterm elections was the victory of newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and now, ridiculously, one of the biggest stories of Ocasio-Cortez’s path to the House is her wardrobe. The 29-year-old democratic-socialist congresswoman-elect, who spoke throughout her campaign about her working-class upbringing and is open on Twitter and in interviews about her finances, was photographed from behind during Congressional orientation in November. Journalist Eddie Scarry, who writes for the conservative Washington Examiner, shared the image with the caption, “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” The internet erupted, and Scarry deleted the tweet (but the screenshots are out there).


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J.Lo thinks pink

Just a few short months after giving a showstopping performance at the VMAs (where she was honored with the Video Vanguard Award), J.Lo floated onto the carpet at the December premiere of her film Second Act wearing this astonishingly voluminous tulle concoction from Giambattista Valli. And on what better note could we possibly enter 2019 than an all-time high of bubblegum glamour, courtesy of Jenny from the block?

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