VMAs: Missy Elliott's Medley of Costumes Featured "Sauce, Shine and Throwbacks"

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"We have just the right amount of sauce. There’s a lot of shine, and a lot of throwbacks,” costume designer June Ambrose said of the Video Vanguard Award recipient's onstage looks.

Missy Elliott’s longtime music video costume designer, June Ambrose, who has known her for over 22 years, styled the rapper for her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. “I’m a big fan of shiny,” she told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the show. “I get goosebumps when I think about the [Video Vanguard] award. I can’t think of anyone more worthy to receive it. She has contributed so much to the culture — she changed the face of not just hip-hop, but pop culture.”

Ambrose, on the inspiration behind the performance, said: “This is Missy 2.0. 2020’s going to be a big year. The future is 2020. When I was working in 2000, we were thinking about 2020. So now we’re here. We have just the right amount of time. We have just the right amount of sauce. There’s a lot of shine, and a lot of throwbacks.”

Elliott opened her performance with her latest single, “Throw It Back,” dressed in a futuristic, silver suit with white braids in a bun on her head, complete with a wig-snatching moment — just like in the video she released last week.

Then Elliott took to the roof, seemingly flying across the stage in a holographic image of her in the iconic suit from the first music video to earn the rapper her first three VMA nods back in 1997 — the debut solo single “The Rain,” which many have dubbed the trash-bag suit.

As Ambrose told THR, “it’s not a trash bag. It was inspired by the Michelin Man, but when I designed it, it was intended to look bubbly, and allowed Missy to move.... What was most iconic about that all, was Missy was willing to do it. She had fun and she was game for it. She never had one sense of apprehension, which says a lot. She doesn’t take herself serious. Even in the age of social media, I love that she’s still fearless.”

A-Morir eyewear re-created the iconic Alain Mikli Masque glasses, which were originally used in the “The Rain” music video, according to Elliott at the time, “to mask my shyness behind all the chaos of the look.”

Elliott also brought back the camo pants from 2001's “Get Your Freak On” music video, complete with a green bedazzled and studded jacket — a look Elliott has embellished on over the years. 

The rapper gave a shout-out to her Adidas-loving sartorial habit in the form of Alyson Stoner, who became a child breakout star when she danced in “Work It” and “Gossip Folks.” Stoner danced on the MTV stage in a yellow Adidas tracksuit. Elliott’s long been customizing and remixing her own Adidas clothes, and in 2004, the German athletic brand partnered with Elliott, to collaborate on The Respect Me range.

Elliott also performed a snippet of “Pass That Dutch,” behind a scarecrow ensemble, and brought back her sleek, black look from the “Lose It”-era.

It’s been 22 years since Missy Elliott made her first appearance at the VMAs, when she was nominated for Breakthrough Video for “The Rain.” Since then, she’s been nominated 40 more times, scooping seven statues. Monday night marked the first performance for the trailblazer at the show since 2006. She became the first female rapper to be honored with the Video Vanguard Award, in a year in which she also became the first female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. 

Over the two decades that Elliott has cemented her name in pop culture, so, too, has she become known for what she wears, always displaying a fearless approach to fashion.

Last week Elliott dropped the music video for “Throw It Back,” off Iconology, her latest EP of new tracks. The video featured an exclusive line of MCM x Misa Hylton, created by the MCM Global Creative Partner, who is also Elliott’s longtime collaborator. The video also featured a Michael Ngo yellow and black custom patent-studded utility jumpsuit, with hair by Kellon Deryck, who created the Missy Iconology album cover, where her long braid spells out "Missy." Makeup by Alexandra Butler and nail art by Bianca "Beedy" Williams.