On the Non-Drama of the Grammys Dress Code

Photo: Getty Images

The Grammys are known for being the inverse of movie award shows, rife with drama and plenty of sideboob. But CBS, which broadcast the event on Sunday, wanted nothing to do with all that, or any scantily clad artist for that matter. In a memo sent Feb. 5 and reposted by Nikki Finke at Deadline, the broadcaster told musicians to leave their thongs, nipple covers and “visbly ‘puffy’ bare skin exposure” at home.

“Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered,” it cautioned. “Thong-type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack.”

The edict went a step farther, advising attendees to “avoid commercial identification of actual brand-name products on T-shirts” and to clear foreign language “identification” with the broadcaster.

Ken Basin, an attorney and associate chair of Greenberg Glusker’s entertainment group in Los Angeles, said he wasn’t surprised, given Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl in 2004. “CBS was fined [by the Federal Communications Commission] over the nipple slip, and they appealed that all the way to the Supreme Court,” he says. The memo was “probably just a pre-emptive strike.”

Fortunately, the federal courts struck down the FCC fine because they weren’t “sufficiently clear in its regulations as to what would and wouldn’t result in one,” he explains. “But the court in principle held the FCC’s right to issue fines for fleeting expletives and nudity, so long as they’re consistently clear about the rules and how they apply them. From the network’s perspective, [the wardrobe edict] is a preventative effort to encourage everyone to make [better] decisions.”

But there wasn’t much CBS could have done much if artists chose to ignore it.

“There’s no teeth to the edict unless [CBS] denied artists entry, and there’s no way they wouldn’t let Lady Gaga in or not invite her next year,” Basin says, adding that no musician signed a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. “People won’t watch the show if the interesting talent is not there, otherwise they won’t have interesting talent.”

Clearly, that didn’t happen, as the awards show went off without a hitch and most performers looked relatively tame. Though from a fashion perspective, there was a noticeable departure from recent years.

Beyonce keeps it classy at the Grammys. Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

“[The Grammys] aren’t as buttoned up as the movie award shows, so you do expect people to take risks,” says Lindsay Miller, L.A. Editor of the celebrity news site PopSugar, who reported on the event from the red carpet. “I would say that in past years we’ve seen people like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj go crazy and err more on the side of costumes than dress-up, but this year we saw a lot more dress-up.”

In fact, Rihanna and Beyoncé wore looks plucked right off the runway: Beyoncé’s simple-but-stunning black-and-white jumpsuit was an Osman by Osman Yousefzada, while Rihanna donned a frothy but still provocative red confection by Azzedine Alaia.

The high necklines favored by the likes of Florence Welch and Adele may have had viewers wondering if they’d taken the memo to heart, but Miller says the edict “didn’t really impact” what artists wore.

“There were a couple people that pushed the envelope a bit, like Kelly Rowland and Rihanna, whose dress looked more sheer in person,” but overall, “people stayed true to their style,” she says. “A lot of the women who we know like to show skin did, while others who favor classic looks went for that.”

 

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