Janelle Monáe has always been known for her idiosyncratic sense of style. During her decade in the public eye, she’s stuck to a rigid uniform of black and white looks, often given a fun, edgy twist in keeping with her career as a singer, but it’s her current stream of red carpet appearances that have caught our eye. Now an Awards Season fixture thanks to her debut acting roles in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, she’s showcasing a more grown-up, chic style, moving away from some of the more outlandish looks she has worn on stage, yet still with that quintessentially Monáe spin. Here we decode the secrets to her sartorial success…
More Than Monochrome
The singer-turned-actress has rarely deviated from her wardrobe of black and white looks (according to her stylist Maeve Riley, it is a nod to her parents, who wore uniforms in their blue collar jobs) but this season she has moved on slightly from monochrome to incorporate other accents into her looks, mainly metallic and red. We particularly loved the hybrid-print dress by Marc Jacobs she wore to the AAFCA Awards, which although heavily featuring black and white, was a real departure from those earlier looks.
We can’t talk about Janelle Monáe’s Awards Season style without mentioning those incredible hair accessories. Her recent red carpet appearances have seen her decorating her hair with googly eyes, pearls, butterfly clips, safety pins and gold wire, some of which have been seen as political statements. Indeed, the singer-turned-actress wrote on Instagram: ‘From the eyes, to the gold wire, and then to the white safety pins . . . Can you guess what messages [Eye emoji] am sending and speaking through my hair?’
Created by long-time hairstylist Nikki Nelms (she’s been credited with reimagining black hair for stars from Solange to Zoe Kravitz), the intricate, beautiful looks have been a major talking point, with many trying to figure out what the various symbols might mean. Whatever the political intent (safety pins have become something of an anti-Trump call-to-arms) we can all agree on one thing – the looks are totally ground-breaking and she’s totally rocking it.
Ladylike With A Twist
Earlier in her career, the tuxedo was a major part of her wardrobe, but recently she has been embracing a more ladylike silhouette. Case in point was the custom-made gown Armani Privé created for her at the Oscars; with a black sequinned body, silk taffeta skirt and oversized polka dot pailettes, plus a train. Another standout girly look was the high-neck, floral embellished dress with matching cuffs by Chanel, which she wore for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Those tuxedos are still there though, as seen in the dress she wore for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which featured tuxedo detailing in the bodice, and the silver sequined tux she wore for a New York screening of Hidden Figures.
See all of Janelle Monáe's red carpet looks for Awards Season below.