Xdressy-Rihanna red carpet dresses Moments

Rihanna’s eighth studio album, Anti, finally arrived Wednesday night, and not a moment too soon: RiRi hasn’t put out a record since 2012, her tour is starting in February, and “Bitch Better Have My Money" (which isn’t actually on the album) came out so long ago that she technically could’ve had an actual human baby since. Besides, we’ve missed Rihanna red carpet dresses. She’s been quiet on the red carpet without a project to promote — she even pulled out of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show — but now that Anti is here, that’s hopefully about to change. In honor of the sartorial shenanigans surely coming our way, here’s our list of Rihanna’s all-time best red carpet appearances (in chronological order):

1. 2005 Vibe Awards. She’s been quiet on the red carpet without a project to promote — she even pulled out of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show — but now that Anti is here, that’s hopefully about to change. In honor of the sartorial shenanigans surely coming our way, here’s our list of Rihanna’s all-time best red carpet appearances (in chronological order):

It’s hard to find fashion credits for some of these older outfits, because — as hard as it is to believe — once upon a time, the Internet wasn’t all-knowing. It’s a shame, too, because how cute is this on her? The Rihanna we know today is ever quite this, well, girlish. She was 17 at the time, and in the best way, it shows: She totally looks like that girl in the senior class who got all the good superlatives in the yearbook, whom you can’t even hate because she’s just so nice.

2. 2006, MTV’s Total Request Live

First, pour one out for TRL, one of the last bastions of music programming on the erstwhile Music Television. Indeed, after this appearance, MTV.com actually published a piece about Rihanna’s evolution away from crop tops and toward high-end ladylike fashion, including this quote from Rihanna’s then-stylist Mariel Haenn: “I get a lot of comments from parents that appreciate that she doesn’t show a lot of skin … I don’t think it’s appropriate for her demographic to portray that. We like to keep it classy and young at the same time. So many little girls are looking up to her." While we all know this didn’t last — Rihanna grew up along with her demographic — this starry cocktail dress is a lovely example of embracing her youth without baring all of it.

3. 2006 MTV Video Music Awards Japan 

Here, Rihanna was mere hours away from winning Best New Artist for “Pon de Replay" from Japanese MTV, and the aforementioned style philosophy is clearly still in play: This feminine, flirty dress would have been just at home at a number of other events — everything from a spring wedding to a baby shower. It is relatable in the extreme.

4. 2006 MTV Movie Awards

Real talk: Rihanna could basically wear this tomorrow — with, ideally, slightly updated shoes; 2006 was a dark time replete with kitten heels, you guys — and get just as many compliments today as she did then. To be honest, we wish she’d do it. Call it a fashion rewind.

5. 2006 MTV European Music Awards

Now she’s tiptoeing a bit closer to the edge, without careening over it. Post-“S.O.S." but pre-“Umbrella," Rihanna went with something short, shiny, and very pop-star friendly, but still without showing her every nook and cranny. It’s a more gradual nudge into her “free the nipple" territory, gently done, with sparkle. No pun intended.

6. 2007 Kids’ Choice Awards 

This is another look she could, and should, haul out again. It’s a thoroughly adorable dress — great colors, flattering cut — that would not look the least bit dated if she decided to revisit it. Although we might encourage her to freshen up the cummerbund.

7. 2007 MTV Movie Awards 

Rihanna performed “Umbrella" at this telecast in a pretty edgy S&M-style ensemble, which was very much a coming-out moment for that era of her style. So it’s no surprise people don’t often remember what she wore on the red carpet. We’re glad to remind you, because actually, it’s one of her subtle bests: The pattern on the dress is unusual but not overly aggressive, the plunging neck gives it that sultry appeal, and again, she could revisit it now and still be in-step with the world. Honestly, this Rihanna Rewind might be the best idea we’ve had in years (although in that department you could argue it’s not up against any stiff competition).

8. 2008 BET Awards in Giambattista Valli  

If you ever wondered what the dress version of a lemon meringue pie would look like, here’s a slice. It’s sunny, sweet, slightly fluffy, basically delicious, and perfect for a special occasion, even if not something you would want to consume on a daily basis. Rihanna is so good at throwing a change-up when you’ve come to expect a slew of fastballs. There is no way she wasn’t the most ogled person at the party in that gown, because surely nobody saw it coming.

9. 2009 Met Gala in Dolce & Gabbana 

As we’ve noted before, the rules just aren’t the same at the Met Gala. A cropped tux with leg-of-mutton sleeves — big enough to hide an extra head in each one — somehow seems sensibly standout there, rather than strange. But the context here is even more key than usual: This event was Rihanna’s first major red carpet outing after Chris Brown’s post-Grammy assault, and picking an outfit that’s so eye-grabbing and architectural and offbeat sent a very clear message that Rihanna is a flower that wilts for no one. We say, bravo.

10. 2009 American Music Awards in Marchesa

Sometimes it’s hard to cheer for skirts that are a bit too bare to BE a true skirt, but it’s even harder to deny the intricate craftsmanship that went into this one, and we were surprised to find ourselves thinking about it long after it passed us by. Even with a few notes — perhaps the cutouts could’ve been lined with white, or a color, which might’ve had even more impact — we still applaud both the guts and the glory.

11. 2011 Grammy Awards in Dior 

OK, this isn’t technically the red carpet, but Rihanna wore it on a nationally televised awards show, so in a way, it got just as much exposure. If not more. Therefore, we’re counting it — and besides, don’t you want an excuse to look at this again? Rihanna wore it while singing “Love the Way You Lie," her duet with Eminem, and she is impossibly magnetic in it. Like if Fantine from Les Miserables had said “screw you" to all those French johns and then lit the docks on fire. Now that is a dream to dream, right?

12. 2012 Grammy Awards in Armani 

This is a hallmark of what we like to consider Rihanna’s minimalist phase, where every outfit seemed like it could actually feasibly be that little something more comfortable she’d slip into at the end of a night, back at the hotel, before being worshipped by a conquest. And the hair’s tousled disco vibe has us crossing our fingers that Rihanna decides to go in a Charlie’s Angelsdirection for at least one of her new videos. She can obviously pull it off.

13. 2012 Brit Awards in Givenchy 

The mark of a style star is her ability to take something that we feel like we’re seen before — that classic Old Hollywood silhouette that’s pretty, but kind of played — and kick it up a notch. Here, that subtle, glittery polka dot pattern elevates this from unsurprising to special, and the leather gloves give it the zest that moves this out of starlet territory.

14. 2013 Grammy Awards in Azzedine Alaïa 

SImply put, this is breathtaking. The point is arguable — and this whole list, actually, is the argument — but for our money, this might be the best she’s ever looked. Somehow that divinely fluffed train doesn’t get eclipsed by the red carpet; it simply flows into it, as if one is a natural extension of the other and the entire acreage is owned by the goddess gliding around on it.

15. 2014 Met Gala 2014 in Stella McCartney 

The words “crop top," “elegant," and “shoulder pads" are rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence — at least, not without being accompanied by some kind of negative modifier. And yet here we are. It takes real panache to carry this look off without appearing as though you’re accidentally wearing something half-finished, but Rihanna does it. Mostly by pure force of will, but also thanks to impeccable styling.

16. 2014 Haute Couture Week in Chanel 

We had not pegged Karl Lagerfeld as a natural co-conspirator for Rihanna, but then we saw her in this. This cropped-but-not midriff-hugging or revealing silhouette seems like an extremely tough sell, especially with matching kicks, but yet again Rihanna is doing what nearly anyone else in the universe could not: making a fanny pack look hip, rather than just something on your hip. This whole thing makes us want to go sightseeing somewhere with her.

17. 2014 CFDA Awards in Adam Selman 

Yes, while there is real breathtaking technical achievement in that gossamer window she’s wearing, it’s not what landed this photo of Rihanna on our list. The real star here is not her gown, nor her butt cheeks, nor her nipples. It is, somehow, magically, and simply, that face. It speaks volumes for Rihanna’s DNA that she is basically wearing nothing but glitter and our first thought was, “Wow, she is so pretty," and not, “Wow, she is so naked."

18. 2015 Fashion Los Angeles Awards in Jeremy Scott 

It’s a furry, sequined robe. That’s the honest truth. But it’s also a really FUN one — wouldn’tyou want to wrap yourself in that? — and we love how it makes Rihanna look like she just rolled out of bed in the world’s most expensive hotel suite (which, frankly, she may have done) and is now swanning around like Joan Collins 2.0. If you’re keeping track of our fantasy Rihanna vacation, we’ll need to go hiking around landmarks in full purple Chanel and then retire to our room for Champagne and caviar and sequins. It’s the perfect itinerary, no?

19. 2015 Grammy Awards in Giambattista Valli 

In the interest of total honesty, we were mildly horrified when we first saw this, because it’s so much dress. It is Little Miss Muffet sitting on about seven different people’s tuffets. But in the hours after she first set foot on the red carpet, we couldn’t forget it. Because as great as RiRi is at working her so-called “bad gal" vibe — her words, not ours — this is a brilliant reminder that she can get princessy with the best of them (and, yes, that her freaking face is so spectacular that she can keep it minimalist and it still never gets lost in the drama below it). And not for nothing, a great way to remind everyone that you’re a force to be reckoned with is to require them to negotiate a 10-foot perimeter just to walk past you.

20. 2015 Met Gala in Guo Pei 

It’s not the first time we’ve gushed about this gown, and we could do it again and again. Here, it almost feels like the exuberant culmination of the two outfits that came before it: The sultriness of the Jeremy Scott fur-trimmed robe crossed with the ability to work 20 pounds of skirt. It is the kind of unforgettable glamour and drama that Rihanna does best, bringing to fruition that very idea we mentioned earlier that her stylist discussed almost ten years ago: Skin isn’t always the epitome of sexy. Rihanna’s own unadulterated charisma can carry just about anything, and we can’t wait to see the anything ANTI brings to the table.

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