Groundbreaking artist, producer, dancer, philanthropist and style innovator Missy Elliott is the recipient of the 2019 MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for her long-standing excellence in the music industry. It’s an overdue accolade for the Virginia-born rap superstar whose career spans over 22 years and includes a casual 41 VMA nominations (seven wins in total). The four-time Grammy winner has also landed 33 songs on the Hot 100 Chart and has delivered game-changing music videos helmed by frequent collaborators Hype Williams and Dave Meyers. Throughout her career, Elliott proved that she embodies artistry and defines what it means to push the envelope with both her music and sartorial choices. In honor of the hip-hop legend’s significant award and high-octane performance, we “throw it back” and explore her most iconic style moments from 1997 to 2019.
Elliott’s cutting-edge trash bag outfit wasn’t limited to the music video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).” A year after the visual dropped, Elliott rocked the oversized garbage bag over white pants and Nike AirForce Ones for her performance at the Lilith Fair at Jones Beach, New York.
Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)” ft. Pharrell Williams
After a hiatus from releasing solo music, Misdemeanor proves that she can continue to innovate in her enthralling music video lensed by Meyers. She looks enchanting in her reflective silver hoodie and pants that are complete with hoop earrings large enough to double as a necklace and crystals over her frosty lipstick. Elliott continues to elevate her fashion and makeup game in the video with a pop art-inspired jacket and complementary polka dot makeup that would likely make contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama proud.
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake weren’t the only musicians to rock a Candian tuxedo for an award show red carpet. Elliott looked elated when she held up her Grammy for the best short form music video for “Lose Control,” but it was her Dior outfit that kept our attention. She rocked a bedazzled light blue wash peacoat and matching wide-leg jeans and newsboy cap from the storied French label with gigantic stones on her finger. Elliott embraced logo-mania during its peak in the mid-2000s and has remerged on the runways and red carpets in recent years.
Missy Elliott, “I’m Better” ft. Lamb
If anyone can make a bowl cut look chic, it’s Missy Elliott. Her edgy black leather jumpsuit with red feather accents on the shoulder pads and lacquered black pout add a funky edge to Elliott’s enigmatic look. Co-directed by Elliott and Meyers, the video sees the skilled dancer showing off her knack for intricate choreography and experimenting with autotune on the track.
Nobody can rock athleisure quite like Elliott. For the 45th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden, she who wore a crystal-embellished bubblegum pink Adidas tracksuit with one leg rolled up. Elliott added a matching Kangol hat–a classic accessory favored by LL Cool J and Samuel Jackson to collect her award for the best female rap solo performance.
Missy Elliott, “Gossip Folks”
Missy Elliott loves an Adidas tracksuit. So much so, that in the mid-aughts, she helped breath new life into the athletic brand with her Respect ME collection for young girls. For the Meyers-directed music video–which peaked at number eight on the Hot 100 Chart–Elliott rocked two sporty Adidas looks and a fuzzy Kangol hat. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of the video, the Adidas logo on her jacket was blurred out, which she later tweeted about last December.
Missy Elliott, “Lose Control” ft. Ciara & Fat Man Scoop
Missy Elliott is standing in a dark space clad in what else? An embellished royal blue hoodie, shorts, and white sneakers all from her go-to label Adidas. As Fatman Scoop’s infectious beat blares in the background, the scene later transitions to Elliott and Ciara as they dance on an empty road in the desert with their crew of backup dancers. “Lose Control” spent 28 weeks on the Hot 100 Chart.
Missy Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On”
We saw Missy Elliott rock a bejeweled denim vest and jeans, so we bought a bejeweled denim vest and jeans. This video is peak mid-aughts, and we love everything about Elliott’s wardrobe in this movie-worthy visual. Elliott’s ears and wrists are dripping in diamonds, while she shimmies her shoulders in this underground wonderland with cameos from her friends and collaborators including Nate Dogg. Elliott’s outfit and sound are so iconic, that actor Zachary Quinto performed the track on “Lipsync Battle” in a blinged-out denim look.
Missy Elliott, “Work It”
Missy Elliott always shows love to her friend and collaborator Aaliyah, who tragically passed away 18 years ago. In the opening scene of the video, Elliott sports a white t-shirt spray painted with Aaliyah’s name on the front. (Her dancers also wore white tees emblazoned with Biggie, 2Pac, Big Pun and Left Eye in memory of the late artists.) Elliott looks fly as ever in her oversized grey coat, distressed patchwork jeans, grey bandana and oversized hoop earrings as she gives us iconic high-energy choreography.
Before Timbaland’s hypnotic beat even drops, we catch a glimpse of Elliott in her now-iconic garbage bag suit. Retrospectively, we all should have known that someone confident enough to don a trash bag and make it look like couture was going to become a style visionary. While her legendary outfit rightly gets plenty of love to this day, Elliott also sports plenty of trendy outfits in her debut music video. Her melanin is popping in a sunshine yellow number with matching sunglasses and a neon green undershirt. When she and Timbo hop into their Hummer on their way to the beach, Elliott looks effortlessly cool in her black leather suit with flares of red peeking out. And while on the shore Elliott gets down and shows off her moves in a white and royal blue ensemble.
Missy Elliott, “Hot Boyz”
Fireworks followed by a massive flame and flashing lights? Check. An instantly recognizable Timbaland-produced beat? Check. Missy Elliott’s signature side-swoop and choppy haircut? Check. Dressed in a sequined deep red and white color block leather suit reminiscent of ’70s stunt performer, Evel Knievel, Elliott stuns in the high-energy music video. Her unparalleled dance moves, razor-sharp raps and unbeatable flow take center-stage with an assist from Lil Mo on the chorus, and verses from Nas and Eve. Ginuwine, Mary J. Blige and Timbaland all make cameos in this visual helmed by none other than Williams.
Missy Elliott, “Throw It Back”
Clad in a vibrant blue hat and tracksuit custom-designed by MCM x Misa Hylton, Elliott proves yet again that she is the undisputed queen of streetwear. Throughout her candy-colored visual, Elliott flexes her slick dance moves while sporting a plethora of vibrant ‘fits. She snatches wigs from her background dancers with a snap of her fingers while in a pink suit and reminds us that she “did records for Tweet, before y’all could even Tweet” in a bright yellow spacesuit. Elliott is also no stranger to attention-grabbing makeup. Here she embraces neon eyeshadows, bold blue lips, and even used her extra-long braids as double-dutch jump ropes during the song’s chorus. Add this visual and her wardrobe in it to Elliott’s long list of her greatest style moments.