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M.I.A. in a Henry Holland dress

2009 Grammys Performance Outfit Worn by MIA

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MIA shows being pregnant and hot is not mutually exclusive

  • Feb 18, 2009
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Right after the 2009 Grammys last week, online commentators were atwitter over Sri Lankan rapper MIA's performance outfit of choice: a Henry Holland mesh mini dress with trompe l'eoil polka dot patches over the crucial bits. It wasn't so much the dress in particular as it was the fact that MIA wore it when she was pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, that the day of the Grammys was actually her due date.

Since this was such a well-covered topic, I originally wasn't going to comment. But hearing some of the opinions that have made their way online, I'm a little shocked. The most common criticisms is that the outfit is too sexy, with the most extreme comment being that MIA is a skank "who couldn't wait to get her baby about before getting back in the game." Come on, now.

Actually, when I first saw MIA's performance, I seriously thought she was wearing the best maternity outfit I'd ever seen in my life. Taking a look at the limited selection of maternitywear in major US retail sites, it seems like most designers conceive of pregnant women in equally limiting terms: Either as a sweaty mammoths clad in stretchy colorful sweats on their way to Lamaze class, or as benevolent '60s era earth mothers in drapey gowns with ridiculous prints or bright colored muu muus. Ugh. 

Given the dismal options, MIA took a totally creative approach. She squeezed herself into tight non-maternity designer dress, paired it with some Ray-bans and some sneakers (gotta swath those swollen ankles!), and let it all hang out. The effect? An outfit that would've fit in at the Grammys just as well as at a summer barbeque party on a friend's tar rooftop in Bed Sty. She looks like a woman who's comfortable, enjoying herself, and who has a great sense of humor.

And to those critics who thought the outfit was too sexy? It's interesting to note that though the dress is supposed to be worn alone, MIA actually wore it with an opaque skirt underneath and a pair of mesh leggings. It's actually a much more concealing outfit than when model Agyness Deyn wore it alone, but of course, no one complained back then.

But the thing is, the sexiness factor is beside the issue. The real issue is our concept of how we think of these creatures called pregnant women. Let's just confront the fact that MIA did look sexy, way sexier than all the Cristina Aguileras and Carrie Underwoods of the world combined.

Against the musty, obvious tuxes of male hip hop figures like Jay Z and Kayne, MIA looked like something new all together.  She looked like herself.
MIA 2009 Grammy outfit

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February 19, 2009
Fantastic review, as usual! I SO SO enjoy your perspective on fashion! It's a bizarre experience being pregnant, and totally messes with your sexuality in ways that are unexpected and emotionally taxing. This is a really interesting perspective on the American mores around women, pregnancy, and sexuality. And some pretty cool insight from someone who (I'm pretty sure ; ) hasn't even been pregnant yet!
About the reviewer

Ranked #83
I'm a curious foodie, a devout fashion gawker, and an unrepentant print nerd. I work at one of the last mainstream commercial magazines that's still printing.      Other things … more
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