Gwen Stefani is a rare breed of superstar. Having cemented record-breaking music industry success both within a group and as a solo act, Stefani keeps growing as an artist, expanding into beauty, clothing, TV production and even reality show hosting. While there’s no doubt this “Hollaback Girl” has got staying power, her journey to the top hasn’t been without its misfires. Specifically, the still-cringe-worthy Harajuku Girls phase, where Stefani’s fashion choices were laden with cultural appropriation. So let’s jump right in, as we journey through the super-cool, and sometimes controversial, fashion story of the one and only Gwen Stefani.
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The “cool factor”
Signed to Interscope Records in 1991, it wasn’t until 1995 and No Doubt’s third album, Tragic Kingdom (the album that blessed us all with the mega-smash hit “Don’t Speak”), that lead vocalist Gwen Stefani and her bandmates would start to see some real industry success. Stefani’s style right off the bat fit her profile. She was unapologetically pop-punk, with barely-there crop tops, platinum hair and retro touches.
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Cop tops and sarong skirts
With her platinum locks a signature, Gwen’s style continued to evolve within her pop-punk comfort zone in the early years. Offbeat hairstyles, clashing prints and every style of crop top imaginable had the star making it very clear from the get-go that she dressed for herself — and no one else. Fun fact: Stefani made most of the clothes she wore on stage with No Doubt herself.
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Gwen has us feeling blue
Kicking the platinum hair to the curb for a beat, Gwen and her No Doubt crew showed up to the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards and made a splash. Sporting a blue-fur bikini top and some kind of bizarre skirt-and-pants combo, Stefani definitely didn’t land on any best-dressed lists for the evening — but that doesn’t mean this look would be soon forgotten.
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Rocking a pink fringe and braces
Sporting braces at any age isn’t fun — but doing it on the world’s stage? That’s gotta suck. Leave it to Gwen to rock her dental hardware with a mega-watt smile and the epic cool-girl vibes she so effortless gave off. To the opening of a Christian Dior boutique in 1999, Stefani showed up in a mostly-black ensemble, accessorizing with a bizarrely out of place knit scarf that seemed to only match her blunt pink fringe bangs.
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Gwen sticks to her signature look
Serving up everything we’ve come to know and love from the eclectic star, Gwen showed up to My VH-1 Awards in 2001 rocking sleek platinum locks, a pop of her signature red hue and — of course — a bold print and red lip.
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Gwen and Gavin say “I do”
Marrying long-time boyfriend and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale in 2002, Gwen wore a custom, cream-coloured John Galliano gown with dip-dyed and hand-painted pink trim for the first of two ceremonies the two would have between London and Los Angeles. The pair would represent one of the more iconic celebrity couples of the day, but would split in 2015, citing “irreconcilable differences” (ahem, rumours of infidelity with the nanny). At least we’ll always have this legendary Galliano-gown moment — where Stefani made ombre a thing before it was a thing.
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Gwen launches L.A.M.B.
Though Gwen wouldn’t officially launch her clothing brand L.A.M.B. until 2004, the signer-turned-designer worked on a design collaboration with LeSportsac in 2003. The fashion line is inspired by Guatemalan, Japanese, and Jamaican styles, amongst other influences, and gained popularity amongst celebrities like Terri Hatcher and Nicole Kidman.
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Gwen and Gavin strike a pose
On the cusp of her debut solo album, a thriving clothing line and newlywed status, Gwen Stefani was having a good year in 2004 — including this moment, pictured alongside then-husband Gavin Rossdale, attending the premiere of Martin Scorcese’s film The Aviator, which included Stefani making her film debut in the role of Jean Harlowe. Her look was dramatic and on-theme. Stefani’s fashion during this time included a mix of styles which, unfortunately, also included a heavy dose of cultural appropriation via her Harajuku Girls-inspired phase and subsequent tour (not to mention future merchandising). While we’ve always love Stefani’s personal spin on styles that inspire and influence her, this particular style phase was heavily problematic and would ultimately represent more of an exploitation of culture for profit than an homage of any genuine significance.
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Gwen as a fashionista mama
The new mom was glowing and all smiles as she held her newborn son, Kingston James, close while leaving a hotel in 2006. Stefani’s maternity style had been much of the same, with a heavy dose of animal print, floaty gowns and bump-featuring designs. Gwen would do it all over again two years later for the birth of Zuma, and again in 2014 when she and Gavin would welcome their third child, Apollo Bowie. Let’s all take a moment to let those names sink in…
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Gwen nails it in a little black dress
There are little black dresses — and then there’s this. Stepping out in an uncharacteristically simple ensemble, Gwen looked anything but basic in a stunning black mini dress and sky-high heels for the NRJ Awards in 2007.
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Gwen serves up not-so-basic black
From her epic LBD in 2007 to all-black-everything, Gwen quickly adopted the dark hue as her new signature and showed the world just how versatile and fresh basic-black could be. Of the (many) stellar style moments Stefani had this year, this is one of our favourites.
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Gwen can do Cannes like no other
Stefani understood the assignment when it came to dressing for the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. Full-glam and full-marks for this one — she nailed it.
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Gwen goes glam in head-to-toe silver
On the cusp of some major life changes to come the following year (divorce, new love interest, ongoing success as a judge on The Voice) Gwen looked cool, calm and uber-chic in 2014, rocking a full silver look for the Emmy Awards red carpet.
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Gwen is all about new beginnings
Looking absolutely stunning on the set of The Voice finale in 2015, Gwen looks like a woman on a mission. Fresh off of her split from Rossdale, and already diving in on a new whirlwind romance with co-judge on The Voice and country music superstar, Blake Shelton, Stefani’s style has matured, but like her personal life, the star continues to keep fans on their toes.
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Gwen shuts it down at Glamour’s Women of the Year event
This was a moment. Gwen Stefani absolutely shut the place down when she stepped out in this jaw-dropping black-and-blush ombre gown at Glamour’s Women of the Year event in 2015.
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Gwen dazzles as she opens her residency in Las Vegas
Sparkling in a silver embellished dress, Gwen was all smiles as she attended the "Gwen Stefani — Just A Girl" Residency at Planet Hollywood In Las Vegas in 2018. While the star’s style has certainly matured over the years, Stefani’s never lost her sense of whimsy and punk-glam, always looking to stand out and give every look her own personal stamp.
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Gwen brings back elbow-length gloves
Giving us the glove-glam we didn’t know we needed, it’s just a fact that Gwen only gets better as time goes on. Her red-carpet style in recent years has been her best yet, blending her love of funky details with timeless couture and creating looks that are all her own.
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Gwen does gala-glam in Monaco
In a powder-blue dress of dreams, Gwen glams up for a good cause at the 2019 Monte-Carlo Gala for the Global Ocean.
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Gwen and then-fiancée Blake Shelton look like (chic) wedding cake toppers
Announcing their engagement in 2020 after five years of dating, Gwen and her The Voice co-star Blake Shelton weren’t messing around when they stepped out together for the 2020 Grammy’s. The pair looked stylish and cool — and we definitely can’t blame Blake for beaming next to his bride-to-be!
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Gwen rocks thigh-high boots at a pre-Grammy party
While we’re hopeful the last bit of 2021 brings with it more photos of our favourite “Hollaback Girl”, this shot of Gwen Stefani at a pre-Grammy’s party in 2020 — alongside now-hubby Blake Shelton — says it all. The singer’s style has been untouchable, her career seems to have taken on a second wind (did she ever really slow down?), and that mega-watt smile just won’t quit. With an ever-expanding repertoire of talents and new ventures, can’t wait to see what she brings to the table next — and of course, what she’ll wear!
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