On Sunday night, the most watched fashion show of New York Fashion Week took place — in Arizona.
I am speaking, of course, of Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show, a 13-minute extravaganza of crimson and a pregnancy reveal in the form of workwear, puffers and a breastplate that will probably set maternity trends for the next decade.
If, during her first pregnancy, Rihanna’s style was largely defined by what she didn’t wear (anything that obscured her bump), in State Farm Stadium she was almost entirely covered up. Rihanna has often used fashion as a tool to underscore just who has control over her body, to force confrontation with corporeality. This once again redefined the terms.
In head-to-toe red she shone bright. If not like a diamond, definitely like a ruby: specifically the 19.47-carat Bayco ring she had on one hand. Or like some sort of avant-garde fertility goddess, drenched in a color with all sorts of potent associations related to the female body — especially the pregnant female body. (Also, yes, Valentine’s Day, but she generally thinks more globally than a Hallmark moment.) It painted a picture that could be read from the farthest reaches of the football arena.
(It helped that all of her backup dancers formed a sea of white hoodies.)
Even before the baby news broke, what Rihanna would wear for her first major moment on a giant public stage since 2018 was so hotly anticipated that on the morning of the show not one but two different brands told me confidentially that she was wearing looks they had custom-made for the event — though in the end she pulled a last-minute surprise.
That’s power for ya. If there were two, there were probably more. (Who knows how many?) Even Oscar nominees don’t have quite so many brands willing to gamble on the chance that a celebrity’s favor will fall on them. The calculation is that the potential payoff is worth the risk.
It will be for Loewe, whose designer, Jonathan Anderson, created the surrealist leather breastplate Rihanna wore over her bodysuit and under that boiler suit (meant to symbolize flight, according to the brand), accessorized with diamond brooches and left open at the torso to free the tummy.
Also Alaïa, whose creative director, Pieter Mulier, custom-made the two leather coats she tossed on top: the padded red leather bolero, with integrated gloves, that curved to drip off the back of her torso as she sang, and the voluminous padded red leather robelike number, again with integrated gloves, that puddled at her feet as she rose up to the heavens at the end. (Alaïa had a very good Super Bowl; Rihanna also wore a crocodile print skirt and a shearling leather jacket from the brand for her pregame news conference.)
As for her shoes, they were a sneaker collab from MM6 Maison Margiela x Salomon. Why wear only one brand when you can combine so many to your own ends?
Together they offered a quick discourse on high-end cool, but ultimately the point of the look wasn’t so much what Rihanna was wearing as how what she was wearing showed off the curve of her once again growing stomach. How it was framed.
It gave new meaning to the term “scarlet woman.”