Gwen Stefani posing in red lipstick

Gwen Stefani’s style philosophy always erred on the side of "because why not?" A ska tomboy at the nascence of her career, Stefani once rocked casual SoCal-girl overalls and a short bob, per The Things. After her band No Doubt’s career-making No. 1 single "Don’t Speak" achieved massive radio success (per Billboard), the music superstar began spicing things up with bindis and space buns, such as in her famous 1998 MTV Video Music Awards look, via PopSugar. Stefani revealed in a 2019 Vogue video, posted on her Instagram, that ex-boyfriend and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal’s mom inspired her stylistic choice. Kanal’s mom, who is Indian, stirred Stefani’s sartorial imagination with "her bindi and jewelry and these beautiful fabric dresses," the singer said. "So she gave me a lot of bindis, and I was just like hey, what’s up, boom."

Even after playing one of Hollywood’s first platinum blonde icons Jean Harlow in the 2004 Oscar-winning biopic, "The Aviator," Stefani kept her personal style fresh and evolving. After winning the 2019 Fashion Icon People’s Choice Award, Stefani said in 2021 that fiance Blake Shelton was behind her age-defying good looks. "I look back… at pictures of when I first started kissing Blake, and I look the best I’ve ever looked in my life," Stefani told The Daily Telegraph.

However, as with all fashion risk-takers, some of Stefani’s choices did not go over as well as most. Keep reading for some of the singer’s most controversial outfits throughout her career.

The bindi was Gwen Stefani’s first fashion controversy

Gwen Stefani in bikini top and bindi

Gwen Stefani, while a definitive style icon, has been consistently criticized for one particular perceived offense — that of cultural appropriation through her clothing. She first came under fire for rocking the ubiquitous bindi she wore throughout the 1990s, such as at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. A Hindu religious symbol worn by South Asian women, the bindi has been a common fashion accessory on the foreheads of many other (non-Hindu) Hollywood A-listers like Natalie Portman and Selena Gomez, per The Cut. Stefani did it first, though, and she did it everywhere — sporting the dot on red carpet events as well as music videos for her band No Doubt’s hit singles’ music videos like 1995’s "Don’t Speak" and "Just a Girl."

"I was just so unbelievably fascinated by Indian culture in particular because Tony Kanal [No Doubt’ bassist and Stefani’s ex] is Indian," Stefani said in a Vogue video per her Instagram, attributing Kanal’s mother with gifting her the first bindis. "His mom would come down the stairs… dolled up with the bindi and jewelry and these beautiful fabric dresses with patterns and gold," Stefani described.

While Vice commented in 2018 that Stefani "commercialized the sacred decoration" in the ’90s, Stefani’s intimate connection with practicing Hindus likely explained the relatively mild backlash (this was also pre-cancel culture discussions). Moreover, by No Doubt’s lead single "Ex-Girlfriend" off their 2000 album, "Return of Saturn," Stefani had ditched the forehead adornment completely.

Did Gwen Stefani accessorize Japanese culture?

The Harajuku Girls posing with Gwen Stefani

If Gwen Stefani’s 1990s bindi habit didn’t attract enough negative heat, her Harajuku Girls era certainly did the trick. In promoting 2004’s solo album "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." it was apparent Stefani was in love with Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku District. Appearing everywhere for performances alongside Stefani was an entourage of female Japanese backup dancers, who always coordinated their eclectic outfits with Stefani’s. Explaining the fascination to WWD (via Us Weekly), Stefani claimed the Harajuku District’s edgy and expressive street fashion evoked memories of her own thrift-shopping adolescent self. "Having that connection as a little girl and my personal obsession with fashion… I got [to the Harajuku District] and I was like, ‘What was happening? I should be Japanese,’" Stefani divulged.

As FemeStella pointed out, the Harajuku Girls themselves were the real focus of the controversy. In a 2005 op-ed, Salon slashed down the singer’s use of her dancers, asserting that Stefani — in showcasing her love for Harajuku fashion — merely "barfed up another image of submissive giggling Asian women." Comedian Margaret Cho responded with greater nuance in a 2005 blog post, writing that while the Harajuku Girls were at least "a measure of visibility" for Asian women, their Japanese schoolgirl look was "like blackface."

Never having apologized for such uses of her dancers, Stefani maintained to Time in 2014: "There’s always going to be two sides to everything. For me, everything that I did with the Harajuku Girls was just a pure compliment."

Gwen Stefani love Chola culture

Gwen Stefani’s 2004 "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." album era was the cultural appropriation gift that kept on giving — or at least, so said critics who weren’t finished after accusing Stefani of ripping off Japanese street fashion with her backup dancers, the Harajuku Girls. For the album’s hit single "Luxurious," Stefani paid homage to Southern California’s "chola" look in a music video centered around a Mexican-American community.

"Homage" wasn’t the word publications like FemeStella had in mind, however. "Choosing to appropriate the Mexican-American aesthetic," it described in a 2019 article, "Stefani adopts … thinly drawn on eyebrows, thickly-lined lips, ‘wife-beater’ tank tops … and Old English-style nameplate necklaces." FemeStella also criticized Stefani for dressing up exactly like famous Mexican painter Freida Kahlo in one set-piece.

Stefani herself told MTV News that her character in the video was modeled after a Latina classmate in her Anaheim high school. "She’s this total like chola girl, white face, and she used to sit in class and put on tons of makeup. And I used to just watch her, mesmerized," Stefani described. Numerous YouTube viewers in her music video’s comments agreed that Stefani’s adopting of chola fashion and culture was an affectionate and harmless gesture. "I’m Chicano and I’m honored she used our culture," one user noted. As others pointed out, Stefani might simply be an artist intrinsically inspired by other cultures’ aesthetics. "She celebrates other cultures without losing herself. Appreciate, don’t assimilate; that’s Gwen," another user applauded.

Does Gwen Stefani adopt her partners’ styles?

Gwen Stefani onstage in fringed dress

Is Gwen Stefani culpable of letting her romantic partners influence her style? The singer told The Telegraph (via the Evening Standard) in 2000 the truth behind the pink cornrows that suddenly popped up in No Doubt’s 2000 music video "Ex-Girlfriend." According to Stefani, "the night Tony {Kanal] broke up with me I put braids in my hair." Her ex, who is Indian, had also introduced Stefani to the controversial bindi she adorned during the 1990s, per the Vogue interview Stefani shared to her Instagram.

With rocker and ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, Stefani’s look shifted again. In a 2012 Harper’s Bazaar interview, Stefani described how Rossdale purchased her first Prada dress — also "the first designer piece I ever owned." During their relationship, Stefani launched her LAMB clothing line at New York Fashion Week in 2011. Stefani and Rossdale would sometimes even coordinate outfits, as seen at the KROQ Acoustic XMas concert in 1997 wearing identical shiny blue puffy jackets and ski pants, per Vogue UK.

Since she began dating her fiancé, country music star and fellow coach on "The Voice" Blake Shelton, in 2015 (per Insider), Stefani has been wearing a lot more Western-tinged outfits. "The cowboy’s influence on her style is obvious in… her ‘Just a Girl’ show," Inquisitr noted, singling out "a jacket covered in gold fringe and a pair of cowboy boots" that Stefani posted on her Instagram. The couple that dresses alike… stays tight?

No Doubt wasn’t looking hot in their reunion music video

Gwen Stefani posing sideways with Native American hairstyle

In a musical reunion that veered off-center, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt rejoined in 2012 to release the album "Push and Shove." Its first single "Settle Down" reached the no. 34 spot on the Billboard Ho1 100 chart. Its second, "Looking Hot," wasn’t so lucky, with its music video being almost immediately deleted due to YouTube commenters’ backlash, per Billboard. With Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal portraying American Indians, they gain their freedom in the video from its "cowboy" characters, drummer Adrian Young and guitarist Tom Dumont.

"As a multi-racial band our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures," the band’s official apology read, per Rolling Stone. "Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people." The group added that they had even consulted with "Native American friends" and "Native American studies experts at the University of California" to shoot the video. Stefani continued to rock the aesthetic four years later in 2016 when she donned tribal braids, as seen in her Instagram post, to perform her single, "Misery," on "The Voice"." "You’re like the og culture vulture," one Instagram user commented.

The No Doubt frontwoman has defended her fashion’s usage of other cultural styles, offering that "you take pride in your culture and have traditions, and then you share them for new things to be created," per Femestella. It is certainly a touchy line to draw!

Gwen Stefani’s taste in fashion is ageless

Gwen Stefani in pink bodysuit

Several of Gwen Stefani’s outfits have been deemed "too risqué" for her age by some. For instance, the long-sleeved, candy-colored bodysuit — complete with fishnet stockings and knee-high boots — she wore on the 2019 semi-finals of "The Voice" was met with harsh Twitter backlash after Stefani had tweeted the outfit to her followers. "Not appropriate for semi finals! Let’s dress like a 50 year old woman!" one fan exclaimed. Another stated it more gently, "Gwen can look good in almost anything but this garish outfit is something [JoJo Siwa] would wear." Stefani’s daring ensemble did attract some fans, though, such as one who praised in a tweet "Wonderful Gwen… You are a Barbie."

Conversely, the veteran singer’s youthful dress code coupled with her flawless skin yielded compliments from fans as well. For her NBC New Year’s Eve 2020 performance, Stefani paired short shorts with a sparkly sweater, but many Twitter users noticed her ageless skin and glow. "I had to google Gwen Stefani… to prove to my kids that that beautiful woman is 50!" one fan enthused. Per her 2014 Glamour interview, Stefani has stated that "fashion is not really about age as much as it is reflecting your personality." After all, where else better in life to take such risks than the world of fashion?

Gwen Stefani wearing a bindi and beads above her eyes with a knotted braid hairstyle

Gwen Stefani is a woman of many talents; she’s a singer, songwriter, fashion designer, business mogul. On top of all that, she’s mom to three sons. With a career spanning three decades, the "What You Waiting For?" hitmaker has managed to maintain her success over the years and remains a high-profile star.

The public was first introduced to Stefani in the 1990s when she fronted the punk/ska band No Doubt. However, when the band first formed in the 1980s, there were actually two singers, per Rolling Stone. Bananas, right? Stefani initially shared the front of the stage with John Spence, who committed suicide shortly after the band formed. After Spence’s death, Stefani took the lead. No Doubt got off to a slow start, but the band’s third studio album, 1995’s Tragic Kingdom, quite literally changed Stefani and her band members’ — Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont, and Adrian Young — lives. According to Chart Masters, the record put No Doubt on the map globally and has sold over 18 million copies worldwide.

But Stefani’s music was not the only reason she became a household name. Her bold, unique taste in fashion set her apart from her peers and has continued to be a discussion point throughout her career too. Keep scrolling to see her stunning evolution.

Why Gwen Stefani wore a bindi in the 1990s

Gwen Stefani wearing a bindi in the 1990s

When No Doubt started making waves in the 1990s, Gwen Stefani was known for wearing a bindi on her face. With that being said, many people over the years have questioned why the young star decided to wear the body adornment that is often worn by "South Asian women for religious and cultural practices," per Vice, as an accessory.

In a discussion with Vogue in 2019, Stefani explained that when she was dating No Doubt’s bassist, Tony Kanal, who is of Indian descent, she became "unbelievably fascinated by Indian culture," particularly the sartorial choices of Kanal’s mom. "I had never, growing up in Anaheim, spent any time with anyone from India," Stefani said. "And his mom would come down the stairs ready to go to these Indian parties, all dolled up with the bindi and jewelry and these beautiful fabric dresses."

Kanal’s mom gifted Stefani with "a lot of bindis," which seems to be why she started wearing them in the first place. Kanal and Stefani famously split during their grueling 28-month tour for Tragic Kingdom, after which, Stefani’s love affair with bindis also seemed to fade.

Gwen Stefani has also been rocking her staple red lip since the 1990s

Gwen Stefani smiling while throwing up a rock on sign

One of Gwen Stefani’s staple makeup looks is definitely her signature red lip. The entertainer started rocking the bold red lipstick in the 1990s and has continued to do so decades later. Stefani explained in a 2017 interview with Marie Claire that a red lip is her "go-to color" when "performing or out for a meet and greet," adding, "I love red lipstick so much because it feels like such a classic but it’s still so personal. There are so many different ways to wear it."

The "Just A Girl" hitmaker has since become a style icon and has noticed fans emulating her look. "I have a really vivid memory of doing a meet and greet in LA and over 300 women turned up. So many of them were wearing red, it was quite surreal, I could see myself in everyone of their looks but then each person looked so unique because of the rest of their makeup and their outfit," Stefani said.

Gwen Stefani’s tomboy style

Gwen Stefani smiling on stage

Gwen Stefani’s choice of fashion helped get the star noticed during the early years of No Doubt. During public appearances, she was usually seen wearing tank tops or crop tops with a pair of pants. When talking to Vogue in 2019, she noted that she has "pretty much only [worn] tank tops [her] whole life," because she thinks they "look cool," explaining she "had to be a little bit tomboy" with a hint of "glamour." She made sure from the neck-up, she looked dolled-up while keeping her attire more laid back. "That was just kind of the vibe for myself, what I always followed," she said while reflecting over a 1995 look from the MTV Video Music Awards.

As the years have gone on, Stefani’s style has grown and evolved. In a 2014 interview with InStyle, she admitted that she loves switching up her fashion, adding "I’ve always loved a casual and tomboy style mashed up with Old-Hollywood glamour. I love mixing styles that almost clash. Feminine and masculine, modern and vintage, street and designer, glamorous and tough. It’s about finding the right balance."

Gwen Stefani’s first big transformation was her blue hair

Gwen Stefani's blue hair on the MTV Vmas red carpet in 1998

In 1998, Gwen Stefani made her first big style transformation at the MTV Video Music Awards by posing on the red carpet with blue hair. Her bold look definitely turned heads and remains a topic of discussion over 20 years later.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly that same year, Stefani explained she was influenced by Judy Jetson and wanted to dye her hair blue for the occasion. However, in 2019, she told Vogue that it was a gel that she rubbed into her locks to achieve the color she wanted. Stefani wore her look with a furry blue bathing suit top that not only matched her hair but was also given to her for free. She completed her attire with a black skirt that was custom made and platform flip-flops. In true Stefani fashion, she sported a red lip and accessorized with gems on her face.

In her 2021 music video for "Let Me Reintroduce Myself," the Grammy-winner re-created the iconic look and continued to prove that she hasn’t aged a day.

Let’s not forget Gwen Stefani’s shocking pink hair

Gwen Stefani smiling with pink hair and braces

The year after debuting her blue hair, Gwen Stefani switched up the color of her locks once again and opted for pink. At the 1999 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards, she turned up to the red carpet and made sure all eyes were on her. To go with her bright hair, she wrapped a fluffy scarf around her outfit. And of course, let’s not forget the braces she showed off every time she flashed her radiant smile.

Stefani admitted to Vogue the reason for dying her hair pink was due to a big change in her life. After going through a breakup, she explained that she wanted "cotton candy light pink," but "ended up with fuchsia pink hair for like a year." At this point in her career, Stefani revealed she "didn’t have any budgets" or "a stylist" and was "influenced" by Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry style-wise. She explained that she was 29-years-old at the time and was "confused" with everything going on in her life. Don’t worry, things did get better.

Gwen Stefani didn’t have a stylist until the 2000s

Gwen Stefani gazing in front

As we just established, Gwen Stefani didn’t have a stylist until the early 2000s, but when it was time to shoot the iconic music video for "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with Eve, she was in touch with fashion stylist Andrea Lieberman, who had a lot of impact on her fashion from this moment on.

Stefani told Vogue that when she "got to the fitting" for the video, Lieberman turned up with "a truck" of clothes and took all of Stefani’s ideas to "a whole new level." She described Lieberman as her "soulmate when it comes to fashion" and admits she was taught everything there is to know by Lieberman as she wasn’t "schooled in fashion." Stefani added, "I didn’t grow up in New York. I didn’t even know who Vivienne Westwood was. … I didn’t know any of that."

Of course, the music video with Eve turned out amazing and remains one of Stefani’s best fashion moments. Stefani wore the custom pants Lieberman designed for her and sported a visor like she originally envisioned with a bright bikini top and red jacket with No Doubt written on the back. Promo game strong.

Gwen Stefani’s first solo album was influenced by her Harajuku Girls

Gwen Stefani on the BRIT Awards red carpet with the Harajuku Girls

After a successful run with No Doubt, Gwen Stefani decided to embark on a solo career and dropped her first studio album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. in 2004. Throughout the era, she was joined by four Japanese women, also known as the Harajuku Girls, during her performances, red carpet events, and music videos. They mainly served as her dancers on stage and her little posse off stage, but Stefani claimed their culture was also the inspiration behind the music and her fashion.

Stefani has been accused of culturally appropriating Japanese culture many times throughout the years. However, according to the singer, that’s not how she saw it. "When it first came out, I think people understood that it was an artistic and literal bow down to a culture that I was a superfan of," the "Hollaback Girl" chart-topper told Billboard in 2019. "When you’re from Anaheim and never traveled outside of your city until you’re 21 years old, it was really crazy to go to Japan… When I got there and saw how fashion-obsessed they were, I thought they were my people, because my style was so unique," she continued.

Stefani and the Harajuku Girls coordinated their outfits for big events. At the 2005 BRIT Awards (pictured above), they appeared to be going for a fairytale, Alice in Wonderland-style look that was very playful.

Gwen Stefani, the fashion designer

Gwen Stefani walking down the runway at her fashion show

By the mid-2000s, it was clear that Gwen Stefani had a passion for fashion, so when she launched her own fashion label, L.A.M.B., it didn’t come too much as a surprise. In 2005, Stefani told Billboard she hoped the line would separate her from any other celebrity fashion endorsement deals, explaining, "What’s different than what’s out there is the way I put things together. And, if you look inside the pants, you’ll find secret details in there."

"Music and fashion, it all comes from the same place of creativity," Stefani said, adding, "I don’t see why any musician who has style or pays attention to style couldn’t do it [fashion]. It’s an extension of my personality. I can’t explain why I like it, it’s just always been that way for me — like pizza."

However, L.A.M.B. wasn’t her only fashion line. Soon after, she dropped a secondary line named Harajuku Lovers. Both labels proved to be hugely popular and turned Stefani into a business mogul. When being awarded the Fashion Icon award at the 2019 E! People’s Choice Award, it was announced that her fashion lines along with her eye wear and fragrance collections "have earned over a billion dollars in retail sales." Geez. As of 2020, Stefani is worth an astonishing $150 million. It’s safe to say her fashion ventures have definitely contributed to a lot of that fortune.

The stylish coach on The Voice

Gwen Stefani posing on The Voice red carpet

Gwen Stefani has been an on-and-off coach on NBC’s The Voice for many years. According to Good Housekeeping, she first joined the show during Season 7 and has been a part of four other seasons.

Stefani made sure her time on the talent show showcased her skills as a coach, while also cementing her status as a fashion icon. In an Instagram post shared on Nov. 23, 2020, she posed on the set of the show wearing an oversized red-and-white varsity jacket with floral detailing. Stefani teamed the look with a netted black jumper, fishnet tights of the same color, and tiny denim shorts with frayed hems. She completed her fashion with black latex thigh-high boots and wore acrylic nails. The star pulled her blond hair in a ponytail and applied a bold red lip.

During the same season, Stefani showed off her versatility and wowed in an elegant feathery pale pink dress in another Instagram photo uploaded on Dec. 2, 2020. The singer stunned in thigh-high boots of the same color and wore her hair in a bun. No wonder Blake Shelton fell in love with her while on the show.

Blake Shelton’s big influence on Gwen Stefani’s career

Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton smiling, wearing baseball caps

According to Billboard‘s timeline of Gwen Stefani and fellow singer Blake Shelton’s relationship, the pair first met on the set of The Voice in April 2014. Over a year later in November 2015, they were officially an item and have since become one of pop culture’s most talked about couples.

As of this writing, their relationship is still going strong — so strong that Stefani has definitely taken influence from both Shelton’s sound and wardrobe. Musically, the duo has collaborated on a number of songs and topped the US Country Airplay chart with "Nobody But You" and "Happy Anywhere." Stefani has conquered many genres in the past, but never took on country music until her relationship with Shelton.

Stefani’s fashion is, of course, always evolving and growing, however, we can’t help but notice how cowboy hats and Shelton-style plaid shirts have crept into her repertoire since she hooked up with the country star. As seen on Instagram, she wore a plaid shirt in the music video for "Let Me Reintroduce Myself" while on the artwork for "Slow Clap," she was captured holding onto a large silver cowboy hat.

The festive side of Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani at the meet and greet for her album You Make It Feel Like Christmas

In 2017, Gwen Stefani got festive and released her first Christmas album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas. The jolly, uplifting album featured lots of original songs as well as classic covers — "Silent Night," "Santa Baby," and "Jingle Bells," to name a few. The album’s title track featured her man, Blake Shelton, and is slowly but surely becoming a Christmas modern-day classic itself. Since the LP debuted on the charts, Stefani has gotten into the festive spirit during the holiday season and promoted the material at various events. It obviously comes as no surprise that she did it in style.

As reported by Just Jared, the singer slayed in a gold dress while stepping out for a meet-and-greet at The Grove in Los Angeles in November 2017 (above). That same year, she appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and dazzled in a sparkly dress while singing "Jingle Bells." In 2020, she wowed at the Christmas in Rockefeller Center event in New York wearing a red plaid bra that was teamed with a matching hat and dramatic floor-length skirt, per Hollywood Life. Thank you Gwen for all the festive memories, but most importantly, the fashion.

Gwen Stefani’s music career is still going strong

Gwen Stefani smiling

As of 2021, Gwen Stefani’s music career is still going strong. Stefani may have so far only released four studio albums since 2004, but she’s clearly more about quality rather than quantity.

Aside from working with Blake Shelton on a couple of country collabs, 2020 saw Stefani also team up with British superstar Dua Lipa for the remix of her single "Physical." In December of that year, Stefani dropped the bop "Let Me Reintroduce Myself" that heard the former No Doubt lead singer return to her reggae/ska roots. The music video, which boasts more than 7 million views on YouTube, saw the Trolls actor go back in time and revisit some of her most legendary videos and fashion looks from throughout the years. Not only did the video remind everyone why we all fell in love with the star in the first place but also showcased how much of a chameleon she is. For its follow-up single, "Slow Clap," Stefani collaborated with ICY GRL Saweetie, which was promoted with another fun, energetic video.

It’s clear that both Stefani’s fashion and music legacies continue to influence the young stars of today.