Janelle Monae's style evolution in 41 photos — black, white and red all over

The singer and actress has worn a number of regional designers, including Elie Saab and Nicolas Jebran

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Janelle Monae is a regular in best-dressed lists. The American singer and actress is known for taking risks with her style choices, often choosing playful accessories, voluminous pieces or experimental ensembles.

She is frequently seen in tuxedos and her outfits almost always have a black, white and red colour palate. Not one to shy away from a hat, she frequently tops an outfit off with dramatic millinery for red carpet events.

For her recent run of public appearances to promote Netflix's Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, she wore pieces by Iris van Herpen, Christian Siriano, Robert Wun and Elie Saab for premieres in the US and Europe, sticking to hues that adhere to her black, white and red rule book.

Her go-to designers include Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Valentino, and for recent events, Thom Browne has been a favourite. She wore salt and pepper versions of two Thom Browne coat dresses for consecutive London Film Festival events in October last year.

Janelle Monae in the salt and pepper versions of a Thom Browne look at BFI London Film Festival events in October 2022. Getty Images

Her vastly monochrome wardrobe was treated to a burst of colour with a rainbow phase in 2018. She eased into colourful looks with a Dolce & Gabanna tuxedo embellished with colourful flowers for the Grammy Awards in January 2018. By June, she was sporting a rainbow tulle gown by Lebanese fashion designer Nicolas Jebran at the BET Awards.

She describes her black and white looks as her "uniform", harking back to the beginning of her career when she could not afford new outfits for every show.

Speaking of her sartorial journey, she told Variety in 2020: "Once I got to high school, that’s when I started to have my own money, because I started working ... I couldn’t afford a lot of stuff, but I think it went from lots of menswear — whatever you would consider sports menswear: the tennis shoes, baggy clothes.

"Then I got into vintage shopping. I was very artsy. I was an international thespian, I would compete in monologue competitions. I was also in the acapella choir, was doing talent shows — this is in high school. So I was a busy arts student, expressing myself through art, and I started to really use fashion as a way to express that.

"I think my uniform — that’s when that came," she added. "As a homage to the working class, and my working-class parents. And honestly, I just couldn’t afford to keep up when I started to sing and perform, and I went to a performing arts school in New York, and I went to Atlanta and I was living in a boarding house, I did not have time to find a new costume every single show.

"So it was like, what is my uniform, what is my outfit going to be? What is something that I always feel comfortable in? It’s been black and white. It’s been the androgynous look that matched my energy."

Updated: January 03, 2023, 4:00 PM
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