The Most Inappropriate Outfits Katy Perry Has Ever Worn

From the moment she was first propelled into the pop music big leagues with "I Kissed a Girl," Katy Perry began generating controversy. The 2008 breakthrough track led to the songstress facing accusations of queerbaiting and appealing to straight men through vaguely homoerotic themes. It comes as little surprise, then, that Perry has continued to cause a furor in the years that have followed her smash hit.

At the heart of much of this contention has been her wardrobe. The singer is famed for her eccentric and quirky fashion choices, donning kooky cupcake co-ords and popcorn fits that, well, pop. But among this array of sartorial sprinkles and funfetti, Perry has had some major misses. Throughout the years, she's sported a number of inappropriate outfits, leading to everything from finger-wagging parents to lawsuits and even being outright banned from entering certain countries.

Be that as it may, Perry has no plans to stop donning her signature quirky coordinates any time soon. Asked by W Magazine whether she has any fashion regrets, she replied: "No, because I think it [has all] represented me at the time and the age. I've worn a lot of weird a** things, but they've always brought me joy ... Has everything been A+? Well, I guess that's subjective. Some people love it, some people are like, 'What the f***?,' and that's fine." Let's delve into the good, the bad, and the potentially life-threatening with the most inappropriate outfits Katy Perry has ever worn.

Katy Perry's risqué American Idol fit

Throughout her stint as a judge on "American Idol," Katy Perry has been keen to showcase her eccentric sense of style. But some outfits were deemed too skimpy for a prime-time TV show. When the "American Idol" Season 21 finale aired in 2023, Perry donned an orange ensemble that left little to the imagination. The risqué number featured a cut-out bust that exhibited heavy cleavage and matching undies beneath a see-through mesh skirt. Clearly, Perry was proud of her fit, sharing it on Instagram with the caption: "Orange u glad it was a great #idolfinale?"

It seems that she wasn't quite prepared for the apparent scandal the garish attire would cause. Many viewers felt that the fit was inappropriate and took to Twitter to express their disapproval. "Katy Perry's dress she wore last night at the finale of American Idol was not appropriate," tweeted one viewer (via OK!). "It resembled more a dress for a high end call girl!" Another accused the millionaire megastar of looking cheap. Meanwhile, some likened the outfit to a swimsuit rather than suitable work attire. "Is she at a swim meet?" tweeted one viewer.

Of course, Perry isn't the first person to wear see-through garb. Sheer dresses are very much in and there are multiple ways to style them, with the singer simply hopping on a trend that many have embraced before her.

Tom Ford was not impressed with Katy Perry's Met Gala hamburger look

The Met Gala wouldn't be a hit without a string of outrageous outfits on display. But while the majority of these outfits are eye-catching due to their flamboyant majesty (see: Rihanna draped in a confluence of fur and bejeweled yellow at the 2015 ceremony), they are on point for the occasion. The same can't quite be said for Katy Perry's decision to don a hamburger costume at the 2019 Met Gala after-party.

The singer had worn a similarly inappropriate outfit earlier that night, dressing as a chandelier in what can best be described as a Lumière cosplay. Both these fits made the elite event feel more like a costume party than a classy high profile affair. "It was fashion satire," Perry insisted to Vogue

But she was accused of making a mockery out of the gala. Notably, fashion designer Tom Ford threw some serious shade at Perry for her fashion choices. "The only thing about the Met that I wish hadn't happened is that it's turned into a costume party," Ford told author Amy Odell for her book "Anna: The Biography" (via Time). "That used to just be very chic people wearing very beautiful clothes going to an exhibition about the 18th century ... You didn't have to dress like a hamburger, you didn't have to arrive in a van where you were standing up because you couldn't sit down because you wore a chandelier."

This outfit was deemed too revealing for Sesame Street

In 2010, Katy Perry made a guest appearance on "Sesame Street," in which she and Elmo performed a G-rated version of "Hot N Cold." But for many viewers, the twee duet was eclipsed by Perry's plunging neckline. The popster sported a skin-tight green dress that showed off her enviable curves. Parents who watched the skit were not impressed, arguing that the attire was inappropriate.

Responding to the backlash, the series creators argued that the show was aimed at both kids and adults who love celeb-spotting. "Sesame Street has always been written on two levels, for the child and adult. We use parodies and celebrity segments to interest adults in the show because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or caregiver," execs said in a statement, per the Sydney Morning Herald. However, in light of the backlash, they decided to pull the Perry skit from the air and uploaded it to YouTube instead.

Perry later parodied the furor during an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" wearing a cleavage-enhancing Elmo tee. Maya Rudolph, playing one half of the Bronx Beat alongside Amy Poehler, used the sketch as an opportunity to highlight TV's double standards when it comes to women's bodily autonomy. "Boobs feed babies ... I turned on CSI the other night, and there's a dead guy with a worm in his eye. But we can't look at the tops of boobs?" Rudolph quipped.

Katy Perry was banned from wearing a hazardous spinning bra

Katy Perry is no stranger to utilizing wacky onstage props. This is, after all, the singer who once emerged from a giant orange toilet at her Las Vegas residency. One of her most famous onstage props was her spinning bra, designed to look like peppermint wheels as part of a cute red and white ensemble. However, the much-loved outfit was discontinued in 2012, following complaints from insurers in the wake of one too many calamitous cup incidents.

In an interview with The Sun (via NME), Perry recalled an instance in which her hair got caught in the wheels of her bra and she was forced to perform with her head twisted at an angle. "I'm forced to just go with it ... What a girl does for her art," she remarked. 

As a result, she was reportedly banned from wearing the perilous prop by her insurers as it was deemed a safety hazard. However, Perry was insistent that her bra was unlikely to cause too much damage. "I keep being told the insurers are worried I will injure my neck," she said. "I seriously doubt it could be lethal but they want a new bra designed that will not allow hair to be caught up." Be that as it may, the last thing fans want to see is death by peppermint brassiere, so it's perhaps for the best that this outfit went bust.

She was dragged for dressing in a hand sanitizer costume at the height of the pandemic

From Ellen DeGeneres lamenting that the confines of her mansion were akin to a prison to — lest we forget — the "Imagine" video, there was no shortage of toe-curling celeb hot takes and regrettable faux pas in 2020. Among those celebs offering disastrous insights into the pandemic was Katy Perry.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, the "Firework" warbler inexplicably thought it would be a great idea to dress up as a bottle of Purell during a remote episode of "American Idol." "I've been dreaming about this outfit for about three weeks, and I had it made. It's really stupid, and you know that's how I like it. It's kind of like slapstick, like Pee-wee Herman," she said during a Facebook Live stream, per The Sun. If there's one thing a deadly virus ain't it's kooky. 

Accordingly, she was dragged for the get-up. One fan likened the costume to a bad frat party stunt: "Like, you're already Katy Perry ... you don't need to steal more focus from the singers by dressing like a frat's Halloween party reject." Wendy Williams was also unimpressed with Perry's choice of attire. "You're dressed up like a bottle of sanitizer? Are you trying to get attention, give attention, outshine your other judges, outshine the people auditioning?" Williams asked, per The Sun. "It turned me all the way off to ever wanting to watch ever again."

Katy Perry was accused of racism after dressing as a geisha

There have been a number of white female stars who've been accused of appropriating Japanese culture. Gwen Stefani, for instance, once infamously declared to Allure: "My God, I'm Japanese and I didn't know it." While Katy Perry hasn't professed to be a different race, she has been accused of treating other cultures with immense disrespect.

In 2013, the pop superstar performed at the American Music Awards while dressed as a geisha, leading to widespread backlash. On Twitter (via the Mirror), various commenters accused the singer of flagrant racism and propagating antiquated colonial notions of Orientalism. "While a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry's face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West's perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, 'unconditional' worshippers of their men," Jeff Yang argued in The Wall Street Journal. Nolan Feeney of The Atlantic echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that Perry was fetishizing and sexualizing Asian women through her geisha attire.

Responding to the outcry, Perry told GQ that she donned the outfit due to her love for Japan, which she deemed "the capital of adorableness," a summation which itself may be considered reductive and problematic. "All I was trying to do is just give a very beautiful performance about a place that I have so much love for," she added.

That unfortunate coronation look

King Charles III's coronation was a seminal occasion for the British royal family, the first of its kind in 70 years. As such, we expected the utmost pomp and pageantry from the attendees, with festooned fascinators in abundance. But as Katy Perry proved, one false move with millinery can make you look less Henley Regatta, more Mad Hatter.

The "American Idol" judge was heavily criticized for her coronation get-up, which consisted of a tailored lilac dress and, most significantly, a giant matching hat. Many viewers deemed the oversized headgear obnoxious, considering that those seated behind the star would struggle to see past that purple haze of netting. "Nice hat, but you wouldn't want to be sat behind Katy Perry in Westminster Abbey," tweeted one viewer (via OK!). Another commenter noted that the cranial adornment contributed to the arguable overall unprofessionalism of the prestigious event. "Katy Perry and her comically large hat really set the tone for how unserious this whole thing is. Saw Lionel Richie taking selfies with fans in the Abbey too lol," they quipped.

The headpiece led to Perry becoming a meme, amplified by her apparent inability to find her seat at Westminster Abbey. In a chat with Entertainment Tonight, she poked fun at her meme-ability. "You know, the memes are meme-ing and I love it," she joked. "When you look one way for fifteen seconds it's just all of a sudden the internet takes over."

This Met Gala dress led to the singer being accused of art theft

Long before she dressed as a chandelier-turned-hamburger, Katy Perry appeared at the 2015 Met Gala wearing a rather innocuous Moschino gown, emblazoned with graffiti motifs. Or so it seemed. The dress ended up being at the center of considerable controversy after street artist Rime accused Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott of using his design without permission. 

Subsequently, he sued him for copyright infringement, mentioning Perry in his lawsuit and accusing the pair of being flagrant in exhibiting their supposed art theft. "Not only did Ms. Perry and Defendant Scott advertise, wear and display the clothing at the event, they arrived at the event in a spray painted Rolls Royce," the lawsuit stated (via Scribd). "And even carried around Moschino-branded cans of fake spray paint during the event, as if Defendants were responsible for the artwork." The suit claimed the alleged art theft stunt was a deliberate ploy for Perry to gain publicity, since her Met Gala looks had often made "worst dressed" lists (notably, the urban-inspired dress had nothing to do with that year's Met theme of "China: Through the Looking Glass").

Scott attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming that he was not responsible for the unique design. Speaking to Page Six, Rime disputed this."[It] seems like all he did was name-drop celebrities, condescend ... If he doesn't design anything for Moschino, then what exactly does he do?" he said. The case was settled in 2016.

A sunflower dress caused Katy Perry to be banned in China

In 2015, Katy Perry performed in Taipei, Taiwan wearing a striking sunflower-adorned dress. In Taiwan, the sunflower has symbolic political connotations due to its association with the Sunflower Student Movement, a protest group that opposed a trade deal between Taiwan and China due to fears that it could lead to Chinese sovereignty over the independent nation. Subsequently, the dress was deemed a political statement and an affront to the Chinese government. Though Perry often dons sunflower motifs, she ended her performance in Taipei by draping herself in the flag of Taiwan, leading to many Taiwanese fans being moved to tears and thus embracing her as a political provocateur.

Fans in China were not impressed, however. "I'm speechless over Fruit Sister," one Chinese fan wrote on social media, per Quartz. "I suppose she has no chance to come to the mainland anymore, though she might not care. These performers who intervene in other countries' politics are the most annoying." Others, however, expressed skepticism regarding Perry's apparent solidarity with the Sunflower Student Movement, suggesting that the dress was little more than an aesthetic choice. "I am laugh-crying at Taiwan anti-China dissidents 'moved to tears' because Katy Perry's stylist accidentally committed her to their cause," tweeted Arthur Chu (via E! News).

Nevertheless, the dress continued to haunt Perry; the singer was attempting to obtain a visa to perform in Shanghai in 2017 when she discovered that she was banned from entering China.

Katy Perry was criticized for wearing a dress by this controversial designer

Few fashionistas will forget the moment when former Dior creative director John Galliano went on an unhinged antisemitic tirade in 2011. The designer preceded Kanye West in declaring his love for Hitler, before racially abusing Jewish and Asian people in a separate incident. He was dropped from Dior, before making a controversial comeback in 2014 when he was appointed creative director of Maison Martin Margiela.

Despite the contention surrounding Galliano, Katy Perry decided to wear one of his frocks — a blood-red, veiled statement piece — at the 2017 Met Gala. "Tonight I'm serving my looks," she declared, per The Telegraph. "Bon appetit, I hope you enjoy." But not everyone agreed that this was the serve Perry deemed it to be. "So Katy Perry decided it was a good idea to wear clothing from [an] anti-semite? Classy," tweeted one detractor.

According to The Telegraph, Perry's decision to showcase Galliano's work was instrumental in the designer re-entering the mainstream. The move was reportedly orchestrated by Anna Wintour, who has long been sympathetic to the disgraced creative. In a sit-down with Vogue, Perry discussed the look in detail but stopped short of addressing the backlash. "I didn't want to wear something that was designer just 'cause it was designer," she explained. "I only wore it if it spoke to me and if it helped represent who I was at the time and I was really this [look] at that moment."

The singer wore a super revealing dress to the premiere of a kids' movie

Katy Perry ventured into film in 2011, making her feature length acting debut in "The Smurfs," voicing Smurfette. As one would expect from Perry, she went all out at the movie's New York premiere. The newly blond singer wore a teeny strapless Smurfette mini dress that left little to the imagination.

As cute as the ensemble may have been, some felt that it was a tad inappropriate for a kids' movie premiere. At the time, the Huffington Post wrote that "Katy Perry stole the show, continuing both her tradition of sexing up children's characters and wearing hyper-sexualized clothing depicting them." Meanwhile, the Daily Star claimed that the singing sensation appeared to be emulating Marilyn Monroe's iconic undies-exposing moment from "The Seven Year Itch," which isn't quite the vibe one would expect from "The Smurfs" red carpet. Others suggested that the ensemble simply made Perry come across as a try-hard, attempting to shock spectators with each new daring fit.

But for Perry, the get-up was perhaps a symbolic feminist gesture, a protest against the parents who forbade her from watching "The Smurfs" as a kid due to the supposed depiction of Smurfette as an empowered woman. "My mom thought that Smurfette was a little bit s****y, being the only female in the village," she told MTV. "And now I showed her. I called her up and was like, 'Guess what, Mom: I'm Smurfette!'"

Her Dark Horse outfit led to accusations of cultural appropriation

If her apparent Japanese cultural appropriation wasn't enough, Katy Perry once again faced accusations of bolstering ethnic stereotypes upon the release of her "Dark Horse" music video in 2014. The Egypt-themed vid saw Perry dress up as Cleopatra, leading to a major backlash.

Writing for Mic, Derrick Clifton accused the songstress of shameless cultural insensitivity. "Perry thinks it's acceptable to use another country or ethnic group's culture as a costume or as a prop, let alone for one of her countless bubblegum pop songs," Clifton argued. Of particular contention was Perry's attire: she wore regal garb, while those around her were dressed in rags, leading to critics accusing her of weaponizing harmful slave and master narratives. "Her servants appear darker than she is," Clifton continued. "Their blue paint and rags, juxtaposed to Perry's pristine, white skin and royal attire, highlight the racial disparities in high-definition clarity." 

In an interview with Time, director Mathew Cullen dismissed allegations of cultural appropriation, claiming that he and Perry were simply inspired by other cultures and putting a new spin on Egyptian motifs. That year, Perry addressed the continuing backlash in an interview with Rolling Stone. "I guess I'll just stick to baseball and hot dogs, and that's it ... Can't you appreciate a culture?" she said. "I guess, like, everybody has to stay in their lane? I don't know."