On Wednesday night, Kid Cudi attended the CFDA Fashion Awards with director and designer Eli Russel Linnetz in a wedding dress from Linnetz’s Venice Beach-based label, ERL. His look consisted of a sheer white lace dress with a wide bell skirt and matching tights and gloves (their fabric reminiscent of American Apparel’s finest bodysuit offerings, RIP), a cropped white tuxedo jacket, crystal-embossed sneakers, and a tulle veil. People really went nuts for it, or at least it was in the news a lot, with fashion writers praising Cudi’s bravery and boldness. The same thing happened when Cudi wore an Off-White dress on Saturday Night Live in April.
But wow, both of Kid Cudi’s dresses were so ugly. Boy oh boy. What a mess. Hideous. A famine of beauty. Bleak street, one might say. (He has tried some formal maxi skirts at different events that I found to be slightly more successful.)
I am sorry to Kid Cudi. I am a fan of the rapper-slash-actor and have enjoyed his musical offerings over the years, especially when I was a high school student. I am one of perhaps ten people on this Earth who have seen every episode of HBO’s designer denim epic How to Make It in America, in which he played a lovable dog walker-slash-weed dealer named Domingo. His August post about the death of his dog, Freshie, made me openly weep while working.
And so I do not wish to offend Cudi, nor do I want to litigate whether or not his embrace of gender-fluid fashion is a sign of progress (though the publications praising his allegedly revolutionary selections tend to betray an alarming lack of knowledge regarding the styling of popular male musicians throughout recent history). My dispute is solely an aesthetic one: these outfits are really tacky, and should be burned in the manner of how they set my retinas aflame.
Cudi wore both dresses in homage to the late Kurt Cobain. “The image of seeing Kurt Cobain in a dress was very rock ’n’ roll to me,” Cudi said on HBO Max’s The Shop: Uninterrupted post-SNL. “I want to be a disruptor, I want to fuck shit up. And it’s cool because I’m also giving confidence to the kids and telling them to be themselves, do what they want to do. If you wanna wear a dress, wear a dress. Be who you are.”
Noble goals, indeed! But sadly intent does not always translate to visual splendor, or even visual mediocrity. Both dresses seem to be wearing Cudi, rather than the other way around. His poor posture, while perhaps some kind of artistic statement or Cobain reference, implies discomfort, hiding via slouching. Both dresses are cut at tea-length, the least flattering length for anyone, and the Off-White floral one is too tight across the chest. The ERL wedding dress bears a trace of Madonna, or even Metropolitan-era Upper Haute Bourgeoisie Lily Pulitzer, but it consumes him — he is swimming in too much fabric (perhaps it is no coincidence that Linnetz’s best-known design is a giant thrifted quilt that A$AP Rocky wore to the Met Gala, in which the rapper looked quite similar to my Eastern European great-grandparents shivering at Ellis Island). The dresses seem better suited to an uncomfortable 11-year-old at Easter than a nonchalant rock star.
“I already made my mind up years ago that I wanted to do this,” Cudi told The Shop. “I've never been someone who's thinking about the backlash. I don't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. You can't when you're doing this shit. I knew it would piss some people off, but I love that because hip-hop is so weird about [masculinity]."
That is great, and I am no Candace Owens. Wear dresses, Cudi! But perhaps the dresses could be cuter.