V&A to showcase five looks by Rihanna in Diva exhibition

Rihanna’s ‘papal’ look from the 2018 Met Gala will go on display at the V&A’s Diva exhibition.
Rihanna’s ‘papal’ look from the 2018 Met Gala will go on display at the V&A’s Diva exhibition. Rihanna’s ‘papal’ look from the 2018 Met Gala will go on display at the V&A’s Diva exhibition.

Famous fashion looks worn by Rihanna, including the 2023 Oscar’s dress that showcased her pregnancy bump, will go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

The Diva exhibition will showcase more than 250 items from the V&A collection, including Marilyn Monroe’s fringed black dress from the film Some Like It Hot.

Rihanna’s sheer “naked” style dress, accented with more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals – which she wore in 2014 for the CFDA awards, will also go on display when the exhibition opens on June 24.

Among the five Rihanna looks to be unveiled are also the 2018 high-fashion papal look, with jewel-encrusted robe – which she wore to the Met Gala, and the 2021 couture black gown with beanie that the singer donned for Balenciaga, designed by Demna Gvasalia.

The MET Gala 2018 – New York
The MET Gala 2018 – New York Rihanna’s papal look designed by John Galliano for Maison Margiela (PA/Ian West)

Talking about the exhibition, Kate Bailey, curator of Diva, said: “At the heart of this exhibition is a story of iconic performers who with creativity, courage and ambition have challenged the status quo and used their voice and their art to redefine and reclaim the diva.

“Rihanna is a multifaceted, independent performer who has used her strong sense of self to shift the needle.

“She embodies the spirit of the 19th century divas and shows us today how divas don’t just create art, they are culture-makers, entrepreneurs and activists.

“We are delighted to showcase a range of objects that reflect how Rihanna has used her authentic voice to make a difference – from Bajan ambassador to style icon to music pioneer.

DIVA exhibition at the V&A
DIVA exhibition at the V&A Sir Elton John’s 50th birthday look with wig and boat hat, designed by Sandy Powell, which will go on display at the Diva exhibition (PA/V&A museum)

“The V&A with its world class collections of art design and performance and its mission to inspire creativity in all its forms is the perfect stage to celebrate the multifaceted Diva.”

More than 60 looks will go on display when the Diva exhibition launches, including fashion ensembles worn by Tina Tuner, P!nk, Sir Elton John, Cher and Dame Shirley Bassey.

Dame Shirley said that she was “delighted” to find out that her Glastonbury look with diamante boots would be put on show, and said: “It is wonderful to see the diva celebrated in this exhibition, and to see the V&A reclaiming the title.

“To me, ‘diva’ is all about the power of the voice and the ability to entertain, to succeed against odds, to fight, and break through barrier after barrier: to have your voice heard.”

The exhibition will also look at the intersection between politics and performance and how artists and actors use their profile for civil rights and social good.

DIVA exhibition at the V&A
DIVA exhibition at the V&A Tina Turner’s flame dress features in the Diva exhibition (Bob Mackie/V&A)

Act one of the exhibition will provide historical context to the notion of the “diva”, celebrating opera stars and actresses who existed in the so-called golden age of Hollywood.

Act two looks at what it means to be a diva today, with garments from artists like Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and Turner.

Highlights from this part of the exhibition include Edith Piaf’s little black dress from the 1950s, Turner’s flame dress from the 1970s and Sir Elton’s Louis XIV inspired ensemble with wig, which he wore for his 50th birthday celebration in 1997.

Other recently announced looks for the collection include Whitney Houston’s floor length dress worn to receive her three Grammys in 1994, Billie Eilish’s 2019 Glastonbury look and a lilac Versace deconstructed suit that was worn by Lil Nas X on the MTV VMA red carpet in 2021.

The DIVA exhibition will take place at the V&A from June 24, 2023 to April 7, 2024.