Bright Light, Dark World: Lana Del Rey's Technicolor Style Statements

Tracking the singer's turn toward the ultraviolet, just in time for 'Ultraviolence'


Though Lana Del Rey is a model and H&M brand girl, her personal style has been a bit hard to pin down: onstage, she's been the vision of innocence, usually gussied for ditching church in pristine white lace and satin gowns. Offstage, she's the portrait of ultra-casual, doing jeans and ballet flats, T-shirts and cardigans, as typically American as the "Star-Spangled Banner" and Starbucks.

It's a fashion duality that's equally reflected in her lyrics and musical persona, a bored, sweet woman with a bad streak. But leading up to the release of her second album Ultraviolence, she's been going all 7th season of Mad Men on us: like the show has transitioned from the innocent mid-Sixties to topsy-turvy, psychedelic '69, Lana Del Rey has mostly closeted her all-white, all-innocent stage gear for appropriately technicolor mini-dresses and multi-hued gowns. And with it, she has become what we've always suspected she is: a bright light in a dark world.

As Scarlett O'Hara at Cannes


For the Cannes 2013 premiere of The Great Gatsby — and her theme song, "Young and Beautiful" — Del Rey looked her most elegant to date. It wasn't a color statement, to be sure, but the detailed embroidery on her Lena Hoschek gown was a sign she was looking for more sophistication than her normal tea-and-cakes frocks.

As June Carter Cash in Barcelona


In Spain last July, Del Rey draped herself in a classic Seventies country star minidress and bouffant, landing anywhere on the style scale between June Carter and Dolly Parton to Tammy Wynette and Crystal Gayle — a student of the lace-edged bell sleeve, so much better whilst gesturing dramatically, my pet.

Xanadu in Lebanon


In one of Del Rey's last recent appearances wearing her signature stage whites, she was literally radiant, gleaming like the daughter of a Greek god-turnt-roller disco queen who just came alive via love and a wall mural. Not to digress, but the Xanadu plot was insane.

Hawaiian Tropix at Coachella (Weekend 2)


A week later, Del Rey played on the theme, looking like the poster girl for the first-in-history Pan Am flights to Maui, and/or the little surfer girl some beach boys might like to talk up. Far more Pacific Coast Highway than PacSun!

Sharon Tate-Megan Draper in Paris


Do Del Rey and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner have some sort of pact to troll fans? With the whole Internet assuming Megan Draper is a stand-in for slain star Sharon Tate, the most obsessed conspiracists could take one look at this Laurel Canyon-casual caftan and come up with infinite crazy theories and assumptions. At the very least: can we get Del Rey in as an extra in a party scene? It's the big easy!

Lana Del Rey practically taunts you with her wide-reaching range of inspirations. The 29-year-old torch singer born Elizabeth Grant is a nostalgia hall of mirrors, writing about tortured artists, dressing up like lost starlets, and feeding an old-Hollywood aesthetic with her choices of covers.

Vintage instrumentation gets shaken (not stirred) with the bounce of hip-hop, reverb coats everything with a sheen of Fifties-via-Nineties dreaminess, and her contralto has the vacant sadness of a faded Coney Island picture postcard.