Fashion, Media, And Culture: The Evolution Of Miley Cyrus

Throughout history, we have seen celebrities and other people around the world try to break the mold and bring something new to the table when it comes to the world of fashion; whether it is a new pair of shoes that are selling like hotcakes or they make something that is on store shelves one day and discontinued the next, these various attempts show that the fashion industry will chew you up and spit you out if you do not have the strength, intelligence of the current stages of fashion out their currently in the world, and the charisma to create products that either build upon the current stages of fashion or break down the walls of the fashion industry entirely. One celebrity that is definitely out there in terms of her own unique style and innovation in the world of fashion, especially in recent years, is Miley Cyrus. Ever since she stepped onto the scene as Hannah Montana on Disney Channel’s hit show of the same name, she has been capturing the hearts of children, teenagers and adults. At least, for the most part; she also has gained a fair amount of people that have turned a blind eye to her because of her outlandish choices in her later years, but that is usually common nowadays when you’re a celebrity and you do something that is not to a certain person’s liking. However, what we can all agree on is her unwavering courage and commitment to go out in public or perform on stage in whatever combination of clothing and objects she decides to put on her body. Miley Cyrus has definitely broken the mold for what a woman is “supposed” to wear, and even though she started off wearing certain clothes to keep up her image because of her ties with Disney, as well as her devolution in the current era, she has broken free of those chains and begun to express herself in many different ways which has helped her fans and other people alike to not be afraid of how they present themselves to the world.

Before we go into the sensation that we know nowadays as Miley Cyrus, let us delve into her life before the cameras began rolling and see what, and whom, helped her mold into the child star we came to know and love. For many people, including myself, we all knew Miley Cyrus as her real name. However, what some people and I did not know was that Miley Cyrus is just a stage name that she created when she burst onto the scene. Originally, her name was Destiny Hope Cyrus; so straight from the get-go she was ready to have herself and her name stand out in some way, shape or form. Also, the southern drawl that was kept in the show was probably inspired by the fact the she was born and raised on a farm in Tennessee with the rest of her family. Even from a young age, music, lights and cameras surrounded her because her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, was already in the music business for a couple of years before she made her debut; the view from behind the cameras was exciting for her, but she wanted to do more than just stand on the sidelines and help her father with the work that he was putting out into the world; she wanted to start and having her own fun. However, it was easier said than done because not only was she still young, she was also a girl, and throughout history, girls of any age are still not treated on the same level as men; it is an unfortunate statement, and while there are some improvements on the horizon, there is still a lot of work to do. According to Connie Morrison, who is the author of Girlhood and the Politics of Place, “Claiming identity is a complicated, fluid, and complex process. For girls, it often means actively taking up or denying popular discourses around feminine ideals, to some extent at least, or blindly following without much consideration of such issues at all”. It was not going to be an easy task for the soon to be Miley Cyrus to make a name for herself; sure, she had a lot of help from her family, and especially from her father, to make her dreams become a reality, but it still was not an easy task. With all of the pieces finally being put into place, Destiny Hope Cyrus would embark on a journey that would see her career, as well as her life, take many twists and turns. However, what remained constant throughout her life was her ability to put a smile on people’s faces and to show people that what you wear does not make up whom you are, except when you are bound to a contract.

Starting off with the first phase in her wondrous life, which was being one of the biggest child celebrities in recent memory, she gained tons of fans and influenced people to stand out from the crowd, even if Hannah Montana was just her persona that she had to play for the cameras. The show Hannah Montana was a big success for Miley Cyrus’s career; the amount of fame that she gained from being the main character in this show was outstanding. It really helped her put her name on the map and get the ball rolling to help her reach out to people all over the world. It also helped that the target audience, which was mainly young girls that were either teenagers or about to become teenagers, was a big pool of money to dive into. As said by Tison Pugh, who is the author of the book, The Queer Fantasies of American Family Sitcom, “Tweens form a somewhat indeterminate amalgamation for marketing purposes, with the term shifting for the particular advertising objective of a given project”. Disney knew they had a good chance to connect with not only new fans with an idea such as this; it is not like they do not have enough money, but with some of their fans growing up and out of the cartoons that they present on their TV channel, they had to make a jump. When it came to her choices in both her life and in fashion she adorned on and off the show, she was very limited in what she was able to wear because of her ties with Disney; she had to keep up her image of this sassy teenage girl that is living a secret double life as both a student in high school and a pop star, as well as an image that she is a girl that is relatable to all other girls that watch the show. In the words of Dr. Nihan Akdemir, who is an assistant professor at Altinbas University who wrote a journal titled “Deconstruction of Gender Stereotypes Through Fashion”, “Stereotypes are the common beliefs and values of the group, culture, or religions and the gender stereotypes are fixed ideas about men’s and women’s traits and capabilities and how people should behave based on their gender”. Unfortunately, Disney needed to keep Miley Cyrus under a strict set of rules while she was playing the titular pop star; they could have had a lot of fun with letting her be free to do what she wants, but from a business standpoint it made a lot of sense to keep her looking a certain way and making her doing specific tasks that kept up with her persona. The show was a big success for kids and tweens alike; it lasted for four seasons, as well as spawning tons of merchandise and some movies along the way. While the glitz and glamour was nice for a while, it was time for Miley Cyrus to step into a new stage of life; a new age that saw her shed her nice girl persona and bare it all for the world to see, with some mixed reviews and unforgettable outfits along the way.

For the middle phase of her life, Miley Cyrus decided to throw caution to the wind and not care about what anyone would think about her because she just wanted to have some fun and look like an art project while doing so. Up until now, Miley Cyus has been cruising in life with the roar of her Disney Channel fans right behind her. However, like everything in life, change is inevitable, and for Miley Cyrus’s fans, it came at them like a speeding semi-truck. While everyone might not agree with everything Miley Cyrus did at this stage of her life, what we cannot deny is that her fashion sense went through the roof in terms of creativity; what she was wearing and the combinations of objects and pieces of fashion that her mind put together and put on her body was something that almost everyone, myself included, was not ready for. With this in mind, we can see the shackles of what a woman is “supposed to wear” break free, but those shackles have been in place for a very long time. As said by Susan B. Kaiser in her book titled Fashion and Culture Studies, “The gender coding system remained rather ambiguous into the 1930s and then began to settle down into the pink-is-for-girls and blue-is-for-boys maxim”. Now that she had left Disney and broke away with anything that dealt with Hannah Montana, she was free to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted; sure, she might have gotten looks of disgust and confusion from people, but at the end of the day, her life was in her own hands and not there’s, and she can mold her life and career into whatever her mind can think of.

While this transformation might have drove some fans back to Disney so they can see and hear the old Miley, she did manage to bring in some new fans and once again show that you do not need to be afraid or ashamed of what you are wearing. Also, her music changed as well to match her new style; since she was not singing anymore kid friendly and country styles of music, she decided to step it up a notch and get into a genre she was not familiar with up until this point, which was rap. While these new songs that she was making also got some mixed reviews, people were more likely drawn to what she was wearing in these music videos, rather than what she was saying. Her outfits mainly comprised of see through skimpy clothing, necklaces, and rings. One example of what her creative mind can concoct up came to life in the 2013 VMA’s; not only was she dancing very provocatively with Robin Thicke in this performance, but she was also showing off that the homegrown country girl has stepped out of her cocoon, and what stepped out was a raunchy new evolution that the world was not prepared to contain. With the new evolution running rampant, she had many people scratching their heads, many people shouting for joy, and many kid’s parents telling their children to look away from the screen immediately. After all of the controversy and edgy lifestyle, it was time for Miley Cyrus to take it down a notch and revert to a time where most of her younger fans are more used to seeing.

For the final stage in her life cycle that we shall be looking at for today, we shall see that she has stepped backwards in terms of her wacky antics towards fashion and walk into a Miley Cyrus that is taking more care into what she is wearing and focusing on her image more than ever. After the rebellious teen stage that Miley Cyrus went through a few years ago, she decided to call it quits and begin to wear clothes that a woman could be told she is “supposed” to wear. As we see in this photo taken at last year’s Met Gala, we can see that she has adorned her body with a smooth and sheik dress, and has abandoned the short edgy hair cut as well and has gone back to a style very similar to how her hair looked in Hannah Montana. While I do think this is a step backwards for what she can do with her fashion choices, as well as the message she was sending across, I do think this is a smart move for her in the long run; not everyone was going to like that version of Miley Cyrus for much longer, so she had to make to choose to either to keep with the edgy look that she was rolling with, or evolve past it and create a Miley Cyrus that people have not seen for a long time. Sure, you can say that she is being more stereotypical with her fashion choices, but Diana Crane and I beg to differ. In her journal article titled “Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretations of Fashion Photographs”, she states that “Fashion as a form of media culture can also be interpreted in terms of conflicted hegemony”. After the phase that she went through before entering this one that we see today, people began scratching their heads once more; she is going through another shift in her life, and people are always going to remember the last phase because not only was it more mind-boggling than this phase, but also because it was such a drastic shift from the first time people met her.

While she did go back to a style that people were more familiar with, that does not mean she is not succumbing to another stereotype; a stereotype that is based around people that are getting older, and beginning to dress as if they were still in their youth. According to Julia Twigg, who wrote “Fashion, the Body, and Age”, she states, “Across the field of fashion and age there is a pervasive language of ‘moving younger’”. Sure, Miley Cyrus is only 26 years old at the moment, but it does seem a little weird to see her go backwards when she already in the driver’s seat when it comes to oozing out creativity. Again, you cannot please everyone that you come across, but some people did enjoy the homage her days of old that. While she has gone back to wearing mainly feminine clothing such as long dresses and high heels that are either shiny or just one color, she is still keeping the flair that she has had ever since her days with Disney. With this in mind, I still believe she is sending another powerful message to people out into the world when it comes to fashion and when it comes to fame. I believe that the second message is that no matter what clothes you are wearing or whatever purse or bag you are carrying, it does not cover up who you truly are on the inside; you can have all of the nicest clothes in the world, as well as many expensive items such as cars and a big house, but those objects in question should not make up your entire personality. Yes, there is no doubt that these possessions can help you out in your life, because they are necessities that people need in their lives. However, underneath all of the glamour and fame, is a person that should be humble for the journey that they have taken, and for the people that they have met along the way, and not just thinking about what the next big purchase they are going to make.

Miley Cyrus has graced her fans and the rest of the world with many memories throughout the years, and will probably still provide some talking points, as well as provide us with new ways for dressing the body, for years to come; whether we want to remember or suppress said memories is up to the individual, but the fact remains that she has been memorable. Sure, she is not everyone’s cup of tea, but people cannot deny that she has made a lasting impact on not only her fans, but also with almost everyone around the world who knows who she is. She has inspired people to be brave and to do what you want to do; there might be some bumps along the road, but no one said was going to be an easy ride. From the music that was stuck in our heads for days or weeks on end, to the amount of outfits that made us scream of happiness or of horror, she has definitely been more than just the best of only two worlds. With all of this put into perspective, I feel that we need to learn from people such as Miley Cyrus because for years, women have been looked at either sexually or in a disgusted view if they strayed away from the norm for years, and with women such as Miley Cyrus standing up to break the stereotypical chains that have held them back for hundreds of years, a new age can form; a new age where people can not be ashamed or afraid to wear what they want to wear.

Works Cited

  • “Allegory, Queer Authenticity, and Marketing Tween Sexuality in Hannah Montana.” The Queer Fantasies of the American Family Sitcom, by TISON PUGH, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, Camden, Newark, New Jersey; London, 2018, pp. 134–160. JSTOR,
  • Akdemir, Nihan. “Deconstruction of Gender Stereotypes Through Fashion.” European Journal of Social Science Education and Research, vol. 5, no. 2, 2018, pp. 185–190., doi:10.26417/ejser.v5i2.p185-190.
  • Crane, Diana. “Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women's Interpretations of Fashion Photographs.” The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 4, 1999, pp. 541–563. JSTOR,
  • Kaiser, Susan B. “Gendering Fashion, Fashioning Gender: Beyond Binaries.” Fashion and Cultural Studies. London, New York: BERG, 2012. Blackboard Learn. Web. 12 May 2019.
  • Morrison, Connie. “Creating and Regulating Identity in Online Spaces: Girlhood, Social Networking, and Avatars.” Girlhood and the Politics of Place, edited by Claudia Mitchell and Carrie Rentschler, Berghahn Books, NEW YORK; OXFORD, 2016, pp. 244–258. JSTOR,
  • Twigg, Julia. Fashion, the Body, and Age, pp. 78–95.,
16 December 2021
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