Best of the Red Carpet at the 2012 Video Music Awards

Grown-up looks reigned supreme at MTV's big night

Taylor Swift and Rihanna at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

The 2012 Video Music Awards red carpet was one of subtle evolution and relative sobriety, at least in comparison to the sensationalist statements of recent years. Ke$ha stripped herself of her usual glittershock, party-animal aesthetic and wore a more brash version of a black ballet dress. Lady Gaga was a no-show, so it was up to Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry to fly pop's freak flag – a challenge both declined. Minaj was still hyperbolic in a red, bedazzled lace bodysuit from Versace and Perry continued her exploration of Elvira's wardrobe, but both were tempered versions of their formerly outlandish selves. For those who favor sophistication over bombast, this represents an upgrade.

Rihanna and Taylor Swift may be the true victors of the night; both opted for grown-up, white, minimalist looks that showed off their new haircuts. Their coifs should provoke less controversy than the ire fellow attendee Miley Cyrus attracted with her bold razored experiment: Swift went sleek and straight and Rihanna opted for a pixie cut. Both looked radiant.

Check out our gallery of all the red carpet highlights of the 2012 Video Music Awards.