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

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

lana del rey fashion

Danny Martindale/WireImage; Chelsea Lauren/WireImage; Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images

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. By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Danny Martindale/WireImage

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.

Miquel Benitez/WireImage

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.

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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.  

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No Hippie Chick at Lollapalooza

Again with the flowing bell sleeves, in Chicago last summer Del Rey channeled Seventies stars, this time maybe a bit more Cher or Marie Osmond with the dainty bluebell appliqués on a tangerine dream of a dress. Take it from someone who knows, though: Don't smoke a ciggy in that fabric, girl.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Interscope

Velvet Merlot in Hollywood

This is notable because Del Rey isn't quick to don a Nineties throwback trend — very Winona, ca. Matt Damon — but of course, even in combat boots she imbues it with Forties glam with a Hollywood silhouette and a slinky shade of wine (good for spills in case you're tryna drink some).

Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

Tiki Delight at Coachella (Weekend 1)

Now we're talkin! Del Rey's first foray at this year's Coachella bloomed with a neon red-and-purple Hibiscus pattern — our first inkling that she might be thinking in the key of "Zou Bisou Bisou." Her Rihanna-style neck-to-waist chain added a modern edge, but the overall theme was that of kitschy pineapple cocktails and karaoke under raffia tents. 

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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!

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/amfAR14/WireImage

Buttercream Frosting at AMFAR benefit

Demure enough for a charity dinner… full-skirted enough to be a cake-topper. Seriously. We want cupcakes now.

David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

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!

Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images

Irie Vibes at Glastonbury

Del Rey's been known to rep herb now and again, so why not with this tie-dye mini in Jamaican flag-invoking colors? No shame in the membrane.