Tour Wardrobe Taps Tech

Secrets behind Daft Punk, Katy Perry and Beyoncé costumes revealed

Written by Lilian Min • Photography by Theo Wargo, Getty Images • December 7, 2016

From Miley Cyrus’s giant tongue slide to Beyoncé’s Formation Tour cube to Kanye West’s floating stage, tour staging is increasingly dazzling and immersive for fans. But equally innovative and interesting are high-tech performance costumes, which now include electronic and textile components to provide that extra layer of visual interest for fans and practical support for artists.

Let’s start with electronics: Daft Punk helmets may be the most famous to use LED lights, but innovative artists like Kanye West, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande have also incorporated LEDs into their performing costumes. These are wearable thanks to LED ribbons — more durable and flexible than full circuitry (such as that used in helmets), strings of individual light bulbs (like Christmas lights), or other kinds of electronic fabric embeds — and add color-changing lighting accents to outlandish artist outfits.

Of course, not every artist needs or wants to add electronics to their costumes. But even “simple” bodysuits, like those favored by many female pop stars these days, require their own innovations. For example, Beyoncé’s 2013 Super Bowl bodysuit was made of stiff leather and python skin, and proved to be, in the words of its designer, “one of the most complicated pieces I had ever engineered at that point.”

As dance choreography plays an important role in many artists’ tour performances (not to mention fandoms), designers have to engineer costumes that are both fashionable and rigorously functional. Four-way stretch fabrics like Spandex and Lycra are most up to this task, and the development of these garments for the stage has led to the popularity of consumer-level performance bodysuits.

In the age of Instagram, tour costumes are a major attraction for many pop artists. As live entertainment continues to evolve, we look forward to seeing what designers dream up next to meet performer needs and fan expectations.

Explore More From Shell FFWD

The Power of Questions
Live Events Go Green
Smart Earplugs? Yes, Smart Earplugs
Can Live Streaming Pay Off?
Get interactive with Jennifer Hudson, Steve Aoki and more!
Remix your own “Best Day of My Life”
Get interactive with Jennifer Hudson, Steve Aoki and more!
What are other musicians doing today in order to promote a clean, sustainable environment?
Artists Supporting Sustainability
What are other musicians doing today in order to promote a clean, sustainable environment?
Lights, DJ, Action!
Music Apps—From Bizarre to VR
Twitter Moments Go Mobile
The innovative #makethefuture campaign from Shell brings gravity-powered light to Kenya
Sometimes, Great Ideas Do Fall From the Sky
The innovative #makethefuture campaign from Shell brings gravity-powered light to Kenya
Now Playing: The Soundtrack of Your Life
Music & Environment: A Community-by-Community Initiative
Musical Instruments of the Future
The Nigerian singer talks innovation, collaboration – and why the Shell #makethefuture initiative is so close to her heart
Yemi Alade: ‘I’m pleased to be part of the energy train’
The Nigerian singer talks innovation, collaboration – and why the Shell #makethefuture initiative is so close to her heart
New remix app relieves royalty-related worries
Mix It Up With 8Stem
New remix app relieves royalty-related worries
Artists innovate ways to get fans involved
From Singing Along to Lighting Up: Audience Tech Gets Interactive
Artists innovate ways to get fans involved
Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson and Brazilian superstar Luan Santana have teamed up with Shell to #makethefuture by championing groundbreaking energy innovators and initiatives that will help provide cleaner and more sustainable energy.
6 Artists Join Shell in an Energetic Collaboration
Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson and Brazilian superstar Luan Santana have teamed up with Shell to #makethefuture by championing groundbreaking energy innovators and initiatives that will help provide cleaner and more sustainable energy.
Get the rundown from phonographs to smartphones
Innovations That Changed Music
Get the rundown from phonographs to smartphones
Music and Art Connect via Kinect
Learning from the Best with Masterclass
Groupmuse: Uber for Live Music?
The musician, working with #makethefuture, helps spark interest in renewable energy via the world’s most popular sport
Akon and Shell Light Up Lagos
The musician, working with #makethefuture, helps spark interest in renewable energy via the world’s most popular sport
Nano What? Printed Electronics Are Here
Green Day Gets Greener—with Coffee
Music Meets Innovation in Rio’s Santa Marta community
Rio Gets Lit, Sustainably
Music Meets Innovation in Rio’s Santa Marta community
If you already know and love Shazam, you’re about to love it even more
Songkick + Shazam: Like a Song? See the Show!
If you already know and love Shazam, you’re about to love it even more
The historic music studio is making its place in the future
Abbey Road Red: Fueling the Future of Music Production
The historic music studio is making its place in the future
Entrepreneurs find inspiration in unlikely places
Six Energy Innovations That Will Help #Makethefuture
Entrepreneurs find inspiration in unlikely places
Here One: Recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2015
Bionic Earbuds of the Future?
Here One: Recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2015
Does high-definition audio really matter? That depends on you.
HD Audio: Is the Best Yet to Come?
Does high-definition audio really matter? That depends on you.
Get acquainted with FestEvo!
New App Enhances Festival Fun
Get acquainted with FestEvo!
Sasquatch, Treasure Island and Outside Lands are doing it...
Festivals Are Going Green
Sasquatch, Treasure Island and Outside Lands are doing it...
Never miss a live stream from your favorite artists
Heads Up! Facebook Live Gets Predictable
Never miss a live stream from your favorite artists
Phone-blocking gadgets could change the concert experience
Thumbs Up for Phones Down?
Phone-blocking gadgets could change the concert experience
We’ll keep you connected to people and events moving the industry forward.
Shell + Live Nation Present Future Forward
We’ll keep you connected to people and events moving the industry forward.
What AI Evolution Means for Machine Music
Future, Meet DJ-Bot 3000!
What AI Evolution Means for Machine Music
GitHub Turns Traffic Into Tunes
Berklee College encourages students to make positive impact
Teaching Music Gets Greener
Berklee College encourages students to make positive impact
RFID—Your New Favorite Band?
Wearable audio technology could change the way we experience music.
Coming Soon: Body-Rocking Beats
Wearable audio technology could change the way we experience music.
Coming to a Stage Near You
Holo-Tech, The Next Generation
Coming to a Stage Near You
The recording artist and his wife Kim will receive an award for their work promoting sustainability
Jack Johnson Recognized for Being Green
The recording artist and his wife Kim will receive an award for their work promoting sustainability
Music recommendations are reaching a new level—here's how.
Music Apps That Think! (Or Very Close To It)
Music recommendations are reaching a new level—here's how.
Amazon Music Unlimited is set to rival any of the best out there.
Amazon's Music Service Ups the Ante (With Discounts!)
Amazon Music Unlimited is set to rival any of the best out there.
Imagine: watching any artist on VR, at any concert, at any time.
VR Concerts Coming Soon…Finally!
Imagine: watching any artist on VR, at any concert, at any time.
Here's how tech can help artists in the business!
Hey, Mr. DJ: Do You Take Cryptocurrency?
Here's how tech can help artists in the business!
Six stars. Seven clean energy initiatives. It's time to #makethefuture brighter.
Jennifer Hudson, Steve Aoki, Pixie Lott, and More Team Up with Shell to Cover “Best Day of My Life”
Six stars. Seven clean energy initiatives. It's time to #makethefuture brighter.
She and Jimmy Fallon push technology to the limits.
Ariana Grande Made a Music Video Using Only Snapchat Filters
She and Jimmy Fallon push technology to the limits.
We hopped a bus to Chance's extra special Chicago event.
Take a Look Inside Chance the Rapper's Magnificent Coloring World Event
We hopped a bus to Chance's extra special Chicago event.
Music. Energy. Innovation.
#makethefuture with Shell, Jennifer Hudson, Steve Aoki + More
Music. Energy. Innovation.