'American Music Awards 2013': Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez set the fashion bar

Fashion experts advise that the perfect black dress can go from a funeral to a wedding by switching from subdued pumps and a blazer to stilettos and a wrap.

While the perfect LBD can go almost anywhere, it's not enough -- regardless of accessories -- for some events, such as the 2013 American Music Awards, airing Sunday, Nov. 24, on ABC.

For this, performers need creations, not mere outfits. They need looks.

At this writing, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga were among those scheduled to perform live from Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre. They all recognize the value of wild costumes.

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Not everyone can pull off a look that screams punk gladiator visiting from the future. It really takes an excess of attitude, and Nicki Minaj has it. She performed in this at the 2011 awards show, and it's impressive she could move at all. The boots, skimming the top of her thighs, and the belt - which looks as if it could be used to beat someone senseless - are fierce. But it's the top that's truly dangerous-looking. It's a bodice with a killer bra. Seriously, that bra looks as if it has ammunition in it. Perhaps she selected the hot pink hair to soften the overall look so she's only mildly terrifying.

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Then there was the opposite of terrifying. OK, maybe comical is not quite the opposite, and apologies to the legions of "beliebers" who think Justin Bieber looks adorable in this. Here, he wears incredibly tight neon yellow and black zebra-print pants. At what point pants become tights, more appropriate for dance class, we're not sure, but this has to set some bar. Then there's the sleeveless T-shirt announcing his sex appeal. Subtle.

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Sticking with someone who has never bothered with subtlety but has singular style, there is Jennifer Lopez. Few people know how to work a red carpet better than Lopez. She seems to wear strictly what she likes and sets, rather than follows, trends. This Zuhair Murad dress looks as if it were glued onto her, with one long sleeve and one bare arm. Approached from one side, the dress looks like a midthigh mini, and from the other direction, it's a gown that pools around her Jimmy Choos.

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Ah, remember Michael Jackson when this look was new? It seems so distant and poignant now. This was the year, 1984, when he won for favorite pop/rock male artist, when "Thriller" was everywhere and took favorite pop/rock album. "Billie Jean" was the favorite pop/rock single, and "Beat It" won favorite pop/rock video. Jackson, in his aviator shades, kept coming up to the stage to collect awards for favorite soul/rhythm & blues male artist and album. He did it in this iconic red and gold glitter jacket with the gold trim, looking like a marching band majorette with a serious sequin habit.
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images/Julian Wasser