At the Grammys on Wednesday, competition was intense in an unspoken, unofficial category: the "Jennifer Lopez State of Un-Dress" award.
And the winner was ... Maryland's own Toni Braxton, who stunned the crowd with a barely-there silver gown very much in the spirit of Lopez's unforgettable Versace number from last year's ceremony.
Braxton, 33, picked up her sixth award wearing a Richard Tyler piece that resembled little more than a scarf nipped at the waist. It turned out to be the Grammy dress talked about around the world - or at least in fashion and music circles. In fact, Tyler's publicists spent yesterday morning fielding calls about Braxton's shocker.
"Toni has a really great body and I knew that this was a show-stopping dress," said Tameka Foster, the celebrity stylist who spent three weeks poring over several designers' collections before picking the dress.
"She's about to get married and she was thinking, 'I haven't had any children, while I still have the body, let's try this one more time,' " added Foster, who also styled Lauryn Hill for the 1999 Grammys.
The unblushing bride-to-be unveiled her outfit when she sashayed on stage to give Eminem his Best Rap Album award. The dress, which costs $3,400 and is from the Richard Tyler Couture Spring 2001 collection, comprised two panels of silk jersey attached at the thigh with a crystal-beaded strip of fabric. The front panel was so narrow it barely stretched over her nether regions, and the halter top did a death-drop to her navel. As for the back flap, well, let's just say it was cut to offer many an inadvertent booty shot.
Braxton had to use double-sided tape to make sure the halter stayed in place. And to answer a question probably pondered around many water coolers yesterday, the dress did come with a built-in thong.
Even so, the outfit certainly was an interesting choice of garb for the daughter of an Annapolis preacher.
"Oh my God, I didn't even think about that," Foster said, laughing. "Her father was not a consideration when I was shopping for her. But for him, this should be expected by now."
Braxton's risque fashion statements first began in 1997 when she appeared on the cover of Vibe naked save for a strategically placed sheet. The Braxton photo spread continued inside the magazine with the singer in slips, panties or sheer black tops.
Michael Braxton, Toni's brother, said he is used to the attention his sister gets.
"I often have people come up to me and say, 'Your sister looks very good,' and I just say, 'Thank you,' " said Braxton, a 32-year-old nurse who lives in Pasadena. "I know all the right things to say by now, instead of getting upset or angry. I'm very proud of her."
As for the Grammy dress, Braxton would only say that he thought his sister looked "very nice." Fashion observers, however, predict that the dress could have long-term impact for the singer.
Jennifer Lopez's career did take off in a major way after her impressive Grammy appearance last year. And through wearing couture designer Richard Tyler instead of her usual choice - the lesser known Marc Bouwer - Braxton is making a transition from star to mega-celebrity, said Tom Julian, fashion analyst for Oscar.com, the official Academy Awards Web site.
"This dress will help to make a year-round statement as a memorable moment for this performer," Julian said. "But I don't think come tomorrow this will be the knock-off dress that everyone will want to wear to the prom."