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Revisiting Aaliyah ‘90s Style

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It’s hard to talk about ‘90s style without bringing up Aaliyah. It’s been almost 20 years since her tragic, untimely death, and as time has passed, the impact of her music and fashion has only grown and crystalized with each passing year. She changed the game with her downtempo, relaxed R&B (try to imagine Drake, Jhené Aiko, or Tinashe without Aaliyah…) and sexy, androgynous, and cyber-futuristic take on tomboy style.

From even the very young age of 14—when she made her debut with Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number in 1994— Aaliyah’s look was very much her own. She was known for oversized, baggy clothes mixed with sporty, minimal pieces. There was a street sensibility, but also a nod to BDSM, cyber, and rave aesthetics (workwear re-appropriated for the underground was key in the ‘90s rave scene, as were the vinyl and leather bra tops and motorcycle gear turned performance-wear the singer regularly sported) that gave her looks a strong, individual perspective. Think: Baggy Tommy jeans worn low with men’s underwear creeping out, paired with an oversized windbreaker, a bra top, and Timbs. Gothic notes and Mad Max influence gave more casual, every day older brother pieces a harder, dystopian vibe. Sports jerseys, crop tops, and outsized leather jackets, bucket hats, and tinted sunglasses were standard repeats. Aaliyah combined boyish, baggy silhouettes with sexually assertive, confident details and attitude. She wore a white lace pantsuit to her prom in 1997. She didn’t care about looking like other girls; she had her own point of view.

The artist was low-key, self-assured, and more importantly, authentic in her style and presence. While other artists felt corporatized and dressed for maximum male gaze appeal, Aaliyah was assertively, unassumingly, herself. Remember, Aaliyah’s prime was also that of Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, and the early rise of Britney. When Aaliyah officially signed her deal with Tommy Hilfiger and began sporting the brand, it felt real—like an extension of her own regular style—because it was.

“The whole thing about this business is you can’t lose your sense of self,” the artist once said.

Now, some two decades later, you can see her lasting individual style in the work of Shayne Oliver at Hood By Air and in his collection with Helmut Lang, as well as in more than a few Alexander Wang offerings, not to mention Rihanna’s work at Fenty and her Puma line. She’s also in the looks of quite a few ‘90s-referencing millennials—and if you’re sporting your Calvin’s, an oversized leather jacket, and just about any Tommy piece from the decade, she’s in your style, too.

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createdAt:Thu, 09 Jan 2020 22:44:11 +0000
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