She had the crop top/midriff combo to die for. And then some. Coupled with her incredible pipes, Mariah Carey’s style choices [circa ‘87-’04] step into our spotlight for this week’s Style Icons edition…
Call it undue nostalgia (actually, don’t), but whilst she’s probably still a vision of near-perfection for yummy mummies worldwide since her post-baby launch into pop culture; we remain coveting MiMi’s earlier days of style grace and alluring assuredness.
“If you see me as just the princess then you misunderstand who I am and what I have been through.”
Ascending to the top of charts in 1990 with her first single, Vision of Love, and a remarkable vocal range, Mariah’s image was relatable. Gorgeous, with her head of honeyed curls and understated beauty picks, Mariah’s love for denim was apparent. It was the ‘90s so it goes without saying, nevertheless she pioneered the look, stepping out in classic blue jeans, denim shirts, jackets, cropped vests and denim shorts (no crazy batty riders at this point), making a cutesy impression and quickly becoming a heartthrob.
That cutesy image didn’t define her however, with her songwriting ability and vocal talents lending a sensual and captivating edge to her persona. At this point, her style was slim fitting but loose. Whether she was in denim and Converses, a crocheted off-the-shoulder blouse, silk-flared trousers or her other best-loved silhouette – all black. Along with her chill yet innocent sultriness, she accessorised minimally. With pink accents on her admirably taut cheekbones,her staple of nude lipstick, cutesy snappy hairclips and very little jewellery; Mariah originally stuck to her signature ringlety locks, occasionally dabbling with the elegant ‘90s up-do or sparse bangs.
As her career progressed, Mariah left behind the pleated skirt, cashmere cardis and checkered shirts/Timbs combos. Her style evolved from around-the-way-girl, oozing natural beauty and sporting casual ensembles to skin-baring, free-spirited siren.
“Here! Feel my thighs, feel my butt! You can even punch me in the stomach and see how tight that is.”
Evolving from neutral-tones to more colourful dalliances, we saw Mariah transform into MiMi. With this came skin and lots of it! Dressing her toned bod in items that became synonymous, such as the mini-skirt, the cropped crop-top and showing us that bikini tops could suffice as upper body wear – Mariah came into full stride, displaying a new side to her personality. Her amazing body was as much an accessory as her coveted glam-feminine style. A shining example with her bronzed, sparkling assets.
You can’t discuss Mariah’s style without admiring the way she transformed over the years, embracing femininity and a more manicured look. As she came to favour the more sparkly, the even more girly, the fur trimmings and and skin-tight leather; Mariah was rarely caught keeping it über casual in public anymore, becoming the champion of the totally groomed woman.
Strapped stiletto heels and chandelier earrings became staples of her look, inspiring ladies to dress up just that bit more, to feel freer to mix flirty and seductive clothing with more glamorous pieces. Can we take a moment to discuss how good her boobs always looked. Like ALWAYS! Whether she was giving amazing side-boob, one shoulder curvature or deep cleavage, her sculpted look was enviable (see: her red bandana bustier, her american flag bikini bra, countless tank tops as well as that black bandeau and matching long-slit skirt).
As her collaborations with Hip Hop notables increased, so too did her penchant for bling. Expectedly so, her tresses evolved along with her style as she went on to opt for blonder hair worn in tousled waves, voluminous curls as well as super bone-straight. Loverboy singer Mariah morphed from the minimal makeup-wearing muse of the nineties to glitter goddess of the noughties.
“I’m not vain, I’m insecure.”
Going on to exude bounties of sex appeal and what appeared to be an infallible girly carefreeness, it’s crazy to imagine that the Always Be My Baby songstress lacked in anything really. You could tell that Mariah lived out her fantasy’s through her ensembles.
“Did I want to buy an off-the-rack dress when I have a freaking Vera Wang with a 20ft train in storage?”*
Mariah owned the little black dress (and the silk white slip a la Cher Horowitz for that matter) paired with signature strappy heels. Whether she stepped out in floor-length dresses, canary yellow bodycons and the sort, she brought excess to her ensembles in the ’00s. Experimenting more with her style, she reached for the glitz, sparkle, diamonds & diamanté a lot more, coupling them with floral prints, chiffons and bits of embroidery on her dear denim. The Heartbreaker vocalist’s sartorial influence was pretty pivotal during that decade for her millions of fans.
Her catalogue spans love, inspiration, heartbreak, loss, lowkey as well as outright shade throwing songs and more. There’s no doubt her illustrious mark on music goes hand in hand with he, much sought-after fashion choices. With her recen stint on American Idol, Carey’s longevity extends, breathing new life into her iconic style choices for new and future generations to reference. She remains a beautiful icon whose attitude, fashion sense and bravery has no doubt influenced the stylings of many of today’s pop heiresses.
“I do not think I reinvent myself. Wearing my hair differently or changing my style of dress is playing dress-up. I don’t take it too seriously.”
*In reference to the gown from her first wedding.
Words by Laura Arowolo.
Previously: Kool Keith.