Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Street but Sweet" Aaliyah Style

10. The number/word can mean a lot of things, when I was growing up being a size 10 was the perfect size. 10 seconds until the new year, a child's 10th birthday, to a couple a 10 year anniversary. But in the R&B world on August 25, 2001, 10 is how long we have been without Aaliyah. In years 10 seems like a long time, but for some reason when we lose somebody it feels like yesterday. And to a lot of fans, friends, and family members of our Fallen Star, it feels like that. 3 studio albums isn't enough. She's been gone for 10 years but she was only in the music scene for less than that. And even less on the scene because she finished school and made a movie between her album, "One in a Million" (96) and making her third album, "Aaliyah" (01).

But I want to not remember where I was when I heard the terrible and unbelievable news, nor do I want to cry and be sad because her beautiful physical presence isn't here to be the star that she was. I want to talk about her fashion. To me I didn't feel like she had a long enough time in the music industry to make a huge impact, like a Janet or Michael although, she did make somewhat of an impact both musically and in fashion. Since I was young when she came out (10 years old in 94) I knew that she was hot because of the songs and videos she was out. So if she did have a major impact I wasn't aware of it.

I remember when she came out in 1994 I was like shocked. Here was this girl who was 15 wearing a sports bra, baggy jeans undone, underwear showing, and a big jacket and do rag with sunglasses. I was a HUGE Brandy fan so you can see the difference there.
But I couldn't stop listening to the song, "Back and Forth" it was so easy to start groovin! Although, I liked the song it was hard for me to get past the image because I didn't understand what kind of person she was trying to be or if she was from the streets and she would end up being like the female Tupac. Then she released her second single, "At Your Best" a cover by the Isley Brothers she was covered more but still wearing baggy clothes and a lot of black to keep that air of mystery about her which she would always have. Aaliyah said that she wanted to be known for her voice and not for image. How smart she was in saying that, today, too many celebrities rely on their image and lack of talent. If you took away Aaliyah's amazing beauty you still had a great dancer, good actor, and a beautiful voice. It's too bad I can't say the same for majority of new celebrities now.

Her style was definitely street but her voice and personality was sweet, and she quickly honed that title "street but sweet".
  In 1996 her music and image changed. Ditching the tomboy looked she looked more mature with the Veronica Lake hairstyle of the hair over one eye and got with Missy and Timbaland who would remain forever tight with Aaliyah. The best thing to ever happen to her music career if you ask me. Not only did the make the best songs, but if you play them now, they don't sound dated. Classic. Aaliyah still had the "street but sweet" look but wore a lot of leather, crop tops, bra tops, and baggy pants, not easy to do but she did it well. What I liked about her was that she didn't have the curvy figure and the Whitney Houston power vocals. She was comfortable with who she was and she worked with what she had.

She'd make appearances in videos every now and then after she was done with "One In A Million" promotion and took a break. What's even more shocking is that in 1998 escorted by her handsome brother, she sang at the Oscars "Journey To the Past" which is great all, but she wore a DRESS! She had always worn pants and even wore pants to her prom to be different and stand out. But a dress? And oh did she look beautiful.

That same year she did "Are You that Somebody" where at the end of the video she wore a very high split skirt. This Aaliyah who was 18 was becoming a woman. When she did "Try Again" it previewed what new Aaliyah we would see in 2001, dramatic makeup sparkly bustier and very low leather pants, as always the dancing was impeccable (thank Fatima) and the beat was great. She had her first debut role and what's refreshing is she didn't play a pretty girl or a singer, she played a girl who didn't take BS from anybody, and did things her own way, in Rome Must Die. If "Try Again" was a preview of the new Aaliyah, then "Back in One Piece" was epic. BEAUTIFUL makeup which enhanced her natural beautiful, hair which was once sleek and straight, had bouncy curls with color at the end, even the baggy pants had left (okay she wore them for a couple of shots but not the whole video like she did in the past) and were traded for sparkled jeans and tank tops, bra tops, and what's shocking is reptile jacket and pants and red! Up to this point Aaliyah didn't do a lot of color and had worn red only a few times. She rocked it as always looking ever so beautiful, the makeup a touch of 50s glamour with the Marilyn Monroe beauty mark, diamond studs, red lips, and false eyelashes.

In 2000, she won an MTV award for Female Video for "Try Again" and wore yet again another dress! This one was different but she rocked it as always, yellow and black tiger striped dress, with feather trim by Roberto Cavalli. Not one known for designer labels, especially since she bought her Oscar dress from the mall, I was surprised to see her taking a risk, but like I said she rocked it.
Unfortunately, the next year 2001, which started off with such great promised ended with sadness. And I hate to close this blog post because of it, but I have to. Her 3rd and final album is a classic. I was listening to her songs a while ago and they don't sound like they were recorded in 2000 (yes Naomi I did listen after all these years lol). If you listen to songs like "Say You'll Be There" from Spice Girls, or "Bye Bye Bye" from NSYNC you know when it was recorded because it sounds like a 90s song or a 2000 song, but Aaliyah's entire album didn't sound like that at all. "Read Between the Lines" is R&B, funk, and a touch of Latin which was huge at the time due to the wave of Latin singers crossing over the year before and into 2000. "I Refuse" and "More Than A Woman" if played on the radio sound like a new fresh song from a new artist. That's the genius of the trio, Missy, Timbaland, and Aaliyah. Not a lot of people can make music that doesn't date them or put them in a certain time or place.

Aaliyah's image for this album was full blown, sexy, independent, bold, woman. She wore more dresses, she became more feminine and girly. In her "We Need A Resolution" video, she looked supremely confident in the first few shots of the video. "More Than A Woman" the same thing, beautiful, confidant, feminine even though she rocked a designer jumpsuit, Chanel to be exact, she still stayed true to herself wearing leather pants (fierce I might add) and crop top. I have to say she was the rare few that didn't use fake hair and fake nails, be loaded with diamonds and high heels to be sexy through her whole career. Which I truly admire and respect.

Although, she didn't need it, her makeup was dramatic and more adult then the futuristic "Try Again" look. Photoshoots for the album and magazines, her appearances showed that of a happy woman in love and ready to take on the world.  This was the new Aaliyah that was about to make it large.

After that beautiful video she shot for "Rock the Boat" and that final scene of her looking like she was floating to Heaven. It seemed like EVERYONE wanted to be Aaliyah. Ciara, Toya, Tweet, Ashanti, all tried that "Street but Sweet" formula in music and fashion that Aaliyah made her own. The purring voices with hard beats, the dancing, the look, everything that Aaliyah was naturally, it seemed like everyone tried (and failed) to do. Aaliyah looked up to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael and Janet, but she didn't try to be them, she mixed her influences in her music and performances and the rest of the 95% was full Aaliyah. The way Selena left a void in Tejano music, is the same void Aaliyah left in R&B. She was here for 7 years (music/movie wise) but those were years to remember.


  1. She wore a lot of designer from Dolce to Chanel to Tom Ford - designers loved her. And that yellow tiger print dress is actually Armani. Very nice post.

    1. The yellow tiger print dress, Aaliyah was wearing on Video Music Awards 2000 was designed by Roberto Cavalli not Armani;)

  2. She also wore Gianfranco Ferré (1999 VMAs) and Scanlan & Theodore (2001 Movie Awards) before they were household names.

  3. Aaliyah was also wearing Versace, the black dress on Vanity Fair Afterparty:)

  4. Cavalli's designs definitely stood out, when it came to Aaliyah's fashion choices, she once said he is her favorite designer who has a perfect things for her:)