Fashion Transformation: Rihanna

It’s been a long time since a fresh-faced, Barbadian songstress named Rihanna first hit our shores. And in the years since she burst onto the scene as Jay-Z’s protégé, Rihanna has set herself apart from a bevy of young stars through her ever-changing style. takes a stroll through Rihanna’s eclectic style transformation.

Understated Introduction

“Pon de Replay”-era Rihanna was just a shadow of the leather-clad, fierce fashionista we would later see. She had all the makings of a pop princess with her long flowing locks and breathtaking smile, but her threads were far less statement-making than par for the mainstream course. Bright colors and fun styles dominated RiRi’s early public appearances. But even under the unassuming clothes, fashion mavens could see the immense potential she had. Rihanna’s beauty and her unique look made her the perfect canvas for a myriad of looks.

Turning Up The Heat

With time, Rihanna took hold of her sensuality and embraced looks that complimented her newfound sexual awareness. From her curve-hugging green cutout dress in “S.O.S” to her flirty white number at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, to her barely there Zac Posen dress at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, Rihanna was no longer afraid to take chances when it came to her style. Her talent was obvious; now it was time to have some fun on the fashion front.

More albums would follow, but it wasn’t until the release of “Good Girl Gone Bad” that Rihanna’s full fashion attack would really begin. She embraced more silhouette-enhancing styles and became a favorite muse for some of the industry’s leading designers. She traded younger looking styles for the best in couture. That was none the more evident than during the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2010 when Rihanna rocked a white couture Elie Saab dress. From Christian Dior to Marchesa there were few designers that Rihanna shied away from. The styles were sexy, but had the haute couture lines and daring silhouettes that separated Rihanna from other emerging songstresses and placed her among the world’s fashion elite.

Down And Dirty

By late 2010, Rihanna had begun to stray away from the pretty, feminine styles that made her a red carpet darling among fashion insiders and played with tougher fabrics and harsher lines. Her S&M and dominatrix-inspired styles showed off her amazing physique while still having some style merit. Her head to toe leather ensemble at the American Music Awards, paired with thigh-high leather boots and a studded corset wasn’t a surprising style for surprising style’s sake; it was playing with fashion in a fresh and enlightened way to give audiences something to think about. Along with her fashion changes, Rihanna was no stranger to changing her hair as well, experimenting with colors (we all swooned at her uber red locks) and cuts (no one made a short, angular bob look better). She toyed with what conventional beauty was thought to be and blazed her own trail of style.

–Amanda Younger

Amanda Younger is a freelance writer and web producer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Time Out New York,, YourTango and Follow her on Twitter @ayounger45.

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