When Rihanna first debuted on the scene as a young, fresh-faced teenager in 2006, her distressed sense of style identified closely with that of her first number one hit-single, "SOS." Even though it took Rihanna a short time to grow into the fashion-forward Vogue cover girl she is today, she's no stranger to controversy. The edgy star has proved to be a rebellious force in the fashion world over the past few years, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
From the tattoos inked on Rihanna's skin to her barely-there clothing, the singer's daring sense of style regularly strikes a chord with fans and critics -- whether it's in tune or off-key -- but she never fails to make a statement. The ultimate trendsetter, Rihanna is infamous for taking chances and recreating her look, something all of us can do. Why play it safe when you can turn heads by being different? Here are 10 fashion lessons we can learn from Rihanna.
Menswear Isn't Just for Guys
After a short hiatus from the media, Rihanna emerged in May of 2009 at The MET Costume Institute Gala looking divine and stealing the show in a black Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo. The unexpected garment commanded attention on the red carpet and left critics applauding Rihanna for her bold fashion choice, complete with dramatic hair and makeup. While a tuxedo is traditionally masculine, the cropped pant legs and puffy jacket sleeves created a more feminine look for Rihanna. She wore the tux with her usual brazen confidence, and menswear was immediately dubbed a trend for females by fashion critics everywhere.
Shoulder Pads Belong in the Past
Rihanna has an obvious love for shoulder pads, but we think the trend saw its heyday in the 1980s, and regardless what the flamboyant singer thinks, it's not coming back. The boxy Alexandre Vauthier suit Rihanna wore to the 2009 VEVO launch party left critics doubting even a trendsetter like Rihanna could revive a dated fad like shoulder pads. Not one to care what others think, Rihanna wore another Alexandre Vauthier design -- which included a bodysuit and cape -- to the 2010 Echo Awards. Again, the outfit's shoulder pads caused a stir in the fashion world, and she received mix praise from critics and fans for choosing a garment featuring such an out-of-style trend. Notice that it was the shoulder pads, not the cape, that received bad press. You know an element of your outfit just isn't working when people are paying more attention to it than the fact that you're dressed like a superhero!
When in Doubt, Change Your Hairstyle
Rihanna's hair is ever-changing, and she's experimented with almost every style -- and hair dye -- known to man. Whether she teases her mane into a 1960s bouffant or chooses to go geometric with a nod to punk rock, her hairdos are anything but common. Rihanna rarely misses an opportunity to match her hair to the clothing she's wearing; the singer memorably paired a striking gold spiky dress by The Blonds with a matching gold, wavy 'do at her "Rated R" album release party in 2009. Arguably her most infamous hairstyle to date, Rihanna bravely chopped off her locks into an androgynous Mohawk in 2008, a look that many fans and critics agreed she wore well.
Accessorize with Ink
Rihanna treats her body as a blank canvas when it comes to her passion for tattoos. Over time, she's acquired several of them -- at least 15, from what we can surmise -- and she may have even more under wraps. Some of Rihanna's well-known tats include the Pisces sign behind her right ear and the word "love" written in script on the inside of her right middle finger. The star's ink has been the subject of many tabloid headlines, and the most scandalous tattoo on Rihanna's body is likely the tiny gun on her ribcage. She claims the firearm is meant to symbolize protection and power, not violence (like many in the media suggested at the time). In early 2012, it was reported that Rihanna got her latest tat -- a crucifix on her collarbone -- from one of her favorite New York City tattoo artists, Bang Bang.
Expletives Make for Cheap Fashion Statements
Rihanna's no stranger to controversy when it comes to using expletives in the media, but sometimes she opts to let her clothes do all the talking. In the past, the star has been photographed wearing swear words on jewelry, and in November of 2011, Rihanna was criticized for wearing shoes with visible profanity in a televised appearance in front of millions of viewers on "The X Factor." While Rihanna may argue that she's only expressing herself as an artist, most people agree that wearing expletives are an unoriginal -- and immature -- way to get attention.
It's OK to Wear Sunglasses at Night
Rihanna loves her sunglasses so much that she wears them all the time -- even after the sun goes down. She's rocked everything from retro cats' eye glasses to aviator shades at night. In fact, Rihanna's red carpet frocks are often accompanied by a pair of sunglasses from her vast collection. The star's chunky lace shades accessorized her Jasmine Di Milo sequin jumpsuit at the 2009 second annual House of Hype Dinner, and the same year she wore her black Status Wayfarer sunglasses with an Alexander McQueen sweater dress at the "It's On with Alexa Chung" show. More recently, Rihanna was spotted wearing flat-top sunglasses with chains, which started a trend so huge that that retailers have released similar versions of the shades for as little as $15.
Choose Ruffled Garments Carefully
Ruffles can be a tricky trend, and less is definitely more with these bouncy, fluttering fabrics. Rihanna has a long history of wearing ruffled clothing -- good and bad -- on the red carpet. The yellow Giambattista Valli maxi dress she wore to the 2008 BET Awards would've been better suited for Little Bo Peep than the provocative star. Not only were the layers of ruffles too busy and distracting, the frock was too juvenile for Rihanna, then 20 years old. However, the Viktor & Rolf ruffled dress she wore to the Recording Academy's 2010 GRAMMY Salute to Icons Honoring Clive Davis was widely praised by fashion critics. The singer shined in the geometric dress, featuring dramatically-shaped ruffles made of tulle in soft pastels.
Don't Show Too Much Skin
It's no secret that Rihanna isn't afraid to flaunt her killer figure in short skirts and tiny tops, but some of her outfits have been so revealing that it's surprising the star hasn't been cited with a public nudity violation. In March of 2012, she dined in New York City wearing a top that was completely see-through, and in the past, she's been guilty of wearing jackets and low-cut tops revealing her underwear -- or lack thereof. We all know Rihanna isn't modest, but some things are better left to the imagination.
Think Outside the Classic French Manicure
Like her hair and makeup, Rihanna's 10 digits receive high-fashion marks all on their own. Nail art has always fascinated the singer, and she likes to have fun with her ever-changing manicures. From bright hues to animal print with rhinestones, the designs on Rihanna's nails never disappoint. No one style suits the star -- she ranges from bold, square tips to fingernails so sharp and pointy they look like feline claws. One of Rihanna's most memorable nail designs to date featured yellow smiley faces, complete with frowns for her middle fingers -- making a statement without saying a word.
Short Frocks and High Heels Complement Long Legs
Most would agree that Rihanna's best assets are her shapely, toned legs. Although the singer is statuesque at 5 feet 8 inches tall, her infamous legs are often accentuated by stilettos and high heels designed by famous footwear mavens like Christian Louboutin, Diego Dolcini and Miu Miu. And when Rihanna's shopping for clothes, it seems that the shorter the dress, the better. The star is known to favor Herve Leger's short, curve-hugging bandage dresses, and the Zac Posen asymmetrical dress Rihanna wore to the 2007 American Music Awards brought major media attention to her mile-long legs. Although Rihanna has long been criticized by the press for being scantily clad, it's clear that her short hemlines are here to stay.
Where do those red carpet dresses go after their big debuts? HowStuffWorks follows the trail.
- Daily Mail. "Rihanna causes a scene with her see-through top... but protects her modesty with a skin-coloured bra." March 27, 2009. (March 23, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1165314/Rihanna-causes-scene--protects-modesty-skin-coloured-bra.html
- Daily Mail. "Rihanna shows off her 'petals' again... but this time she's had an attack of modesty." Jul 29, 2009. (March 23, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1202915/Rihanna-shows-petals--time-shes-attack-modesty.html
- Everett, Cristina. "Tats not real! Bikini-clad Rihanna shows off massive pistol tattoo on thigh." NY Daily News. Sept. 7, 2010. (March 23, 2012) http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-09-07/gossip/27074731_1_tattoo-rihanna-gun-show
- Fraser, Leah. "Trend or atrocity: are shoulder pads here to stay?" Anchorage Fashion Examiner. June 17, 2009. (March 23, 2012) http://www.examiner.com/fashion-in-anchorage/trend-or-atrocity-are-shoulder-pads-here-to-stay
- Gustashaw, Megan. "Rihanna's 10 Best Nail Looks: Vote For Your Favorite!" Glamour. Aug. 1, 2011. (March 21, 2012) http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2011/08/rihannas-10-best-nail-looks.html
- Huffington Post. "Rihanna Reveals New Crucifix Tattoo On Collarbone." March 16, 2012. (March 23, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/16/rihanna-tattoo_n_1352759.html
- Huffington Post. "Rihanna Topless In GQ: "I Finally Get To Let Go." March 18, 2010. (March 23, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/15/rihanna-topless-in-gq-i-f_n_392640.html
- Huffington Post. "Rihanna Wears A Crude Necklace." Sept. 2, 2011. (March 23, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/rihanna-wears-a-crude-nec_n_947128.html
- In Style. "Rihanna in The Blonds." Nov. 26, 2009. (March 23, 2012) http://www.instyle.co.uk/fashion/look-of-the-day/thursday-26-november-2009/lotd-261109-rihanna
- Judge, E.J. "'Sunglasses at Night' by Corey Hart." WCBSFM 101.1. June 13, 2011. (March 21, 2012) http://wcbsfm.radio.com/2011/06/13/sunglasses-at-night-by-corey-hart-is-the-song-of-the-day/
- Larkin, Mike. "A right mesh! Rihanna reveals far too much in see-through top as she dines in New York." Daily Mail. March 12, 2012. (March 23, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2113717/Rihanna-reveals-far-dines-New-York.html
- Magrath, Andrea. "Rihanna greets her young fans wearing a very naughty necklace." Daily Mail. Nov. 15, 2010. (March 24, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1329775/Rihanna-greets-young-fans-New-York-wearing-naughty-necklace.html
- Maxim. "Rihanna." (March 23, 2012) http://www.maxim.com/todays-girl/rihanna-0
- Riley, Marlow. "Behind The Ink: Decoding Rihanna's Tattoos." MTV. Nov. 16, 2010. (March 23, 2012) http://clutch.mtv.com/2010/11/16/decoding-rihannas-tattoos/
- Spratt, Charlotte. "Rihanna steals the show in huge ruffles at party to celebrate Grammy Awards." Daily Mail. Feb. 1, 2010. (March 23, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1247441/Rihanna-steals-huge-ruffles-party-celebrate-tonights-Grammy-Awards.html
- The Sun. "Rihanna Wears F-Word Shoes Live on X-Factor." Nov. 21, 2011. (March 22, 2012) http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/x_factor/3948296/Rihanna-wears-F-word-shoes-live-on-X-Factor.html
- Vogue. "Rihanna's Most Fashionable Red Carpet Looks." (March 23, 2012) http://www.vogue.com/vogue-daily/article/rihannas-best-red-carpet-looks/