Lil Kim and Foxy Brown’s feminine-inspired attire made waves in hip-hop, showing that women could look fashionable yet fierce behind the mic. Both musicians used luxury pieces as part of their look to show that female rappers could also make statements in style and power.
Baggy T-Shirts and Oversized Sweatpants were worn alongside Timberland Boots during this era. Women also donned Jean Jumpsuits and eye-catching Snapback Hats to stay fashionable.
Shawntae Harris-Dupart, better known by her stage name Da Brat, was one of the pioneering hard-edged female rappers to emerge during the early ’90s. Dupri cultivated an alluring, feminine image while remaining outspoken when it came to explicit lyrics or braggadocio; many saw Dupri as being similar to Snoop Doggy Dogg while her music incorporated more funk, rhythm-and-blues influences; her fashion sense recalled Kris Kross, wearing baggy jeans with backward-facing shirts over loose hoodies and hair braids.
Hip-hop fashion also evolved as hip-hop music shifted away from party jams and toward more aggressive raps in the ’90s. Gone were baggy t-shirts in favor of flashier clothing such as Starter athleticwear and streetwear; hats became trendy accessories; check flannel shirts were even a classic among rappers as they remain.
Rappers in the 1990s were style trailblazers, and brands like Nike and Adidas took notice. They began creating hoodies and sweatshirts designed for Ice Cube and Biggie Smalls to wear. Meanwhile, rapper-owned clothing lines also started popping up throughout that decade: Russell Simmons founded Phat Farm. At the same time, artists such as Lil Wayne’s TRUKFIT and Naughty by Nature’s Naughty Gear also launched their own apparel lines.
Denim dungarees were an iconic component of 90s hip-hop culture, from their fitted or baggy form, worn with T-shirts or hoodies and with one strap buckled up or undone; strapping up or undone; these pants became part of hip-hop history during that era and even gained endorsements from TLC, The Fugees and Will Smith who all featured denim dungarees prominently in their music videos.
The 1990s may have been known for gangsta rap, but women in this genre were no less fashionable. From Da Brat’s signature oversized tee shirts and backward-facing shirts to Foxy Brown’s spaghetti-strapped dresses with pencil-thin eyebrows and gold chains – each rapper put their stamp on gangsta rap’s fashion scene.
The 90s saw an explosion of hip-hop-influenced entertainment shows like In Living Color, New York Undercover, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that helped normalize hip-hop as an entertainment genre and opened doors for female rappers to break into it in more mainstream ways. R&B-hip hop fusion styles emerged that blended streetwear with smooth R&B flows as Monie Love did on her 1990 debut album Down to Earth; her smooth flow and vibrant wardrobe displayed this style perfectly, such as colorful windbreakers with side-cocked hats as well as chunky abstract earrings!
Queen Latifah was an early influence on ’90s hip-hop fashions. She beat-boxed for Ladies Fresh before going solo as a rapper with the release of All Hail the Queen album in 1989. Following its success, she transitioned away from streetwear-influenced ensembles towards more formal styles, assisted in this journey by producer Freddy who helped sign her to Tommy Boy Records.
Queen Latifah’s songs captured the struggles of living in a male-dominated culture. She challenged gender norms through her feminine rap style of oversized tees and baseball caps combined with gold doorknocker earrings and lipstick in vibrant red shades, all designed to mirror her intense lyrics.
Foxy Brown and Lil Kim made waves when their seductive form-fitting silhouettes met with the provocative content of their raps, sparking controversy over whether or not they should be depicted as “harlots.” Gangsta Boo cements this style further in the Southern hood rap of Three 6 Mafia and her explicit lyrics.
Other artists, like MC Lyte and Eve of West Philadelphia, were known for their eclectic fashion choices. MC Lyte’s look perfectly blended trends from both decades with Adidas tracksuits, varsity jackets, oversized tees, and baseball caps from each decade paired with pencil-thin eyebrows and long, flowing hair in various hues.
Salt-N-Pepa were pioneers when it came to female rappers. One of the first all-female rap groups ever, Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella helped pave the way for other female artists in hip-hop culture while remaining influential today. Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella provided male-dominated genres with unique styles, powerful messages, and voices that resonated loud and clear – they introduced women into hip-hop with style!
Cheryl James (Salt) and Sandra Denton (Pepa) met as nursing students at Queensborough Community College in New York City. They eventually became co-workers at the Sears department store, where they both worked as telephone customer service representatives. Both women shared an enthusiasm for music; they would rap or dance in their free time. Their style incorporated the androgynous look popular during this era – such as denim or flannels.
Although their industry was predominantly male-dominated, this duo remained confident and assertive women personally and professionally. Their music reflected this strength by encouraging women to express themselves freely. At the same time, their lyrics made it clear they weren’t afraid to speak their mind freely about sex and men – an attitude mirrored in both songs they released together.
Although their first two albums had been successful, Blacks’ Magic marked a true breakthrough for Salt. At this point in time, tension had arisen between James and Hurby Azor and Salt began seeking creative and personal independence.
This album proved to be a smash hit, and the women quickly made their name in the music industry. Their single “Shoop” peaked at number four on the pop charts and helped propel the Very Necessary album to the top spot on the charts. Furthermore, their appearance in the motion picture adaptation of the Very Necessary album and collaboration on the final single with En Vogue, “Whatta Man,” proved extremely popular with listeners.
Spinderella first appeared on VH1’s Hip Hop Honors in 2005, then returned for another performance with En Vogue of “Whatta Man.” Since then, all three trio members have gone on to have children – Spinderella has one daughter with former NBA player Kenny Anderson while Salt and Pepa each have their daughters.
Lil Kim & Foxy Brown
Hip-hop became a cultural touchstone during the late ’80s and early ’90s, giving women access to its culture for the first time. Women took to scratching vinyl records, picking up microphones, and reinventing what it meant to be female in this genre – with bold styles that rivaled its eccentric lyrics.
Male rappers at that time often donned baggy pants, sneakers, and oversized tees. At the same time, women in the movement favored sleek leather bomber jackets and spandex suits with Afrocentric patterns or Afrocentric patterns on them. Additionally, they often donned gold jewelry such as rhinestone chains or rope chain earrings adorned with gold plating and wore various hairstyles.
Salt-N-Pepa, composed of Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, and DJ Spinderella from Queens-based Queens, was responsible for kickstarting these trends. Their signature styles, including asymmetrical hairdos with bold, colorful hair accessories, challenged any notion that men are considered figureheads of hip-hop culture.
Philly rapper Eve was among many women at this time who challenged what it meant to be a woman in hip hop, offering a feminine aesthetic within Ruff Ryders with miniskirts and low-cut tops, giving an irreverent edge with her provocative song, “Paper Thin.” Her lyrics delivered a striking takedown of an affair partner as audacious as the tracksuit, varsity jacket, and sneakers she donned for its music video.
Lil Kim and Foxy Brown took their seductiveness further by emphasizing feminine features such as pencil-thin eyebrows and dark lipstick and incorporating luxury pieces into their looks. They were the pioneering women of hip hop who rejected the stereotype that women must dress masculinely, opening up opportunities for later artists such as Nicki Minaj and Beyonce to combine highly sexualized fashion with high fashion styles.
The 1990s was a crucial period for female rappers, and Kim and Foxy served as icons who encouraged young women to embrace their femininity without fear or self-consciousness. Their influence can be found among contemporary female rappers from Missy Elliott to Aaliyah; each came up with their signature style, whether donning African print clothing or going casual with sneakers and jeans.