Midriffs for Days: Praise Aaliyah for Defining the ’90s

Based on the trailers for Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, we can already go ahead and call it unwatchable. But will that stop us from tuning in this weekend? Probably not. Because our enduring Aaliyah obsession lives on.

Starting in 1994, when she slunk onto that basketball court in the video for“Back and Forth,” Aaliyah defined the sexy tomboy-next-door style: baggy, low-slung pants, boxers, do-rags, Timbs — midriffs for days — all tied together with an unflappable confidence. It was a moment for sure. By 2000, Aaliyah had established herself as the icon for natural low-key beauty, but that didn’t keep her from adding a dose of glamour with dark lipstick, and dramatic red-carpet looks like that high-slit, tiger-print gown she rocked at that year’s MTV VMAs.

It’s been 20 years since Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number, and 13 since she tragically died in a plane crash at 22, but Aaliyah has remained a lasting influence for both her music and style. Upstart singers like Tinashe, Kelela, and  FKA Twigs (who paid homage to Queen of the Damned in her video for “Two Weeks”) have all cribbed from Aaliyah’s style notes, as have all those health-goth and athleisure fans who waited in line for Alexander Wang’s collection at H&M.

In honor of the Lifetime biopic, we’ve assembled the highlights of Baby’s Girl singular style — from her early “borrowed from the basketball court” look to her scorching red-carpet dresses. (And, of course, some choice music-video looks like her all-white ensemble in “Rock the Boat,” which will surely be mimicked by future generations for years to come.)

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