The Fashion (R)evolution of Cardi B

Belcalis Almanzar was 19 when she started stripping to escape an abusive relationship and pay for school. Now, at the age of just 24, Belcalis has a new moniker and a national reputation as Cardi B, the chart-topping, record-breaking female MC behind “Bodak Yellow,” one of summer 2017’s hottest tracks. From viral videos that spawned cultural catchphrases (“A hoe never gets cold”) to her unforgettable appearance on Love & Hip Hop: New York, Cardi B has embedded herself in the American pop culture consciousness, and her fashion has played a major role throughout this transformation.

Though she bills herself as a “just a regular degular shmegular girl from the Bronx,” Cardi B’s fashion says so much more. In her breakout hit, she raps the now-famous line about her Louboutins: “These expensive, these is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes.” Her “bloody shoes” are just one aspect of the high-fashion image she’s been building since her transition from viral stardom to true celebrity. Among the fashion houses she’s worn recently, Christian Louboutin is just the first on a list that includes Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton. In August, she debuted her editorial side in a shoot for Fashion Bomb Daily. Stylist Atiba Newsome dressed her in a sleek tracksuit with a gold grill, just one in a series of looks juxtaposing feminine glamour with androgyny. It’s clear that Cardi B isn’t only entering the world of high fashion — she’s remixing it.

“It’s clear that Cardi B isn’t only entering the world of high fashion — she’s remixing it.”

However, it’s a mistake to characterize Cardi B’s meteoric rise to fashion fame as a linear journey from a club in Manhattan to her performance at Alexander Wang’s NYFW afterparty. Like her unfiltered social media presence, Cardi B’s fashion sense is equally uninhibited. While she wears Christian Siriano evening gowns and Balenciaga boots, she’s also an ambassador for the bargain brand Fashion Nova. Last February, in a characteristically theatrical video, Cardi flashed a $100,000 diamond watch paired with $10 sunglasses and a $60 outfit.

Her statement on the look? “Fashion Nova baby, I be on a budget until the day I die, bitch.”

Though Cardi B doesn’t have a glossy, carefully cultivated social media presence or a lifetime of industry exposure like many young guns in fashion, she’s making her mark all the same. And considering she’s spent the past few months breaking records and keeping her name in the news, she won’t be stopping any time soon.


Hannah Lowe

featured image: Rolling Stone Magazine

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