The first time I was introduced to Mariah Carey in all of her glamour was when I was about 8 years old and watched the music video for her single “Honey.” There’s a shot of a white curtain blowing around Carey, obscuring different parts of her outfit as the camera pans up her figure. She stands in a two-piece set made up of a white miniskirt and tube top and towers in high heels as her windblown hair whips around her. It was everything I thought I’d be one day as an adult. (Still working on that.) The unabashed glamour of Carey’s style was something I wanted to emulate and became a major source of inspiration for my own personal style. In fact, my brother—who introduced me to Carey’s music—and I still regularly use “Mariah ’97” as verbal shorthand for looking and feeling our most glamorous. (“I felt very Mariah ’97 in that dress.”)
Carey launched her career in 1990, a debut that coincided with the ushering in of a new decade and, with it, a transition in style as the maximalist vibrancy of the ’80s quickly gave way to the pared-back fashion of the ’90s. Despite the rapidly changing tastes of the era, Carey’s style was definable from the start as a modern interpretation of the bombshell and has remained consistent throughout her career.
While Carey’s way of dressing has often been described in hyperbole as outrageous or over-the-top—typically with a “diva” label thrown somewhere in the mix—it was rare, particularly in the ’90s, to see Carey in the lavish sequins, furs, and ornamental jewelry associated with the traditional bombshells of Old Hollywood. Carey, who has repeatedly named Marilyn Monroe as her own style icon, incorporated sleek ’90s minimalism into her high-glam look: neutral color palettes and fitted silhouettes, strappy heels and high hemlines, spaghetti straps and halter tops.
Carey’s beauty looks were also resplendent in staples of the era. The curled, coiffed hair and brightly colored lipstick of the bombshell were swapped for long, sleek blowouts, smoky eyes, and nude lips.
Since there’s always room to take style to its next, most glamorous level, we’re providing inspiration with some of the quintessential looks that defined Carey’s elevated take on the ’90s bombshell.