Mary J. Blige Took Pride In Her ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Style in the ’90s For This Reason

Mary J. Blige has been known over the years as a singer, actor, and fashion icon. In the 1990s, Blige — along with other prominent figures in hip-hop — pioneered a movement in fashion whose influence continues to this day.

Mary J. Blige with flowers
Mary J. Blige | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Mary J. Blige’s fashion in the ’90s

When Mary J. Blige burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, she had a notably different style from many other women in the entertainment industry. She opted for baggy clothes and boots that aligned more with what men in hip-hop were wearing.

Blige explained her mentality in a 2018 interview with The Cut. “I worked with a lot of men and grew up around a lot of men. I didn’t want them to look at me like that,” she said honestly. “I kind of sat like them, talked like them, even subconsciously, so they wouldn’t look at me like I’m a girl.”

In the mid-1990s, the term “ghetto fabulous” began being used to describe the style of Blige, P. Diddy, Andre Harrell, and others in the Uptown Records stratosphere. Blige took pride in the label and became a pioneer with the style.

“The inspiration to want to be super-duper fly — furs, chains and earrings — comes from the hood,” she said in a 2021 interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “It comes from living in the projects and seeing some of our heroes, which were drug dealers or women who had everything, who had full-length sables, the giant earrings, Gucci bags, and pink furs. So when I got in the music business with Misa [Hylton] and Puffy, when we had money to do it, we did it to death. We wore all the chains, and we still do it. We still wear all the furs. Even when I was depressed, that was probably one of the things that made me feel all right.”

Mary J. Blige as Monet Tejada in ‘Power Book II: Ghost’
Mary J. Blige as Monet Tejada in ‘Power Book II: Ghost’ | Starz

Mary J. Blige’s fashion stylist, Misa Hylton

Much of Blige’s personal style in the ’90s can be attributed to her longtime stylist, Misa Hylton. In the ’90s, Hylton was a prolific hip-hop stylist and designer as well as the mother of one of Puffy’s children.

While Hylton loved that Blige was leading the ghetto fabulous movement, she told Vogue UK in 2020 that the name was given to the style specifically because of its association with Black people. 

“We create the culture that makes things ‘cool’, but the original is called ‘ghetto’ or ‘urban,’” Hylton said. “It only becomes ‘high fashion’ when a non-Black stylist recreates it.” 

In addition to Mary J. Blige, Hylton styled artists such as Lil’ Kim, Aaliyah, Faith Evans, Jodeci, and Foxy Brown. More recently, she designed looks for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Apes—” music video.

Mary J. Blige on the red carpet
Mary J. Blige | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

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Mary J. Blige’s style today

Today, Blige’s fashion is more mature and subdued, and still anchored by her signature blonde hair. Hylton told NYLON in 2021 that Blige’s fashion evolution has come naturally with age.

“Our creative process has always been very organic and authentic to whatever stage we were at in our lives,” Hylton said. “In the beginning, there was a lot of focus on street style and hip-hop wear — combat boots, baseball caps, and jerseys. Then as we both grew as young women, the styles continued to transform, but always keeping those hip-hop elements, like the hoop earrings and the combat boot turned into a thigh-high boot, and so on.”