In 2014, Rihanna was awarded the Fashion Icon Award by the CFDA. In typical Rih fashion, she arrived in a see-through Adam Selman dress covered in crystals, later telling Vogue that her only regret was not pairing the dress with a crystal-studded thong. If you thought that moment was going to be the apotheosis of all things Rihanna, well, think again.
Since that turn heralded the rise of the naked dress, Rihanna has made a habit of predicting and influencing fashion trends both on and off the red carpet. Her role as a style seer has made fanny packs, off-the-shoulder coats, and even, yes, enormous wineglasses zeitgeist-y. With her Fenty x Puma line, she has pushed athleisure to new limits—remember that punk Marie Antoinette show?—and with her daily stream of Instagram selfies, she’s inspired a generation to adopt lilac faux fur and Molly Goddard dresses as their de facto uniform—or, at the very least, to wish that they could.
Doubtless, Rihanna knows she is Instagram’s premier style star, and she took to the platform in 2017 to show off her wildly experimental looks. It’s where she debuted her Gucci crystal bodysuit (later worn by Kim Kardashian West), her Goddard obsession, and her vintage Chanel water-bottle holder, to name but a few. The speed and immediacy of her Insta-looks make it easy for designers, other celebrities, and even us mere mortals to pick up on the trends and ideas Rihanna proposes. Yes, sometimes she’s promoting her own Fenty x Puma or Fenty Beauty lines, but more often she’s just displaying a vivaciously extreme sense of style that is worshipped yet impossible to copy.
That’s not to say people won’t try. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the five trends Rihanna set in 2017. Remember these as you plan your 2018 wardrobe—others definitely will.
Much of Rihanna’s early career was marked by an exuberant sexiness. She’s still the bad gal she always was, but 2017 Rihanna had something more empowered, more subversive about her. Last year, skimpy outfits took a back seat to looks that shouted: Rihanna has arrived! Nowhere was her regal stature more evident than on the red carpet, a place she found herself often thanks to her role in Luc Besson’s Valerian and her many product launches. In this realm, Rihanna’s longtime stylist, Mel Ottenberg, dressed her in voluminous princess dresses in tulle and chiffon. Her aqua Molly Goddard number, worn with sneakers, jump-started a cottage industry of knockoff tulle poufs, while her pale pink Giambattista Valli couture dress sparked an international revival of pretty, girly frocks. You don’t need to look far to see her influence either. The red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival never saw more pastel princess frocks than last year. Destined to stand out, Rih wore a white gown and wrap at Cannes with teeny Matrix-like sunglasses in white.
If bold shoulders signal power and dominance, then Rihanna’s roomy jackets have set her up to be the most powerful woman alive. Her many boxy blazers in 2017 were a direct rebuttal to her 2016 look, when she was rarely seen without her coat pulled off her shoulders to reveal her collarbone. On that subject, let’s move to the next trend . . .
As every other celebrity under the sun adopts the coat-tugged-just-so look, Rihanna is evolving her own take on cold-shoulder dressing. Her new look is more about shirting, with oversize dresses and jackets tugged backward with the collars flaring out, and less about the deshabille loungewear she wore in 2016. Many of the looks are in denim, courtesy of her go-to designer, Matthew Adams Dolan. It’s probably not a coincidence that Dolan’s Fall 2017 collection featured a corseted denim jacket with an off-the-shoulder appeal, but, of course, in Rihanna’s playbook this is a style all its own.
While everyone on earth adopts athleisure as a way of life, Rihanna is subverting the comfy-is-king playbook by pairing her sweatsuits with vixenish heels. She wore stiletto boots to the airport, and while out in New York, she chose crystal-embellished pumps. More will surely follow in her well-clad footsteps, though it’s important to remember that this one of Rihanna’s looks does have a precedent. On Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, made a habit of wearing Manolo Blahniks with her most extreme loungewear—and we know Rih is a fan. When she announced her Blahnik collab, she told Vogue she learned of the cobbler extraordinaire “from an episode of Sex and the City.”
If 2016 was the year of Rihanna’s wineglass, 2017 was the year of her water bottle—at least according to her December post with Chanel’s 1994 water-bottle holster. The last time that was in style, it was being held by snotty rich girl Amber in Clueless. If anyone can bring it back, it’s Rih.