Despite her lack of musical output over the past three years, Rihanna’s productivity in terms of representing lsland Bad Gyal Fuckery has been nonstop. The Barbados-bred queen of all things DGAF mixes her West Indian sensibilities with looks from other cultures, and the look speaks to me. You don’t have to live in, or even like, 97-degree weather to enjoy your own carefree island style—and neither do you have to have more than, like, $15 to spare! Since not all of us have access to free Prada, this broke West Indian girl has written you a guide to the Caribbean-queen looks that RiRi stays so busy nailing. (Not-so-subtle side note to Rihanna: PLEASE DROP A SINGLE SOON.)
If you are Rihanna, which, for the sake of this piece, you are, then your accessories are as abundant and gilded as delicious foil-wrapped fruits eaten from a never-ending Edible Arrangement. Of course, the Hempress herself has stated that she mostly wears costume jewelry. This makes sense to any West Indian girl, as we know pieces like giant gold hoops and midi rings can swiftly disappear once the dancing and hugging starts. So why spend a summer’s worth of Friday night cover charges every time you drop it low?
Hit Claire’s, or a similarly inexpensive accessories store, for a small truckload of gems! H&M and other low-end stores tend to make knockoff versions of what’s on the runways, so for $5-$20, you can get a bunch of rings that you’re OK with having disappear with whatever bad decisions you make on Saturday night, then rotate them for next week’s fake-o jewels.
For your main staple, aka plain gold hoops: Check your local beauty supply store. They usually sell a pack of three size ranges, like these, for a few bucks.
Secondhand Vintage Clothes
When you’re Rihanna, you have the money to dig up elaborate, pristine century-old coats to wear as bathrobes. Unfortunately, this part of being Rih is not possible unless you’re actually loaded, but the rest of us can turn to the broke-girls’ outlet for one-of-a-kind old things: your local secondhand or thrift store. With several outlets per most American cities, and a constant supply of old shit, Goodwill is the best place to find unique pieces that make certain you can answer, “Sorry, I don’t really know where you can get another of these!” to those trying to jock your style.
Rihanna has, at many times, incorporated traditionally “tomboyish” pieces into her look. While l wish we could all call Puma and order a pair of custom boxer briefs, those oversized basketball shorts that took up residence in your house thanks to your college brother’s old basketball practices work perfectly, and they’re free! Cop the dude in your life’s huge, baggy gym clothes, or pick up your own in the men’s clothing section of your local megastore, like Target.
The Hair Plug
Rihanna’s hairstyles are as much a part of each of her outfits as her clothes. Her penchant for ever-changing bright colors and styles is common West Indian practice: Dancehall queens have always been about the weave caps! Unlike Rihanna, we don’t have first-class hairstylists like Ursula and Yusef in our crew. My solution: Find a friend that can do hair. This is not very hard, and if you ask around enough you can definitely find someone who will maintain your locks in their living room. lf you want tracks put in, make sure the person is certified (don’t let people play with your edges) and creative.
Underwear on Top
Rihanna has said that either she is wearing a bra or a top, but never both. While this might be the only scripture we will ever need, we are not swathed in La Perla separates. Still, it is very possible to get super-cute underwear on the cheap. American Apparel is obviously the holy land of cheap-ish, cute bralettes, but generally, fast-fashion stores have a pretty well-stocked selection of stuff for less than a weekly bus pass. Just remember that the more it looks like a training bra or a top, the less you might feel undressed but if you free the nipple like Muva Fenty, it barely matters.
Jeans rarely ever fit properly when you have curves (read: booty), and the gap around your belt loops usually makes a regular belt quite useless. Rihanna, just last year at Coachella, used the sleeves of her flannel shirt to hold up her cut offs. I’ve used ribbon, chains, rope—a braided belt is just fancy rope, gals—and even the strap of my fanny pack to hold my pants up. The ability to customize the length is key. If the belt isn’t really going to hold your pants up anyway, save on the leather goods and keep it all the way real with something that says: “This shit is here for decoration.” Go animal (as pictured above), plain chain, or whatever, really.
Sheer is Better
Rihanna’s tendency to be naked is probably, #actually, from years of running around in a country that averages 90 degrees all year round. Tropical culture says less is more, but Rihanna’s dedication to sheer clothing is unmatched. While I don’t have a source for a cheap Swarovski-encrusted body stocking, sheer clothing is easy to get inexpensively. This is the part where l fully endorse discount hood fashion stores like Rainbow, Pretty Girl, and Ross. (I prefer to call them “one-time fashion” stores since many items tend to disintegrate after a wear.) They are often less about classy knockoffs, and more about club trends. If you want to find a complete fishnet dress for $10, this is the place. Just remember sheer, mesh, and all “revealing” material are all about confidence, and no one acts more confident than Rihanna. Some great options are here, here, and here.
One Good Beauty Trick
In the islands, it’s way too hot to make lots of makeup an everyday thing thanks to humidity—while a constant supply of the sun’s natural D vitamins can do wonders for the glowiness of your skin, it can also melt cosmetics. In the heat, it’s better to spend your money on skincare and find yourself one good makeup trick to amp up your look.
My suggestion is always eye makeup, as that usually requires a purchase of ONE tube of something from a chain pharmacy. Rihanna may have a stellar team, but the icon still does her own cat eye. I would collect Maybelline Great Lash mascara in wild colors like royal blue and deep purple to ramp your eyes up. Painting bold lips = another great standalone beauty maneuver, and one Rihanna also does well. I mean, the best suggestion is probably just a simple tube of her own MAC lipstick (Ruby Woo is the only lipstick I know). The point is not cheap makeup, but a quick boost that can take you from blegh to Bo$$ a$$ B without making a whole day’s work out of it.
Sunglasses with Personality
Sunglasses are an island girl’s best accessory, after a good tan. Ms. Robyn’s collection is full of all sorts of funky shapes and styles. After all: This is the woman that introduced us to the luxe brand A-Morir‘s genius, and led a unisex sunglasses trend for close to three years. Of course, you can always cop Rihanna’s latest sunny style at a knockoff sunglass stand at your local rest stop or sidewalk, but sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile for a classic pair that will last over a couple summers. Best tip: Scour stores like Solstice and Sunglass Hut for sales!
So there are you are! Phresh off the runway and ready to talk shit. It takes a lot of creativity to be Rihanna without fashion designers kissing your feet, but remember, her style comes from her confidence. She looked good even when she didn’t have the means to luxuriate on yachts! You can, too. ♦
Judnick Mayard is a native New Yorker and lives in Brooklyn. She rants and raves on Twitter @judnikki.