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Dancehall, reggae, and reggaeton music are integral to the roots of Caribbean history.
Jamaica-born artists such as Buju Banton, Mr. Vegas, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Shabba Ranks, and Nadine Sutherland shaped the Jamaican music scene in the 90s, with songs pounding through Dance halls, clubs, and streets.
Dancehall style was (and is) defined by sensuality, sexiness, skin, and celebrating the female body.
Sidenote: If you’re unfamiliar with dancehall or reggaeton-style dancing, there are many YouTube tutorials and classes to get you started! A great way to stay sane during isolation (2020, you know what I mean).
There are also some great documentaries on the culture:
Here are some of our favorite dancehall fashion looks and how to style them.
Booty shorts and crop tops
Dancehall moves celebrate the female figure, especially the hips, legs, waistline, and booty. If you’ve ever taken a whining class or whined in your room, you’ll be well aware!
Tight hot pants or booty shorts paired with a skimpy crop top showed the beauty of the movement and kept the dancer cool in the heat of the club. The modern Caribbean queen Rihanna has worn this combo many times, (our favourite was her outfit at the 2011 V Festival).
- Add an extra layer of coverage and comfort with stockings under your short-shorts when hitting the town
- If showing leg and tummy is a little out of your comfort zone, try a fitted, short, denim playsuit and unbutton (or unzip) to create a customizable V-neckline
Full spandex bodysuits
Full spandex bodysuits in bright colours and crazy patterns were a dancehall favourite, showing the movement of the body while hugging the curves. Bodysuits often featured large cutouts to show skin and were worn with boots and bright wigs.
- Look for a pair of bright, patterned spandex leggings with a high-shine finish, and pair with a breathable cotton crop top and shirt knotted at the waist
- Layer a full bodysuit with a leather jacket or long-line plaid shirt to fuse 90s dancehall and 90s grunge
Bright or platinum blonde wigs were popular among Dancehall beauties in the 90s, a further sign of the fun and performative nature of Dancehall. Some wigs were glitzy, with tinsel-style strands and an array of color. Other hairstyles featured teased hair piled atop the head, or various textures such as crimps, braids, curls, or short, angular cuts.
- Play with colour by experimenting with temporary colored hair-dye and sprays at home
- Volumize the hair by backcombing the roots, and finish off with a high-gloss serum or spray to lacquer-up those lengths
- For dance parties and clubs, go all out with a metallic tinsel or glitter wig in a pastel or bright hue
Leather and fishnets
90s dancehall style often consisted of fishnet stockings worn under teeny tiny leather booty shorts or mini-dresses with knee-high leather boots or stilettos. Leather bustiers, leather pants with bikini tops, tight jackets, and corset-style bodysuits brought an edgy sexiness to the dancefloor, and a contrast to the glitzy and bright styles also common to Dancehall fashion.
- Look for a black leather or faux leather mini dress with a front zip closure or wrap style, and layer with sheer tights and fishnets
- Try a leather wrap mini skirt and fishnets paired with a denim shirt knotted at the waist (a la Rihanna at the V Festival previously mentioned)
Metallic, glitz, boots, and lots of skin
We turn to the utter legend Carlene Smith, the Dancehall Queen. Carlene’s 90s looks were over the top, with metallic fabrics, sequins, transparent mesh, and thigh-high boots.
For example, a black mesh bodysuit trimmed with black sequins barely covering the nipples, or a ruffle-trimmed white leotard with high-shine gold metallic thigh boots. The looks celebrated the curves of a womanly body while shining bright under party lights.
- Lucky for us, sequins are back big time, so there are plenty of high-quality and affordable sequin pieces on the market. Find a glitzy mini skirt and pair with fishnets, knee-high boots, and a slouchy cropped sweater that falls off the shoulder
- Try a metallic mini-dress with a draped cowl neckline and low back. Pair with high stilettos and matching metallic eyeshadow. It’s Vegas, it’s camp, it’s fun, it’s worthy of a night out