Lil Kim

Rebecca Romijn interviews rapper Lil Kim (in a boobie onesie outfit) at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo: MTV

Thinking back on the most iconic VMA fashion moments of all-time, most everyone's top 10, maybe even top 5, will include these four standbys: Lady Gaga's meat dress, Madonna's bridal "Like A Virgin" moment, Britney Spears' accessory python, and of COURSE, that time Lil Kim wore a purple onesie to the 1999 VMAs with her left boob hanging out. In our opinion, it's always a fitting year to relive this magical show-stopping sartorial moment, but it's even more appropriate given this year marking not only the Video Music Awards' return to New York (the 1999 show took place at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center), but ALSO given we're breaking new ground in Kimmy Blanco's hometown of Brooklyn.

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Jay Z

Rebecca Romijn interviews rapper Jay-Z (in Rocawear) at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo: MTV

Talk about a Throwback Thursday! Back before Kanye West was selling out high fashion white tee collaborations, before A$AP Rocky was a fashion killa, there was a Brooklyn boy by the name of Jay Z (though, it had a hyphen then) building himself from a businessman into a "business, man" with a little streetwear line he dubbed Rocawear. Using Roc-A-Fella Records as the foundation, Mr. Shawn Carter and his long-time business partner Damon Dash decided they would spin the MC's success into other creative business avenues. Before Hov was rocking Tom Ford, he was making a sartorial name for the R-O-C. And on what red carpet did Jay rep Rocawear in its debut year? The 1999 VMAs, DUH.

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cindy crawford

'House of Style' host Cindy Crawford in 1991.
Photo: MTV

If you’re too young to remember House of Style, you may not remember the fashion news show Style with Elsa Klensch that ran on CNN from 1980-2001. Elsa Klensch was this awesome native Australian with a somewhat severe countenance and blunt bangs. She loved a bold blazer with a statement necklace and delivered the goings on within the industry with a gravitas that allowed fashion coverage to appear completely at home on a news channel. She had a fashion media pedigree that was rigorous, with editorial stints at Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily and Harper’s Bazaar. In many ways, Elsa legitimized high fashion and made it “high brow.”

And that’s exactly why House of Style had to exist. We all loved Style… on CNN and even Canada’s Fashion Television (with the formidable Jeanne Beker) but intellectualizing the narrative behind fashion can make an already inaccessible industry seem even more daunting despite the plain fact that every single one of us wears clothes. Young people who couldn’t pronounce haute couture let alone afford it needed an accessible, non-judgey place to learn about self-expression and experimentation and that’s where MTV came in.

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house of style

Photo: MTV

As promised, today marks the launch date of our documentary, House of Style: Music, Models, and MTV, commemorating the return of the fashion news show. Sure, we created an exhaustive archive outlining all the episodes we were able to clear from the original 1989-2002 run, but we also wanted to create a package of what the show intended to do, why it was gobsmackingly prescient for the time, and how the thematic throughlines remain relevant today.

The 22-minute short serves as part oral history, with interviews from producers like Alisa Bellettini, Dave Sirulnick and Chad Hines. They talk about what they’d intended to do with the new show, what it was like spearheading one of the cable network’s first forays into non-music programming, and how a supermodel host combined with the floodlight of MTV’s reach helped transmogrify the fashion industry into pop culture.

The doc also includes new interviews with Anna Sui, Todd Oldham, and Cynthia Rowley, designers who occasionally served as hosts and were heavily involved while learning broadcast media on the fly. And of course, the round out would be incomplete without our hosts Rebecca Romijn and the unforgettable Cindy Crawford about what is was like for models to be granted the chance to talk and show their personalities.

There are a great many anecdotes about how fast, bootleg and hilarious it was cobbling certain segments together (resident DIY warlock and master of goodwill Todd Oldham recounts a funny story of Crawford’s side-eye regarding a hacked-up combat boot) but the interesting thing about this retrospective is that we can now view the show through the lens of time and it’s genuinely startling to consider its foresight. This time capsule is not some cobweb-riddled nostalgia trap filled with sticky, petrified butterscotch discs and doilies, there are genuine cultural milestones and benchmarks that we’re simply grateful to have rediscovered.

We also talk with contemporary designers like Christian Siriano, Jeremy Scott (who remembers House of Style as his umbilical chord to the fashion world when he was GROWING UP ON A FARM, a literal farm, not a raw food SoulCycle ashram or similar), Charlotte Ronson, as well as models Coco Rocha and Karlie Kloss as to the resonance of the show. And the symbiotic relationship between music and fashion with artists like Simon LeBon and John Taylor from Duran Duran (!!!), Theophilus London, Rita Ora and Azealia Banks.

If you could believe such a thing, the MTV House of Style team has spent the entire weekend emailing each other on whether or not we should include an Oxford comma in the title of the doc. That, ladies and germs, is the level of crazypants dedication applied to our short so you best (as in, pleasepleaseplease) recognize.

Special S/O also goes out to Reed Morano our sick-ass DP who was the cinematographer on that one LCD Soundsystem doc, Shut Up and Play The Hits, Nicola Darrach our very sleep-deprived director and the homie Nate Ford who has been editing this badboy for a duration that seems to have aged him significantly in the face and hair. We hope you enjoy it.

+ HOUSE OF STYLE: MUSIC, MODELS, AND MTV


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sofia coppola spike jonze

Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze at the X-Girl streetwear fashion show in 1994.
Photo: MTV

The late-’80s and ’90s gave a lot of look. Some good. Some tragic. We had Cross Colours, baby barrettes, metal lunchboxes used as purses, over-plucked eyebrows, all-velvet-everything, crochet, chokers, clogs, Contempo Casuals, JNCO, Chanel in pastel terry cloth—it was a crazy time.

No matter what you wore, who you aspired to wear or just how many sartorial regrets you have, one thing was certain—it was a celebration of experimentation and personal style.

Now, I realize that my statement is skewed by my having been a child during the period. Someone who was susceptible to things like blue hair dye, small T-shirts, large trousers, and a brief flirtation with thinking tongue rings were cool. But the resonance of the years can’t be denied in terms of what it meant for street style.

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linda evangelista cindy crawford naomi campbell christy turlington

Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington in the Gianni Versace fashion show, 1991.
Photo: Maria Valentino/ MCV Photo

Once upon a time, let’s call it the ’90s, a handful of women ruled the world. They were called supermodels and you couldn’t swivel your head without colliding into an image of one or more of these bodacious babes. The supermodel industrial complex was some kind of powerful—billboards, magazine covers, cosmetics and fragrance campaigns—it seemed like this tight-knit clique and their logo-like faces dominated every inch of American and International advertising real estate. They made millions.

While it’s undisputed that these girls were successful, there’s heated debate surrounding what constitutes a supermodel. Does Beverly Johnson? What about Janice Dickinson? Gia Carangi? Jean Shrimpton? For us, we’re talking about the “It” girls of the decade— Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Helena Christensen. And even then the circle gets a bit elliptical, extending to include Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann, Eva Herzigova, Veronica Webb, Stephanie Seymour, Yasmeen Ghauri, Carla Bruni, and Yasmin Le Bon—depending on the occasion. Whatever permutation of names you ascribe to, one thing’s certain, the supermodel era was a fascinating, outrageous and wholly unique time that’s never been replicated since.

Honestly, I can’t remember a time when Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Christy, Claudia and Helena weren’t famous. Just as some of you are too young to remember just how big deal these girls were. But if you look at the very first House of Style that aired in the summer of 1989, you’ll notice two things. One, Cindy Crawford was beautiful. Two, Cindy Crawford was breathtakingly young. To wit: Cindy Crawford was not yet Cindy Crawford.

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Cindy Crawford Will Smith House of Style

Cindy Crawford and Will Smith on 'House of Style.'
Photo: MTV

Picking out my favorite House of Style segment was a TOTAL no-brainer. Anything involving the words "fresh," "prince" and "fashion" immediately make my ears perk up, and thanks to this revived episode from 1990, we get to relive host Cindy Crawford visiting a young (and dapper!) Will Smith on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Getting behind-the-scenes access to one of our favorite '90s shows is enough to make our brains explode, but when Cindy and Will get together, there's an undeniable chemistry that is just TOO GOOD to not share. (And by "undeniable chemistry" we basically mean Will is hardcore hitting on Cindy the entire time, and she totally takes the bait. LOVE.)

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Cindy Crawford, Tracey Ullman

Cindy Crawford plays dress-up with comedian Tracey Ullman at The Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1990.
Photo: MTV

So what if I was swaddled in diapers when House Of Style premiered in 1989? And so what if I wasn't even BORN when The Tracey Ullman Show first hit airwaves? Does that mean I can't appreciate, nay, fall COMPLETELY head-over-heels over the glowing junction of pop culture where the two intersect? Not at all. Out of the bananas deluge of classic House of Style clips we've resurrected for our collection (around 170!!), this bit from Episode 5 wherein Tracey Ullman and Cindy Crawford rendezvous at the Plaza Hotel to play dress up in seeeeerious designer duds is hands down my favorite. To the point where my face is paralyzed in a permanent smile attack and my cheeks feel like they're about to fall off and regenerate a new set.

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Cindy Crawford in Versace.
Photo: MTV

Could I be more excited about House Of Style? No. I couldn't. If I was, I would explode. Literally. And that would be gross. It's taken more than a little bit of willpower not to tell everyone I've ever met what we've been up to around these parts, but all the tight-lipped waiting was totally worth it for this moment. Our esteemed Senior Editor Mary H.K. Choi has already given you the low down on what it took to put this endeavor together, some of the amazing gems contained within the archive, and why HOS is really, really important. You should really read her posts on each of the episodes, you'll laugh your ass off and also learn A LOT about fashion. For me personally, House Of Style is an amazing opportunity for just that: through the archive I'm learning about one of the most important sartorial and cultural eras in recent history, and it almost feels like I'm there. I was alive when House Of Style was on the air, but, well, my interests at the time lay more in Rainbow Brite, riding my bike to the Sav-On for candy, and wearing leggings with giant t-shirts than to what was happening in the world of high fashion. I also cared A LOT about Madonna and buying CDs to put in my orange Discman. Now I have my priorities more in line, and though I still love Madonna and candy, I've moved on from the leggings, and I want to understand the time in which I grew up. For this, HOS is a veritable miracle.

Besides making me frantically dig through my closet for that Betsey Johnson velvet fit 'n' flare dress I wore to that bat mitzvah over a decade ago, watching these episodes is really making me feel some feelings. In episode 07, Cindy Crawford takes us to the Gianni Versace AIDS Fundraiser, and the clip perfectly illustrates everything that's both wonderful and also kind of poignant about the show. Maybe it was because it was before the dawn of reality TV, but there's something about the way that the models and celebrities interact with the camera, and with the fact that they're being interviewed, that's diametrically different from the way people approach being on television today. There seems to be a lack of facade, and a huge amount of sweetness inherent in every interview that Cindy does at the event. It could also be because AIDS was weighing heavily on everyone's minds in 1991. When the episode first aired, the virus was spreading like a wildfire that people were just beginning to see the utterly devastating repercussions of.

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Cindy Crawford, Jon StewartCindy Crawford and Jon Stewart have a "girl" day."
Photo: MTV

Full disclosure: I love the '90s. I own wayyy too much floral for one person to possibly wear (we're talking backpack, tops, pants, accessories, and even shoes). I'm still obsessed with '90s music, from Celine Dion to Beastie Boys to Ma$e. And, I owe it to Cindy, Rebecca, Shalom, and all the other small town-girls-turned-supermodels for inspiring me to take the plunge and move to New York...even though I definitely wouldn't be walking the runway myself. I used to watch House of Style with my "cool" babysitters as a kid- you know, the ones who let you stay up late and play with their makeup- and even though I still a baby and didn't understand it back in the day, I'm thrilled that the show has finally gotten the second life it deserves. Now that the HOS archive has hit the internet, everyone can indulge in the retro awesomeness that is House of Style, whether or not you're experiencing it for the first time.

My favorite moment is from episode 29, long after I've already become acquainted with the show and my not-so-secret girl crush on Cindy is in full gear. But when MTV goes and throws one of my ultimate dude crushes, Jon Stewart, into the mix, at that point let's just say I'm a total goner. The unforgettable clip shows Jon and Cindy having a self-proclaimed "girl day," swinging by Cindy's modeling agency, getting pedicures, and hitting the gym.

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MTV Style follows how people express themselves through fashion and beauty, from our favorite pop culture icons to you, the reader. We cover the fun, loud side of the industry with news, trends, interviews, videos, and more — MTV Style is fashion at full volume.

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Editorial Director
Sophia Rai
Editor
Gaby Wilson
Editorial Assistant
Maeve Keirans
Editor-at-Large
Mary H.K. Choi

Featured Comment

I love these two as a couple. What a festive way to celebrate two important events in their life. Mariah looks like a dream.

Posted by Journey on Mariah Carey And Nick Cannon Shut Down Disneyland To Renew Vows In Cinderella-Themed Ensembles
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