Looking Back at Kim’s Style Evolution – Before & After Ye
| LAST UPDATE 11/03/2022
Kim is the first to admit her style has evolved - and her ex has everything to do with it. We're looking back at her most iconic fits pre, during, and post-Ye to see how she's become the fashion icon she is today.
Where It All Began
Not that she needs an introduction, but Kim Kardashian, formally known as Kim Kardashian West, is recognized as one of the most well-known faces in fashion. But it didn't always go down that way.
The reality-TV-star-turned-business-mogul has done it all. From her bold Balenciaga numbers to her show-stopping MET Gala looks, launching SKIMS, and everything in between, there is nothing Kim hasn't tried. But what really revolutionized her style was when she first met her now ex-husband...
Fashion in the early 2000s was mad confusing. We were wearing low-rise jeans with halter tops, belted dresses over leggings, micro-mini skirts, and chilling in velour tracksuits - embracing all things leisurewear but making it fash-un. Complicated, we know.
But we have a few style icons to thank for making these looks as memorable as they are today, starting with Kim Kardashian herself. However, Kim seemed to have a few signature looks of her own during the early 2000s - some of which we've recreated today and some of which we're still wondering about.
Following her relationship with Ray J, Kim Kardashian became the socialite dominating every headline. She became known as a style chameleon, constantly pushing fashion boundaries. But before she reached Vogue's cover level of fame, she was sporting platform stilettos like the rest of us.
The PK (pre-Kanye) Kim was all about being seen. At the beginning of her career, she was wearing a lot of sequins, tight body-con dresses, bold prints and colors, and massive sunglasses - a very different Kim than we're used to seeing now, that's for sure.
Always Camera Ready
At the beginning of her stardom, she was always extremely put together wherever she went. Her hair was always perfectly done, and her glam was always on point. Kim never dressed down no matter the outing, which instantly caught everyone's attention. And, well, helped it stay there.
Although her style has completely evolved from loud and colorful to monochromatic and leisurely over time, we can never forget some of her most noteworthy fashion moments that evidently made her who she is today. Before we credit Ye for his influence, there is one other muse we would like to credit…
Partying With Paris
For those who forgot, Kim's name was first put on the map thanks to the one and only Paris Hilton. Kardashian began working for Hilton as a closet organizer in the early 2000s. And eventually, their friendship reached new levels in 2006 when the pair became the talk of the town.
"We'd go anywhere and everywhere just to be seen," Kardashian said to Rolling Stone of her friendship with Hilton. And boy, were they seen. The duo quickly became known for their tight friendship, rocking bold fits with matching Louis Vuitton handbags and rolling through to the hottest parties in Los Angeles.
Goodbye Hervé Leger
During her nights out with Paris, or even during the day running errands in LA, Kim was rarely not spotted in a micro-mini dress. Her go-to? The classic bandage dress from Hervé Leger. “I would literally save up all my paychecks and go wait, stalk the girls that worked at Hervé, and just get all the new colors,” she recalled.
However, it was time to let go at one point - and we had stylist Monica Rose to thank. Following a 2007 Complex shoot, Kardashian asked Monica Rose to come to her house, look at her closet and help her do what she needed to do to "get on those best-dress lists." So Rose tossed out about 30 Hervé Leger bandage dresses, and the rest is history.
Right around the time Kim started partying with Paris, she and her sisters opened up a clothing store, DASH: a small boutique featuring pieces based on their personal styles and what was trending at the time. Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney opened their first shop in 2006. And it became an overnight success.
According to Kim, she "didn't think it would turn into what it turned into." But after Keeping Up with the Kardashians premiered in 2007, DASH blew up, and people wanted to dress like a Kardashian. However, after 11 years of operation, all their locations shut down. Though the sisters had plenty of other ventures to come...
Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Just months after the opening of DASH, the E! network picked up a new reality TV show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians - which would soon change the entire course of Kim's career. Not only would she finally achieve her goal of being famous, but she would also become perhaps the most famous person in the entire world.
Keeping Up With the Kardashians followed the entire Kardashian clan through their journey of hitting the pinnacle of success - plus all the drama and challenges that come with it. Our favorite, though? Watching how Kim's style took a total turn once she met Ye.
The Big 3-0
Before she was running the beauty industry with SKKN, Kim got her start in the beauty biz back in '09 with her signature Kim Kardashian Fragrance. Times were simple, Keeping Up was popping off, and people were fascinated by Kim and her fam. So naturally, the fragrance was born.
She introduced her signature fragrance to the market in 2010 with a major bash at Tao in Vegas, sporting a signature Kim look: a skin-tight black and nude lace-up dress with Christian Louboutin pumps. Funny enough, she celebrated her 30th birthday at Tao just a year later in another short, tight, metallic silver classic look.
Kim was thriving: Her show was a massive success, she began modeling, her fragrance was thriving - and she was finally invited to all the hottest events. At this point, she was in the epitome of her "sexy-style" phase when she was invited to the Grammy Awards in 2011. And it didn't quite go as planned.
As she, herself revealed, her gold Kaufman Franco gown was nothing short of a "fashion emergency." Not only was she initially not able to fit into it, but her racy look found its way onto several "worst dressed" roundups. However, this would be one of the last classic Kim fits before she began dating Ye. Things were about to change.
At around the same time, Kim and Kris Humphries had just gotten divorced, and her and Ye began linking up. When the two began dating, The College Dropout artist was already known in the fashion world with his Air Yeezys deal with Nike, his shoe line for Louis Vuitton, his own fashion label, DW Kanye West, and more.
By that point in his career, he had already achieved enormous success in the music biz and was ready to tackle his true love, fashion. Ye soon became responsible for completely changing Kim's look, controlling her wardrobe, monitoring her outfits, and reinventing her style in a way never anticipated.
After the two had gone public, Ye was introduced on the reality show as Kim's beau - and evidently as her stylist. During an episode of Keeping Up, Kim confesses Kanye told her she had "the worst style" he had ever seen before, replacing her entire closet with designers she had never even heard of before.
"Our whole trade-off was that if I got rid of my clothes, he'd fill up my closet," Kim explained during a confessional. "But now I'm freaking out. Like, I could literally cry." Following the closet purge, the SKIMS mogul underwent a transformation incomparable to anything ever done before - thanks to the Yeezy mastermind.
The MET Mess
The year was 2013, and the Kardashians were not running the MET Gala carpets quite yet. Kim was Kanye's plus-one at the time, and in a tweet, she later wrote she was "so nervous" about attending because "no one wanted me [her] there." Upon enormous backlash surrounding her attendance, Kim admitted she "cried the whole way home."
For the gala, she wore a Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy floral gown with matching floral shoes and a reddish lip that she chose herself while pregnant with their first child, North. Despite the fit being Ye-approved, the internet went wild comparing her look to Robin Williams' character in Mrs. Doubtfire.
Climbing the Fashion Ladder
Regardless of the shady comments, Kim had finally made it to the MET Gala and was even making those "best dressed" lists she wanted to be on - seemingly thanks to Mr. West. But it wasn't easy. "I got killed because of this," Riccardo Tisci recalled of agreeing to dress Ye's muse. "But I didn't care."
"In the beginning, I met her because of my respect for Kanye, and then I liked her a lot, and we became friends," he elaborated to Details. "But I didn't care. That is a friend, you see. And that is why, when they got married, they asked me to dress them." Sure enough, Tisci designed Kim's flashy half-a-million-dollar gown come 2014.
Celebrating Love (in Balmain)
Speaking of her marriage, it was crucial Ye gave his stamp of approval for all of Kim's final fits - during the entire wedding week in Paris leading up to the main event in Italy. Two nights before they said "I do," Kim hosted a girl's night where she wore one of her first and most iconic Balmain dresses (chosen by Ye, of course).
Very different from her first bachelorette party at Tao in Vegas wearing Herve Leger and a pink sash, Kim stunned in a powder blue, pearl-embellished Balmain dress from Oliver Rousteing's treasure trove worth around $20,000. Again very different from her night out in Vegas, Rousteing even came to the hotel to personally dress her.
Blonde at Balmain
It didn't take long before Kim and Oliver became tight, and the French fashion designer started dressing her frequently, becoming one of his top clients and muses. "I love dressing her; she's a different body type to the models on my catwalk - she's part of my world," he told Harper's Bazaar.
So where better to debut a new 'do than a Balmain show during Paris Fashion Week? Kardashian showed off her platinum blonde hair sitting front row during the event, and people were buzzing. However, according to Kim, "Kanye likes the blonde," so we know whose idea that was...
From her platinum locks to her red carpet looks, Ye was the brains behind it all. So, each year when it came down to the most important event in fashion, the MET Gala, there was a ton of pressure riding on the couple. In 2019, the theme was Camp: Notes on Fashion, and Kim stole the show. But with a few critiques from Ye.
According to Kim, he convinced her to remove a part of her Thierry Mugler dress he didn't like because it was "too sexy," despite the theme presenting an "artifice and exaggeration" element. However, she later revealed on an episode of The Real that she agreed with West's decision, despite the backlash.
Bringing Back the ’90s
By this point, West had total control of Kim's style - even down to the shades she wore. The SKIMS mogul revealed once, "[Kanye] sent me a whole email like, 'You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It's all about tiny little glasses,'" she said. "He sent me, like, millions of '90s photos with tiny little glasses."
Looking back at her style evolution, Kim does credit all these minor and major changes to West. "I really think that my relationship with my husband Kanye changed everything," she told CNN Style in 2016. "I mean, back in the day, I thought I had the best style. I look back at outfits, and I'm, like, mortified."
So, naturally, as Yeezy hit the height of its success, Kim became a walking advertisement for the clothing and shoe empire. "I literally just wear all of the Yeezy samples," she told People in 2018. "I basically get this wardrobe, and I don't have to think too much about it. It's a fun process of figuring it all out."
"I'm totally inspired by Kanye and the Yeezy team - and listen to the advice of everyone over there who is making all the clothes," she added. During her Yeezy era, Kim was constantly vibing with the neutral tones of the brand's leisurewear and outerwear; she even admitted to wearing "nine different Yeezy outfits in one day."
Everyone's Dressed by Ye
However, Kim wasn't the only family member being dressed by Ye. During West's Yeezy 3 fashion presentation in 2016, Kim showed up to support her husband with her entire family by her side, and they were all dressed in similar pastel colors and fur textures - per Kanye West's fashion memo.
Following the iconic show held at Madison Square Garden in 2016, Ye gave a special shoutout to Oliver Rousting for helping him design the Kardashian clan's outfits for the show - while also claiming partial credit for the overall look. Regardless, this was one of the family's most memorable looks to date.
The Queen of Leisurewear
If there were ever one clothing item we were sure would never come back into style from the 80s, it was the classic biker shorts. But trust Kim Kardashian to be responsible for bringing this trend back to life... and trust Kanye West to have led her there.
Kim was way ahead of the fashion trend when she began sporting cycling shorts in 2016 after Kanye debuted the shorts during his Yeezy Season 4 show. Since then, The Kardashians star and her sisters are often photographed wearing the leisurewear with matching tops or paired with heels to dress the look up.
Not only did Kim become the queen of vintage pieces, thanks to Ye, she soon became the queen of head-to-toe dressing. Starting with her head-to-toe fitted neutrals for almost every look a few years back, Kim's consistent matching style expanded to widths we had never seen before.
Inspired by Ye's tendency to dress in similar tones, Kim spearheaded the monochromatic trend by dressing exclusively in head-to-toe matching colors, prints, and textures. From her iconic bondage-inspired Balenciaga outfit (which even included a leather zip-up face mask) to her more "casual" looks, Kim was onto something.
From Yeezy to SKIMS
Ye's love of fashion eventually influenced Kim to create SKIMS, her fashion baby. The shapewear and clothing brand was first established in 2019. And since then, it has popped off after all the hype the brand received for its incredible quality and fashion-forward pieces.
The classic neutral-toned SKIMS pieces are often comparable to Kanye's Yeezy, which aesthetically took over the fashion world. According to Kanye, "SKIMS is based on a lot of the Yeezy ideas," and it was because of his "relationships in fashion" that people said, "I'm down to wear Kim's line."
Tapped by Balenciaga
Following one of her most career-defining moments of all time, launching SKIMS welcomed into the fashion world like never before. Thanks to West's relationship with Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, Kim became the Balenciaga "it" girl... and Demna's muse for many looks to come.
Despite their split, Kim was frequently spotted wearing head-to-toe Balenciaga and even wore one of Demna's creations to the 2021 MET Gala (without Ye). However, the head-to-toe, fully masked, all-black get-up was actually inspired by West, who always helped Kim "push creativity and people's imagination through art."
As we know, the two officially split in early 2021. But Kim was making her name in the fashion world without Ye's name attached. Following the viral MET Gala look, she began exclusively wearing Balenciaga to some of her most important events, like hosting Saturday Night Live.
However, following the news of the divorce, people immediately began to question how Kim's wardrobe would change without her "stylist" being present. The entire world had seen her looks completely evolve over the years thanks to Ye. And, well, what now?
Finding Her Own Groove
During an episode of The Kardashians, Kim told her sisters she "got to a point where I [she] would just ask him for advice for everything, down to what I [she] wear." Following their split, she began experiencing "panic attacks" over what to wear. The 42-year-old confessed that choosing a look took a toll "psychologically" on her.
However, if there is anyone who can figure it out, it's the reality star-turned-lawyer. Throughout 2022, Kardashian nailed her own personal style, and in the meantime, even became the official face of Balenciaga's Fall 2022 campaign -without any help from her ex-husband. But it definitely wasn't easy for her to get there...
"Career Ending" Decision
During an episode of The Kardashians, Kim admitted it was hard for her to wear something that hadn't been "prevetted" by Kanye first. So when she did attend the Wall Street Journal Innovator Awards without Ye's outfit approval, he was, um, less than impressed by her style choices.
Kim wore a brown leather dress from her Skims x Fendi collection, paired with snakeskin-print shoes and matching gloves, creating an outfit she was proud of. But Ye felt otherwise. Kim told Kourtney he called her to tell her her "career's over" and compared her outfit to Marge Simpson after seeing what she put together without him.
MET 2022 Backlash
Around this time, she faced more backlash surrounding another fashion choice of hers: when she stepped out for the 2022 MET Gala. Although she started her MET Gala journey as a plus one, her outfit choices quickly became what the crowd waited for each year. And this year was no different (especially following her 2021 look).
And she definitely didn't disappoint when she arrived on the carpet sporting Marilyn Monroe's famous "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" gown. However, scandal quickly surrounded her look, as spectators questioned if she should have worn the dress and claimed she permanently damaged the delicate sequins after returning the vintage item.
However, fans were also quick to comment on Kim's fashion change post-Ye. One Twitter user wrote, "Ye leveled Kim's fashion game up. Kim was awful with fashion before Ye. She knew no one. She was out of style and lost. Kim tells it in her own words, and it was chronicled on their reality show."
Despite fashion being something she's "always been really into," Kim herself admits Ye was the brains behind it all. He "would come in and be like, 'You should do your hair like this. You should do your makeup like this.' That's his love language, it's clothes," she said. So when they split, fans immediately began to perk up.
Ultimate Style Icon
Nonetheless, while critics will always have something to say, it seems her hold on fashion is immeasurable. Between launching SKIMS, becoming the face of Balenciaga, spearheading all the current trends, and even being named a fashion icon per the People's Choice Awards - what can't she do?
Kim Kardashian has influenced fashion in almost incomprehensible ways over her years in the limelight. But, when it comes down to it, we can't help but wonder how different things would have looked, literally, if Ye hadn't stepped into her life all those years ago…