Scrolling through images of outfits worn over the years by Kim Kardashian West, who turns 40 today, one thing remains consistent throughout: how confident she looks in even the most questionable of them.
Kim Kardashian West in a vintage Alexander McQueen oyster gown at Vanity Fair’s Oscars after-party earlier this year. Scroll through the gallery to see more images of her fashion through the years. Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The Paris Hilton phase
Long before Kardashian West was a household name, it was her friendship with Paris Hilton that kickstarted her fashion career. The soon-to-be reality TV star (“KUWTK” first aired in 2007) was hired by the hotel heiress as personal stylist and assistant, picking out looks for “The Simple Life” and even making a few appearances on the show.
Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian in 2006. Credit: Christopher Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images
But it proved that the budding influencer knew how to own — and hone — trends. And now she’s proving she can bring them back again: The latest collection from her shapewear brand Skims is made from that most 2000s of fabrics, velour.
The range, which drops today in time for the star’s birthday, features hoodies, wide-leg pants, joggers, bandeau tops and crew neck tanks. It’s both a throwback and, potentially, a very smart business move, given our new work-from-home lifestyles.
Made for TV
As “KUWTK” arrived on our screens and turned the female-led clan into America’s most marketable family, Kardashian West established herself as the show’s star and best-known member. Her style adapted accordingly.
Dressing to create memorable TV moments rather than fashion-worthy ones, she embraced eye-catching accessories — cheetah print shoes, big belts, outsized sunglasses — while using her screen time to plug wildly patterned outfits from Dash, the (now defunct) apparel chain the Kardashian sisters launched in 2006.
Kardashian West attends the Badgley Mischka swimwear fashion show at Miami Beach. Credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images
This was also the period that saw Kardashian West emerge as the queen of the bandage dress. First popularized in the mid-to-late 90s by French label Hervé Léger, the form-fitting, ultra-tight silhouette became a firm favorite — as did its designer. She even had her wax figure at Madame Tussauds don a Hervé Léger number, which she of course matched at its unveiling in New York in 2010.
Transition to high fashion
If one were to pinpoint the year Kardashian West began transitioning towards a sleeker style, it’d be 2012. And if one were to ask why, the answer would be: Kanye West.
Kardashian West pictured with Kanye at the 2014 Met Gala. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
West’s drastic intervention seemingly challenged Kardashian West to approach fashion in an entirely new way. In the span of just a few seasons, excessive layering, ski-high heels and bold prints made way for a muted palette of beige, black and white.
Kardashian West attends Balmain’s show at Paris Fashion Week in 2016. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
While staying true to her sexpot aesthetic, Kardashian West’s choices became either increasingly minimal and toned down, or edgier and couture, with asymmetric cutouts, glammed-up silhouettes, elaborate lace and beading — think of the white Balmain mini dress she wore to her 2014 bachelorette party in Paris, or the dazzling Jean-Paul Gaultier gown from the 2015 Grammys. There’s been lots of strategically placed sheer fabric, too, and Kardashian West has taken sheerness to the extreme by flaunting looks that came to be known as her “naked dresses.”
Being married to the man behind Yeezy, Kardashian West has had a polarizing effect on athleisure, having elevated the genre as both an influencer and businesswoman.
Kim Kardashian West and her daughter North at a Yeezy showcase for New York Fashion Week in 2015. Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Around the same time, she brought back spandex bike shorts, also as part of the Yeezy collection, and made them a thing before anyone else. “I got roasted on (bike shorts) … And of course, everyone was wearing (them) two years later,” she told Vogue.
In 2019, she started her own line of lounge and shapewear, Skims, which caters to a diverse range of body types and skin tones. She applies the same minimalist aesthetic that she’s embraced in her everyday wardrobe to the entire range, which spans bodysuits, high-rise shorts, underwear and more.
Kardashian West may have just burst out of a giant cake in a bikini top and translucent pants in the build-up to her 40th birthday celebrations, but she has, in her own way, come of age.