kinderwhore

LONG LIVE KINDERWHORE

LONG LIVE KINDERWHORE

by Emily Phillips
4 min
kinderwhore
Givenchy ©

Playful, precious and perversive, the ‘Kinderwhore’ aesthetic was brought into being by Babes in Toyland frontwoman Kat Bjelland who was spotted, peroxide blonde hair unkempt, in the late 80s. But the Lolita-esque aesthetic didn’t make it into mainstream pop-culture until alt-rock queen Courtney Love of female-fronted band, Hole, debuted her signature baby-doll-meets-heroin-chic look in the early 90s.

 

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Coined by grunge-enthusiast and Melody Maker journalist Everett True, it was a way of dressing that worked to question the cultural importance of typical beauty standards and to subvert the most constraining aspects of ‘good-girl’ tropes that women were expected to uphold. It used dainty, baby-doll frocks, requisite fishnets or lace tights tarnished from cigarettes, Mary Janes, an achromatic colour palette and a whole mess of tits.

Now, at the hands of some of the industry’s greatest creators, a sudden nostalgic resurgence has brought back this subversive style for a campy upgrade. Kinderwhore was originally an offshoot of the grunge movement that dominated from the 80s through to the mid 90s. Rising from the ashes of punk and heavy-metal, grunge started in Seattle as a self-satirising joke between local bands. It was a feverishly high-jinx bid for authenticity and anarchy that acted to both dissolve and retort the banalities of suburban life and Generation X’s frustration with the side effects of the 80s economic upswing.

 

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The catwalk came into play when Calvin Klein stepped onto the scene with slinky slips and lingerie-layering for SS93 while that same year Marc Jacobs dropped his culture-shocking grunge collection for Perry Ellis. Grunge was just getting its grip when a subcultural divergence occurred and Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland’s feminine, love-child look, formed from Victorian-tinged dresses, vertiginous platforms and purposefully symbolic smeared red lips – a strong feminist statement – was officially born.

In line with a popular cultural theory that suggests the trends of previous decades are resurrected and revised approximately every 30 years, it’s no surprise that hidden in plain sight for the past three years, building up its confidence with each peter pan collar, Kinderwhore was slowly worming its way back into fashion. Recall recent show stopping designs like the Medusa Aevitas platform heels from Versace’s AW21 collection and Ashley Williams’ recent seasons full of playful, Victorian-influenced designs.

 

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A post shared by Versace (@versace)

Capturing the zeitgeist, the Kinderwhore revival is characterised by the same perverted and sexy subversion of the ‘good-girl’ archetype that has defined it from its Bjelland days. It’s in the layering and ultra-high hemlines that appeared at Givenchy; the eye-catching campy colours and plaid suiting at Shuting Qiu; the modern-day-Marie-Antoinette offering from Shushu Tong; the pleated, tartan skirts, balloon shoulders and puritan collars at Yueqi Qi and Chopova Lowena. However, this time around you can ditch the muted palette and instead opt for bold, kaleidoscopic colours and Pantone pastels. The subversive aesthetic also appears more prim and polished, now – a change that’s a bit more Insta-safe than radically feminist.

It’s dramatic, dainty and daring, making it one of the most vibrant, unconventional trends for the coming year. But it feels optimistic, and if you ask us, Kinderwhore couldn’t have come back at a better time. If we’re dressing for dopamine, we need a little camp.

 

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