Bad-Girl Style

An article in the New York Times offers an affectionate tribute to Amy Winhouse’s style, giving her credit for creating a unique look based on several Bad-Girl templates.

The article reminded me of how many girls still try to imitate Bettie Page. There are millions of clones out there with dyed black bangs and deep red lipstick, all going for the same trampy   rockabilly look. With all due respect, it’s a look I’m really sick of.   I think it should be saved for Halloween or costume parties.

The article also led me to the work of Karlheinz Weinberger, a Swiss photographer whose pictures of sleazy hooligans and teenage delinquents made him famous among artists and intelligentsia. Looking at his work, I finally undertand the aesthetic that Gnarlitude Jen and her ilk are so infatuated with.

Biker  paraphernalia, big messy hair, tough sullen expressions, it’s all there in Weinberger’s old photos. It’s a look that I personally affected when I was around twelve years old, trying to copy the tough Mexican gang girls who represented rebellion. By fourteen, though, I was over it.

Today, the only way to be a style rebel would be to dress inconspicuously.

Still, I’m happy to remember Amy as an original force in style as well as music. Her mixture of   50s and 60s influences, punk, pin-up, tough, girlie, retro and rapper, added up to something fresh, defiant and  irresistible.

God bless her, and all bad girls everywhere.

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8 Responses to Bad-Girl Style

  1. annemarie says:

    Those photos are totally bizarre. I love John Waters’s quote: “Karlheinz Weinberger is Swiss??! You’re kidding me.” That’s exactly what I thought. It’s also weird to see the love of Elvis displayed amid all the safety pins and ripped denim. What would the patrons of Graceland think!

    I’m also a little sick of the rockabilly/Vargas girl look (ubiquitous where I live) but I love Amy’s style. It’s very ska.

  2. At one point, every girl in Hoxton (painfully, literally, trendy part of London) was dressed like Amy. Crap beehives, scrappy floral mini dresses and heavy eyeliner. It meant I really couldn’t be bothered with the Sixties look for a while, for fear of being judged as one of them.

  3. honeypants says:

    I LOVE those photos! I just posted the link on Facebook – I’m sorry! I love you!


    And yeah, the Bettie Page look is sooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired.

  4. Brittany says:

    I agree with you that, “Today, the only way to be a style rebel would be to dress inconspicuously.” It’s hard to shop, dress, and listen to music without a forbearing consciousness of what’s socially acceptable, or acceptably unacceptable. I’ve grown quite tired of Lady Gaga, not just because of her omniscient fame and infamy, but because she claims that her style is somehow innate. I’ll be interested to see how she dresses once the bizarre trend is no longer a trend, but mainstream- to see if she remains true to her innate style, or decides to separate herself. Jeffery Campbell is trying to make it mainstream.
    Though she may be a tired example, in her downtime Angelina Jolie dresses very similar now to the way she dressed in the early 90s.
    It bothers me when artists and celebrities like Madonna “reinvent” themselves, or melt into the type of trend in fashion and music that is popular at the time, because they once stood out in way that is now just relic. It just shows they wanted fame, not self expresion through art.
    I can’t help but feel that Gaga is just trying to stand out with those horns on her head/face.
    And all the blogger girls dress the same, and to be fashion, it’s very unfashionable. But it isn’t inconspicuous, it’s clearly conspicuous!
    Anyway, as long as we need an audience when we dress a certain way I think it goes to say that the self expression is lost through the desire for attention-whether it’s attention for glory or individuality. I realize that about myself when I’m getting dressed and I start to wonder what people will think of my clothes. Even when I’m getting ready for the gym! It was bad in high school when I refused to wear the same thing twice in one week. I defined myself through how I dressed, I guess. And I’ve got calluses from high heels on my feet to prove it.
    Are the people who wear the clothes they wear out of necessity better off than we are because they have nothing to prove? Are we afraid of being comfortable with ourselves so we dress in a way that is uncomfortable?

  5. Dru says:

    Miss Peelpants: the scratty beehive was a major thing in Singapore too, for a while – I think there were lots of girls dressing like bad copies of Amy c. 2007-08, and maybe even early ’09.

    I think consciously trying to be a rebel for the sake of style is a bit….blah, really. If someone wants to express themselves using fashion, go for it, but the style needs to suit you, not the other way around. If someone wants to turn themselves into “performance art”, then fine. It’s better to admit to the effort than to trash it by going “oh, this old thing?/”I’ve been into _____ forever, this is how I dress” etc.

  6. Dave C says:

    Just to add to my enduring love of Amy W. – her style was so contra to everything going on in the UK at the time, it beggars belief that she was not only a musical wunderkind, but also managed to evolve a unique look which separated the girls (Betty Page lookalikes) from the women. Every time I go into the centre of Liverpool I spot young ladies taking fashion cues from Amy. It’s both wonderful and tragic, but the important thing is that Ms. Winehouse touched people’s lives in a way that Lady Gaga never will. I’ve got nothing against GarGar, but it’s worth pointing out that one will be remembered (briefly) for her canny manipulation of the post-Madonna, pre-meltdown music industry, and the other for her phenomenal talent and deeply moving songs.

  7. Kellie says:

    Thats what reall defines a legand, isnt it??? How many people they touched, influenced, affected.

    GaGa is doing great things for gays/HIV/AIDS which is great. But thats the only ones really.
    Amy was for everyone, and that is the difference.

  8. divalou says:

    I fucking love all the “crotch adornment” and customised zipper flies! this needs to make a come back. 🙂

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