In the world of rock, women fall into one of two camps: bad to the bone or glowingly good.
In rock fashion the difference between good and bad is almost as clear cut as it is in any classic western — white hat equals good, black hat means bad. Angelic flowered dress: good. Tiny mini-skirt and a leather jacket: bad.
But unlike the real world, or in those westerns of old, in the topsy-turvy world of rock, often it’s the most outrageously bad who come out on top.
By their very nature, rock chicks are supposed to be bad. They’re the irresistible corrupters: sexy, mean and everything the girl-next-door is not. Otherwise, what fun would they be? Fans count on their favorite stars to do and wear what they themselves wouldn’t dare to.
Exhibition is rock ’n’ roll. Inhibition is another story, which is exactly why Cher in 1988 named her signature perfume “Uninhibited.” And just what did the bad diva deem uninhibited? “I don’t know,” she said, “running naked through the park?”
Yet some among the truly bad get a kick out of vamping innocence. Think Madonna swathed in white lace during her “Like A Virgin” moment or Courtney Love’s famously frilly and girlish “kinder-whore” look.
But there are also women of rock who make a career out of looking nice, working overtime to counter any rebellious notions with a wholesome veneer. You know those no-makeup types: Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette.
Karen Carpenter and co. looked so saccharine on their album cover in 1971 that “you want to tweak their cheeks,” WWD reported, “or better yet, punch them in the mouth.”
“We’re clean cut, but we’re not sweetie-poo,” Richard Carpenter protested.
Oh, please. Even the most salacious “sweetie-poo,” Britney Spears, can’t disguise her obedient, good-girl core. And bare though she might be, even a cool chick like Gwen Stefani is bubbly deep down. She’s a good girl, and we know it.
But being a bad girl isn’t always about near nudity. It’s about attitude. The skimpiest stage getups do raise practical concerns, though, as even a goodie-two-shoes girl like Karen Carpenter well knew.
“I won’t wear HotPants,” she told WWD. “I dig them on other chicks but not for me. I couldn’t play in them. I’d probably freeze. Those stages are drafty, you know!”