By and  on August 21, 2007

Being bad never looked so good.

Where once the path to the courthouse was viewed as the ultimate walk of shame, for a certain set it's now quickly becoming the ne plus ultra venue to make a statement in style. Not to mention a way for brands to get some free publicity.

Blame such celebs as the ubiquitous Paris Hilton and her on-again, off-again friend Nicole Richie, as well as Naomi Campbell and Foxy Brown, for giving the trend du jour its credence. And it's bound to get a further jolt this week when wayward waif Lindsay Lohan is expected to do her perp walk. Perhaps she'll take some cues from her felonious friends. After Hilton and Richie were charged with separate DUI incidents, the partners in crime have orchestrated their perp walks to fashion perfection. Richie channeled Audrey Hepburn with a little black Moschino dress, while Hilton, in an unexpected move for a woman whose greatest claim to fame involved no fabrics at all, wore a sartorial gray blazer over a vest and a white shirt with slim-cut pants. And in a case of never passing up a public relations opportunity, the clothes were believed to be from Hilton's own apparel line.

Then there was Campbell, who, when ordered to do community service after striking a former maid with a cell phone, showed up each day in head-turning designer garb (although she was also being photographed for a fashion spread in the June issue of W magazine, WWD's sister publication). All three chose to accessorize their looks with oversize sunglasses, which added to the mystique and further fueled the paparazzi frenzy. The only thing missing, really, was the red carpet.

"What I wear walking into my community service has no connection to what I'm going to do when I get inside," Campbell told W. "This is how I dress, and this is how I carry myself. What do they expect me to do — walk in looking all drib and drab? I've never looked drib and drab in my life."

Nor, really, did any of Campbell's bad girl peers when hitting the town.

"The first thing that comes to mind is John Waters, whose hypothesis, which he injected into his earlier films, was that the more crimes you commit, the more beautiful you become," said Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York. "Both Paris and Nicole actually looked very chic. It reminded me of Christine Keeler in the Sixties — a bad girl in demure clothing trying to look circumspect. There's something very compelling and attractive about it."

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