Courtney Love in a kinderwhore outfit.

Kinderwhore fashion "does what it says on the tin." Rather than being its own subculture, the word describes an inverted lolita aesthetic, where sweet, childlike clothes are paired with an aggressive display of sexuality.

The look has many influences, from traditional kitsch to Nancy Spungen. Its power comes from how it contrasts two female archetypes: the girl-doll and the street prostitute. There's a ghostly resemblance to the flapper aesthetic, which combined then-shocking dress with haircuts and attitudes typically reserved for children.

Kinderwhore arose from the same scenes as grunge and riot grrrl music––that is, the Pacific Northwest (especially Olympia, Washington) in the early 1990s. Kat Bjelland and Courtney Love popularized the look. Some controversy has arisen over who thought of the look (or at least the name) first. Does it matter?

This look is defined by vintage babydoll dresses combined with thick, smeared makeup. Tights, messy blond hair with bangs and Mary Jane shoes are integral, if not essential, components.

Kat Bjelland, of Babes in Toyland

Kinderwhore ccessories tend to be girly: think hair ribbons and bows, little girl purses, charm bracelets and lockets. Chipped red or pink nail polish, or bitten fingernails, also add to the look.

Though kinderwhore was contemporaneous with riot grrrl, their philosophies were somewhat different. Riot grrrl fashion incorporated feminine archetypal elements, usually as part of a political statement. Courtney Love, however, has always been at variance with the riot grrrl movement, since it focused on politics at the expense of the music. In a recent interview, she made this comment:

you've got these highly intelligent imperious girls, but who told them it was their undeniable American right not to be offended? Being offended is part of being in the real world. I'm offended every time I see George Bush on TV! And, frankly, it wasn't very good music. (Spin magazine, October 2005)
Kat Bjelland, in contrast, supported riot grrrl but was never a member of those scenes.

This look has faded out of fashion, though some part of it mutated into a "kindergoth" look. "Kindergoth" distinguishes itself from gothic lolita by being more hard-edged and, yes, more whorelike.

Courtney Love as a Kinderwhore.

The look is very easy to copy or play off of. Since Bjelland and Love got most of their dresses from thrift stores, simply go to these stores and look for little-girl-like, babydoll dresses, as well as chunky mary jane shoes.

You can also invert the look, by pairing whorish or heroin-chic outfits with very childlike, innocent makeup and hair.

Kat Bjelland in a black and white babydoll dress.

Here are some examples of kinderwhore clothing and accessories:

Sing Me a Song Dress
Sing Me a Song Dress.

Honey Sweet Dress
Honey Sweet Dress.

With Affection Dress
With Affection Dress.

Stole My Heart Dress
Stole My Heart Dress.

Dearest Diarist Dress
Dearest Diarist Dress.

Evening at the Manor Top
Evening at the Manor Top.

Perched in Your Soul Skirt
Perched in Your Soul Skirt.

Bow'n Places Heel in White
Bow'n Places Heel in White Mary Jane shoes.

Related reading:

Riot Grrrl

Kinderwhore Makeup

Gothic Lolita

Girl's Punk Hairstyles

The Punk Encyclopedia

Image of Kat Bjelland from fuckyeahriotgrrrl.

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