Kinderwhore “does what it says on the tin.” Rather than being its own subculture, the word describes a sort of 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 feminine archetypes: the little girl 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, 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 (or sometimes nightgowns) combined with thick, smeared makeup. Tights, messy blond hair with bangs, and mary janes are integral, if not essential, components.
Accessories tended to be girly, such as 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)
The 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 whorish. Kindergoth can also mean a 13-year-old goth, though.
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.