7 of Courtney Love's most iconic outfits
From babydoll dresses to 90s slips and leopard print everything, nobody — not even Olivia Rodrigo — does it quite like the Hole legend.
Image credits (L-R) Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage. Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.
Courtney Love is not someone who lets her music, or her fashion, speak for itself. The musician, actor and grunge figurehead has always been famously outspoken, whether she’s feuding with Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, taking on the entire editorial staff of Vanity Fair, or, most recently, accusing Olivia Rodrigo of plagiarising Hole’s iconic Live Through This album cover with the latter’s album art for debut record Sour. Courtney’s sartorial choices don’t speak for themselves as much as they have to compete for attention alongside her talent, career and entertaining Instagram captions. Luckily though, her most iconic looks over the years have been as interesting as the woman herself.
Kinderwhore chic, 1990s
When most of us think of Courtney Love’s fashion, we think of her early Hole days, when she wore mostly short babydoll dresses with Peter Pan collars, knee-high socks and Mary Jane shoes. The striking look, which has influenced modern fashion brands like Batsheva, became synonymous with the fashion movement known as “kinderwhore”, an aesthetic that was deeply feminist despite its childlike, girlish appearance. Courtney was the first high profile figure to popularise kinderwhore in the mainstream, and later said of the look “I would like to think—in my heart of hearts—that I'm changing some psychosexual aspects of rock music. Not that I'm so desirable. I didn't do the kinderwhore thing because I thought I was so hot. When I see the look used to make one more appealing, it pisses me off. When I started, it was a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? thing. My angle was irony.”
Wedding to Kurt Cobain, 1992
For decades, celebrity weddings have been big, showy, glamorous affairs. You get married, you sell the photos, you do some sponsorship deals, you get a big designer dress, continue ad nauseum. But when Courtney married her late husband Kurt Cobain back in 1992, just a few months after the pair started dating, they decided to go a different route. Despite being grunge royalty, Kurt and Courtney shunned the usual celebrity wedding trappings, eloping to Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. The groom wore a pair of plaid pyjamas, while Courtney herself, already pregnant with daughter Frances, wore a loose-fitted vintage nightgown which was supposedly once owned by the tragic Old Hollywood star, Frances Farmer (a figure the couple considered their own personal patron saint).
The MTV Music Awards, 1993
While her actual wedding look was pretty understated, Courtney looked like the ultimate minimalist nineties bride the following year when she attended the 1993 MTV Music Awards wearing a floor-length white silk gown. While floor-length silk gowns are fairly standard red carpet attire, both now and even back in 1993, Courtney made the look her own with Marilyn-Monroe-at-a-battle-of-the-bands inspired platinum blonde hair and red lipstick, and finished the whole thing off with the ultimate accessories: a cute pudgy infant Frances in one arm and a jeans-wearing, formula-holding Kurt in the other. A multi-tasking queen.
At the post-Oscars party, 1995
Courtney’s love affair with silk slip dresses was a long one (Kate Moss could never), and remained a go-to look for red carpet events. Two years after the 93 MTV Awards, she attended a post-Oscars Vanity Fair party with the photographer Amanda de Cadenet wearing a similar champagne coloured floor-length gown. Given that she was at the height of her early musical success following the release of her breakthrough second album Live Through This the previous year, it makes sense that she finishes the look, in signature sartorial tongue-in-cheek style with a tiny crown. Very Daisy Buchanan goes out in LA vibes.
Attending the Golden Globes, 2000
Aside from being a musician and actress -- a polymath! -- Courtney has always been a fan and curator of fashion, with her own unique perspective on how she should look. Which is great for us actually, because it means we often get to hear the stories behind her most iconic looks, and the process of styling them, straight from the woman herself. This 2000 Christian Dior look, often cited as one of the most controversial outfits in the history of the Golden Globes, is no exception. Taken from John Galliano’s contentious “homeless” collection, Courtney has since said she initially thought the look was “crazy”. “The dress arrived and it was ridiculous. It was straight up and down and had twine on it. On the twine there was a book of matches, glass, all this taxidermy,” she told The Guardian in 2019. She later made her own alterations to the gown, and matched it to her acrylic nails. “A lot went into this look and it was controversial when I wore it. I have big boobs and it was important that they didn’t fall out. I don’t think tit-tape really works and looking back I don’t know how I kept it on – it was a miracle. I think maybe I glued it.”
At the Met Gala, 2017
Courtney and daughter Frances Bean Cobain haven’t always been the closest -- the 28 year old famously filed to emancipate herself from her mum in 2009 -- which made their appearance together at the 2017 Met Gala, wearing complementary Marc Jacobs looks, all the sweeter. The pair channelled Courtney’s signature vintage vibes, wearing co-ordinating Old Hollywood inspired gowns for the year’s theme, “Rei Kawakubo / Commes des Garçons”. Courtney, making her first appearance at the Met that year, later complained about the lack of booze at the associated glitzy parties, which is iconic, honestly.
Performing at Glastonbury, 1999
If you think that festival line-ups nowadays are a sausage fest, then imagine what it was like back in the 1990s, back when the music industry’s ideal of the perfect rockstar was decidedly straight white and male. Against that backdrop, there was perhaps a pressure for women in music to assimilate in order to fit the commercial standard. But when Courtney descended on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in 1999 with Hole, the frontwoman said fuck all that noise and donned an all-pink outfit of fishnets, a translucent candy-floss pink dress and hot pink sequin hot pants. A pair of pink children’s fairy wings finished off the chaotic femininity of the Riot Grrrl inspired look, and Courtney even graced the cover of NME, with REM, Fat Boy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and the Manic Street Preachers downgraded to musical acts that “helped” the Hole singer usher in a pink, pastel summer of love.