a brief history of britney spears and fashion
This is a story about a girl named Lucky who loved Uggs.
Image via Alamy
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Yesterday brought the great news that Britney Spears is firmly back in the fashion spotlight for 2018, being the new face of Kenzo’s La Collection Memento No2. Beyond being genius (and shot by legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh), the campaign serves as a timely reminder that Brit Brit is in fact a fashion icon for our times, her love of diamanté, denim, crop tops, and trucker caps currently being seized upon by the younger generation all over again.
With this in mind, we thought we’d serve up a brief history of the princess of pop’s best looks, in all their navel baring glory. Truly, nobody has tried harder to make Von Dutch happen.
With her debut single "...Baby One More Time," Britney did more for the humble Catholic school girl’s uniform than anyone has since, elevating the kilt and white shirt to a classic beloved of Halloween party goers, drag queens, and actual girls at school. This was Britney 1.0 in her full, faux virginal glory, replete with fluffy pink scrunchies and pigtails. It might not have entered the fashion lexicon (woe betide anyone who dresses like this for a drink after work), but it epitomized Britney’s early charm, which involved a lot of talking about God, posing in her lingerie for Rolling Stone, then saying she didn’t have a clue what she was doing. She also had a passion for Steven Tyler style bell bottoms, which we applaud wholeheartedly.
Double Denim Britney
Peak young Britney was her appearance at the 2001 American Music Awards with Justin Timberlake in matching double denim. Actually make that quadruple denim — we’re pretty sure the denim cowboy hat and denim little handbag make this the most denim moment in all of history. Double denim was in fact her go to for all appearances for a good five years, including a particularly fetching newsboy cap she wore to a House of Field show in 2003. This was the pinnacle of Britney’s good girl years, where she still dated a fellow Mouseketeer and didn’t writhe around with snakes or snog Madonna (historians disagree as to which of the pair invented fake lesbianism for attention). Obviously though, this era of squeaky clean Canadian Tuxedos had to end…
We now enter our favorite phase, that in which she met backup dancer Kevin Federline and together they pioneered the LA look that came to dictate the early noughties. The main components included a trucker cap, preferably Von Dutch, a spray painted vest, preferably Ed Hardy, denim booty shorts, and either Ugg boots or cork wedges with toes hanging out the end. Replete with a nuclear-orange spray tan and ratty extensions, the look was pure Fashion with a capital F for “Fuck anyone that thinks fashion is something that happens on the runways and in designer boutiques and not on the streets!” Key to the look was diamanté bedazzling wherever possible and everything looking a little bit like pyjamas.
The Trials of Britney
We don’t want to make light of mental illness, but obviously Britney’s fashion moments, in fact all her moments, are BAASH — Before And After Shaving Head. Pre-meltdown, Britney was relatable in a sunny, aspirational kind of way, but afterwards, she was relatable because haven’t we all wanted to maniacally shave all our hair off? Conversely, she actually looked great bald, and it seemed to help her.
After some soul searching and presumably time spent at a facility where you stroke horses and talk about your problems, Britney returned in style in 2007 with Blackout, perhaps her best album, which you can read all about here. This era is a lot of triumphantly bejeweled bikinis, another stay in a psychiatric facility, and then her incredible single "Piece of Me" addressing her tortured relationship with the paparazzi. Suddenly, Britney’s wardrobe was entirely catsuits or fluorescent mini dresses, gowns or bikinis, and a lot of weave. Obviously befitting for a diva, but some among us did miss the dishevelled, really orange Britney of yore.
Britney, greatest avant-garde watercolorist of her generation
After her comeback, Britney settles into her image as an icon and legend who performs in Vegas. She does fashion shows of her favourite looks in her home (which you have to watch), and seemingly feels free to indulge and share her real passion — painting. This is a whole new side to the creative polymath. It involves her customary diva’s brassiere being slightly covered by an artist’s smock, and a practical(ish) up-do to protect her honeyed tresses from the wild daubs of paint she throws at the canvas. Beneath the serene exterior of the artist at play however, there are signs that the woman we love is still there. Under her paint daubed chemise, she sports her beloved white hot pants, while her glamorous bra seems to have another bra in a different color underneath it, with the straps hanging out. The girl can learn to paint, but it seems she can’t learn how to get dressed. We feel her. Long may she reign.