Fashion is waking up from its athleisure-clad slumber and everyone everywhere is wearing whatever they want, dressing with reckless abandon, confusion, or some combination of the two. And so: Why not dress like a losing contestant on Rock of Love?
2000s-era nostalgia currently grips fashion and social media with French-manicured claws, running rampant on TikTok and Depop. Teens are ransacking their mother’s closets or pawing through the racks at the local Goodwill and walking away with armfuls of cargo pants, slip dresses, and baby doll tees, dressing themselves in an approximation of what the meanest girl in a 2000s-era teen romcom would wear on the first day of school. The fashion choices made by the women of Rock of Love, however—when they are considered at all—are still written off as a step too far, best left in the past. But I urge the detractors to think again. What makes the Rock of Love women so appealing is that they actually don’t seem to care about much except for winning the hand of Bret Michaels, and they’ll put on whatever it takes to achieve their goal. A Rock of Love contestant wants to show up, have a good time, and then walk off into the sunset with the bandana-clad former lead singer of Poison, and I simply cannot think of anything more appropriate and inspirational for this weird-ass summer everyone’s having.
I am not suggesting that you literally attempt to replicate with forensic accuracy the actual outfits from Rock of Love. On a practical level, dressing like the bold and brave women who lobbied for a chance at love with Bret Michaels doesn’t really work. Bandage dresses and Pleasers-adjacent round-toed platform stilettos are not practical for anyone who lives in a city and is dependent on public transportation, for one thing. That said, a lot of the questionable dress decisions made by these women for the final ceremony are sort of back in style now, as a result of the youth’s obsession with Y2K’s worst trends, and this creates an opportunity.
A TikTok twenty-something, whose feed I cannot look away from no matter how hard I try, reveals the depths of the younger generation’s particular depravity. It would never occur to me to pair flared leggings of the sort I wore to dance class with a confounding black halter neck top that would not be out of place on one of Christina Aguilera’s background dancers circa 2002, but I admire the temerity of spirit required to do so. The children are out here in low-rise jeans that are “vintage” True Religion and wearing scarves as bandeau tops, dressed as if they are headed to the main living space of the Rock of Love house to drink wine coolers from plastic cups, smoke Parliament Lights out by the pool, and yell at each other about who deserves a chance at love with Brett Michaels, if anyone does at all. I am not recommending you do this. These outfits are too on-the-nose for me, a woman who lived through this period of time, and I have never had the midriff required for pants cut so low they flirt with the top of my vagina. Interpreting their clothes literally is merely cosplay—but understanding the spirit is fashion, darling.
It’s less about the clothing specifically and more about the freedom in their choices. The women of Rock of Love possessed a heady combination of delusion and self-confidence that allowed them to fully inhabit their clothing choices without giving a shit. “Don’t threaten me with a good time,” the words that tumbled out of contestant Tiffany’s mouth as she was quietly escorted off the premises at the end of the first season of the show, are a rallying cry. That is the spirit of the way I want to dress this summer, or at least one of the many identities I will attempt to inhabit as I work my way back to “normal,” whatever that means.
There are no handkerchief hem going-out tops in my future; my interpretation is my own. Rubbery mules that smell like bubblegum, with a respectable 2-inch block heel and a faux snakeskin strap—yes! Shorts—very short—are a yes. A brassiere as a top, depending on the brassiere, a maybe. I can’t in good faith contemplate PVC, pleather, or anything that does not breathe, but I can consider something that suggests a wild side, even though I am not wild by any stretch of the imagination and would like to be left alone. Halter tops. The “tramp stamp” I’ve dreamed of since last spring. No bra when I would normally attempt a strapless. Tube tops. Things that are tight where I normally require them to be loose. Surely I will stumble upon the right combination of clothing that makes me feel like I’m ready to scrap, to flirt, and to thrive under the watchful eye of Big John and VH1's cameras, and when I do, watch out, world, here I fucking come.