Oooooh, it's the TLC insider tips! The ladies of the iconic R&B trio TLC recently sat down with Teen Vogue for their Volume II: Music Issue to chat about their legendary '90s fashion. One fashionable item in particular: their infamous condoms-as-accessories look!
The interview is timely because their debut album, Ooooooohhh … On the TLC Tip recently celebrated its 25th anniversary this February. The group's ladies, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes became pop culture staples, blending rap and R&B to create funky smooth sounds and looking the uniquely powerful part with their oversized fashions. Their fashion sense was the other end of the spectrum of the scantily clad over-sexualized female image; yet they still managed to bring sex appeal.They were the epitome of swagger, girl power and sex positivity.
"From day one, we always admired male R&B groups. They would go onstage with no shirt on and baggy jeans and girls would scream. In the early ’90s, all the girl groups were dressing super feminine," said Chilli. "And then we came on the scene wearing Cross Colours, Girbaud, and Nautica. When I met T-Boz and Left Eye, they were buying jeans that were a size 38. Three little cute girls dressed like boys was cool back then. Our style was cartoonish but fly at the same time."
"We were always authentic when it came to our style. From when we started to the height of our fame, we’ve always been consistent in our look because how we dressed was a result of how we felt. We weren’t playing dress-up," T-Boz added.
Their lyrics were infused with the importance of practicing safe sex during a time when images of female artists were heavily sexualized. Wearing condoms on their clothes made the conversations around the AIDS epidemic more accessible and welcome. While they certainly made that impact, the ladies definitely didn't go into it thinking they would become pioneers.
"We were on our way to the studio one day, and a condom and safety pin were on the dresser. And when Left Eye came outside (T-Boz and I were waiting for her in the car), she had pinned the condom to her pants. From that day, it became part of our signature style," Chilli explained.
T-Boz mused on the importance of having conversations to promote safe sex, noting, "We wanted to empower young girls to have their own stash of condoms and not to leave it up to the guys. Some parents thought we were telling their kids to have sex. But we were making a fashion statement to make it easier to talk about sex."
"During that time, so many people were getting diagnosed with HIV. People were talking about it, but not really talking about it. As role models, we knew we needed to start the conversation," added Chilli.
In hindsight, it makes sense that something as simple as a well-placed condom on your pants could foster such a significant conversation around sex, since the arts have the power to influence! And that includes fashion! Shout-out to TLC for spearheading those conversations and facilitating self-empowerment amongst young girls!