Rock singer Courtney Love, who over the past few months has been accused of rampaging bad behavior, pleaded guilty Tuesday to being under the influence of cocaine. As Love stood in a Los Angeles courtroom listening to her fate, she wore a pale yellow floral print dress with a short lilac cardigan. The dress suggested the fragile, slightly off-balance demeanor of the classic woman in distress, perhaps something Roxie Hart might have worn for her day in a "Chicago" courtroom.
The sad little cardigan, with its horizontal stripes, vaguely recalled a letterman sweater -- but one plucked from the Goodwill store. It had the poor look of something unexpectedly found rather than sought out, and it subtly suggested that perhaps Love's lawyer was working pro bono.
Love's platinum blond hair was in its usual state of extreme dishevelment, as if the only grooming it ever receives comes from a monkey hired to remove the brambles.
When punishment was finally meted out, Love agreed to a months-long outpatient drug rehabilitation program, which, if successfully completed, would eliminate any jail time.
Now that the cocaine matter has been settled, Love can focus on her other legal issues. The charges she faces include illegal possession of prescription painkillers and assaulting a fan with a microphone stand during a performance at a New York club in March.
In selecting her costuming for her various courthouse appearances, Love appears to have a single strategy: to dress in a manner that confirms any suspicions that she is a "girl, interrupted" and in grave need of aid. Help her; do not punish her. Her plea deal appears to do just that.
Love's courtroom attire is counterintuitive. Conventional wisdom holds that for any court appearance, the wise defendant dresses as conservatively and demurely as possible. If there is a single message that most defendants aim to send with their clothes, it is this: I am innocent. This was the course taken by actress Winona Ryder when she was on trial for shoplifting. The entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs wore a suit, ditched his flashy jewelry and carried a Bible for his illegal gun possession trial. Kobe Bryant is in a conservative suit -- rather than, say, warm-ups -- whenever he's in court for his sexual assault case. Robert Downey Jr., in his multitude of drug-related court appearances, typically combed his hair. And even Michael Jackson -- who once wore sequins to court -- has come to see the value in a sober black suit. He has even gotten himself a pair of professorial wire-rimmed glasses for added sobriety.
But Love has chosen a different path and holds fast to her rocker chick style. She has been consistent in her post-grunge grunginess. In addition to her forlorn sweaters and her Blanche DuBois chiffon dresses, she has worn the kind of ill-tailored trench coat that one might spot on a flasher. This was the centerpiece of her ensemble when she was arraigned in Beverly Hills on the drug possession charges. Would anyone but a slightly daft woman arrive for her own arraignment in such a garment?
For her New York courtroom appearance two weeks ago she was a vision in pink, wearing a paisley dress over pink pajama pants trimmed in teal. The ensemble wasn't unattractive, but it was more suitable for a cast member of "Bombay Dreams." The dress was also afflicted with complicated trussing that made it look as though bra straps and slip straps were hanging in plain sight. Love carried a bubblegum pink handbag that looked like it had been plucked from Barbie's Dream House.
To further beg for a she's-off-her-rocker verdict, Love wore a pair of flip-flops and appeared to have applied her makeup with the heavy hand of a performer playing to the cheap seats. She looked like a rumpled child who didn't even have the good sense to put on proper shoes. How loudly did her sandals slap the bottoms of her feet as she flip-flopped her way through the courthouse? Thwack-thwack-thwack . . . New York State Supreme Court is not a cabana, Courtney.
In all these appearances, Love has starred as the uninhibited kook. She's not conveying innocence with her clothes -- she's declaring herself pitiable.