Funny how times flies. TLC’s debut album, Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip, came out 25 years ago. So it feels like the perfect time to give props to the female supergroup that inspired acts like Destiny’s Child and gave us hits such as “Baby-Baby-Baby,” “Waterfalls,” and “No Scrubs.” Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes adventurously blended rap and R&B to create a funky, smooth sound — all the while pioneering a new look by dressing like dudes, rocking oversize boxers, baggy jeans, and T-shirts. One of TLC’s many appeals was their fearless style swagger. (Check out the “Creep” video and you’ll see what I mean.)
But the ladies weren’t only about statement-making looks; they also made sure their lyrical content was on point. TLC vocalized the importance of practicing safe sex during a time when images of female artists were sexualized. Because they wore condoms on their clothes, their fans could talk openly about sex during the AIDS epidemic without sounding too preachy. While the ladies made talking about sex easier for a generation, they sincerely did not think that when they started this journey in the early ’90s that they would become pioneers. But that’s precisely what happened. For our Volume II: Music Issue, we had the immense pleasure of talking with the girl group that defined ’90s R&B fashion. Scroll for their musings on condoms as accessories and why safe sex is the best sex.
ON THEIR FLY-GIRL STYLE
Chilli: 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. 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.
T-Boz: 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.
ON CONDOM COUTURE
C: 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.
T: 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.
C: 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.
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