ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hooked on look

Call it the post-rehab look -- eyes heavy with "it's so late it's early" confusion, a head scarf cinched around unkempt hair, an armload of string bracelets and frayed cutoff shorts. This summer, hyper-styled and coiffed starlets such as Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olsen and Lindsay Lohan have adopted a Coachella-meets-Kitson look that's less red-carpet ready and more just rolled out of Laurel Canyon after a hard night.

It's not much of a stretch. Richie and Lohan, along with their stylish friend from across the pond, Kate Moss, have taken turns in rehab. Lohan just completed 45 days at Promises only to face another drinking and drug-related arrest on Tuesday. And on Friday, Richie pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs and was sentenced to a brief stay in jail and a fine.

But playing the role of a hard-partying, post-rehab hottie doesn't stop with attending weekly meetings or accessorizing with ankle monitors. These women have cultivated an unkempt uniform, and they are wearing it long after "treatment" is completed. And now that the look has been glamorized, it's been imitated by style girls who haven't crossed the clinic door -- along with Olsen, Mischa Barton and Kirsten Dunst come to mind.

One has to wonder about this deliberate sloppiness. Richie and Lohan may have completed stays in the clinic, but they don't look like they are making sober style choices. Maybe it's an anti-fashion statement, a kind of neo-punk, neo-hippie expression in this slick, paparazzi-fueled, celebrity-hyped era. For these famous mannequins, it's become too easy to hire a stylist and dress from a rack of free designer clothes. Maybe they're tired of being Hollywood's teenage box-office bait and the fashion industry's well-manicured shills. Surely, it gets old being stalked and photographed 24/7. So looking bad and behaving badly has become the ultimate form of rebellion.

Breaking down the post-rehab look, sunglasses are, of course, oversized to disguise bloodshot eyes. Other essentials include a flirty off-the-shoulder blouse (no bra), a suede vest and lace-up Minnetonka boots. An all-access pass to a muddy music festival is optional.

But the head scarf is not. It is the trend-setting halo that symbolizes newfound light and purity, the 21st century sobriety chip. It's a status symbol, a badge of honor that's especially effective when worn around yet-to-be-reformed peers.

The scarf (by Alexander McQueen or, in more recent days, Thomas Wylde), preferably with a skull print, must be tied haphazardly around a mess of bed-head hair, the crown teased into a pouf that looks as if you've just taken a romp in a tour bus bunk. Then there's the spacey gaze, the thing that forecasts that all-important "I don't have my act together and could jeopardize a production schedule at any moment" attitude.

Kimberly Stewart has adopted the post-rehab look as her signature. (After all, she is rock royalty.) She could win a sleepy-eyed, '70s chick costume contest at any given moment of the day. In recent weeks, she has introduced a few updates, including Swiss Miss braids, non-frayed denim hot shorts and a sequin vest instead of worn-in suede.

No, Stewart has not been to rehab. But whether a girl has been is beside the point -- as long as she is committed to wearing the gear that keeps people focused on her next move, challenging onlookers to wonder if she will stay awake, take a face-dive into a banquette at Hyde or keep the pressure at bay and gross millions on opening weekend.

melissa.magsaysay @latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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