GRANTED, ONE DOESN'T become rap's most outrageous gangsta gal in a twinset and pearls. But there is no earthly reason why good taste should be an alien concept to Lil' Kim, say our judges. "She's from another planet," theorizes game show host Ben Stein, providing a possible excuse for the former Kimberly Jones, 26, who hails from Brooklyn and began her career in 1995 as the only female member of Biggie Smalls' Junior M.A.F.I.A. rap group. "These outfits are off my radar." Now that she's more than a blip on the music scene–her second solo album, The Notorious KIM
, went No. 1–the 4'11" dynamo's all-sass-no-class formula of blonde wigs and brazen costumes is beginning to wear thin. "She's very consistent and knows how she wants to dress," says designer Elie Tahari. "But she doesn't wear anything pretty, sexy, proud or respectful. She's dressing for effect, not for fashion."
Kim's shocking pink mélange of cashmere bikini, mink coat and python boots–all by Versace–was a loser at an awards show in Manhattan last December, say judges. "Why is she doing that to herself?" wonders Ben Stein. A similarly perplexed Elie Tahari comments, "It's not flattering." But model Mia Tyler thinks it almost could have been: "I like the hair, the fur, the boots. It's just a little over the top."
'Twasn't the night before Christmas but an October benefit concert in New Jersey that brought out the elf in the petite singer, dressed in a fur-trimmed bra and boots designed by her stylist Misa Hylton-Brim. "She looks like a cartoon," says Elie Tahari. "I don't like the top, I don't like the gloves," says Mia Tyler, admitting, "I don't get this at all." Ben Stein is receptive to some of it. "I like the Santa boots," he concedes. "But they're the only good thing about this outfit."
The skintight purple sheath and pasty combo custom-designed for Kim by stylist Misa Hylton-Brim inspired gasps at the MTV Video Music Awards in Manhattan last September–and among our judges. Says Mia Tyler diplomatically: "This is not at all becoming."
Signing autographs for fans outside a Manhattan hotel in July, Kim was living la vida logo in the trademark G's of Gucci. The boots, shorts and jacket (with sheer blouse) are "Gucci at its worst," declares Elie Tahari. "Too flashy." And the wrong size in the wrong places, notes Mia Tyler, who says, "The boots are too big and the outfit is too little."
"She's Jane of Tarzan fame," says Ben Stein, understandably confused by the skimpy asymmetrical dress and matching boots that Kim donned in May for a party in Las Vegas. "It looks like the dress was longer and they cut off a piece to make the boots," guesses Elie Tahari, deeming the outfit "The Worst Nightmare." Worse yet is the waste of Kim's natural assets, says Mia Tyler: "She's funny and so confident. And she has a great body."