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What I Learned About Style From Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”

If you're dressed like this maybe someone will rub you the right way…

Where were you the first time you heard “Genie in a Bottle”? At school? In your parents’ car? On the radio while sorting your Beanie Babies? (Yes.) It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that via her lyrics, dance moves, and voice, Christina Aguilera came to represent a generation of young people who wanted to assert ourselves while also looking super-cool at school dances. And "Genie in a Bottle" sure got the party started.


While teen jams of the era had so far reserved themselves to unrequited love and/or crushes (see: Backstreet Boys' discography or Brit's first album), Christina dared venture where many have ventured before and since: Let's talk about sex, baby. Or more specifically, sex that would actually be enjoyable for women.

Arguably, "Genie in a Bottle" was an anthem of sexual awakening. By telling her subject that despite their raging hormones he'd have to earn his sexy-time ("You gotta rub me the right way"), Aguilera began laying the foundation for the sex-positivity her career eventually became defined by.

So let’s go back. Let’s return to 1999, to the months before Y2K became a thing we asked our parents too much about, and before the Britney-Christina feud seemed real. Let’s remember applying Christina’s lyrics to own lives, convinced that typing “I’m a genie in the bottle…" into ICQ infoboxes would send our crushes a very clear message. (They know what we meant.) Let’s bask in the glory of spending hours in our rooms, trying to master the choreography to a video you taped off MTV.

But of course, it’s impossible to go back without taking a long hard look at the fashion herein. Especially since we know from the onset of turn-of-the-century fashion (see: crop tops here, there, and everywhere), the true trendsetters of our time are contained in four and five minute snippets boosted from TRL almost 15 years ago. The foresight! Which is why today we're going to appreciate all we learned from Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle" video. When you see me wearing denim capris and heels this summer, you’re going to need to know why.



Are you wearing a crop top? Of course you are, because you’re amazing, but you’re also an amateur. Why? Only the weak wear just one. To reach the upper echelons of cropped shirt existence, you double crop like you goddamn mean it. Case in point: Christina Aguilera, who wears one, then tops it off with a cropped jacket. Why? Because she fucking can. (Also aligning lengths is very Fash 101. A necess lesson.) Is anybody questioning this right now? Does anyone even want to pair a traditional denim jacket with a cropped, tasseled treasure? I hope not. Because this is 1999 realness, and we’ve been demanding more of it for the last few seasons. Even talented designer Tracey Reese is getting wise.


But this brings me and us to our next point: how dare we consider wearing anything without fringe? While contemplating life and/or the future of her relationship, Christina leans nonchalantly in a door frame, seemingly confident in her choice to add a little more oomph to an already interesting ensemble. So I riddle you this: what is she thinking? “Should I have worn more fringe? Are people noticing my fringe? Will I help inspire and keep sustaining a Y2K-inspired aesthetic, set to launch about 15 years down the road?” Of course she is. She’s thinking all of those things because if I’ve learned anything about style from the masterpiece that is “Genie In a Bottle” it’s to embrace a piece that takes a risk, you wonder a lot about it throughout the day. Which explains why I ruined so many printed white t-shirts, rolling around on grass and trying to seem cool.


Additionally, if your crop top isn't suede with fringe it is also garbage. Seriously, it's like Christina's little number just walked off the Roberta Ferretti runway. Cue: repeated listens to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.” (Just so you guys know where I was mentally at as a fashion and musically-confused teenager.)


Because I will be honest: cropped, tied-up t-shirts will distract from the grass and sand stains this video has become single-handedly responsible for. Also, unless you are singing along to a track for your own music video, you will always look weird laying in dirt. I’m sorry. (But please trust me.)


As if pulled out of 1976 itself, Christina’s cropped pants which match her crop top—drink every time I say crop or cropped—go next level with the addition of chunky heel sandals. Do you know what it says? That denim capri pants are for any occasion, so take that, parents, who made me change for family functions back in 1999! Provided the shoes in question involve a heel of suitable chunk, you can get away with wearing them alongside even the most controversial pieces.

Minus this hat. I still can’t believe you people are willingly bringing these back. Why?


Back in 1999, somebody saw this shirt (note: another crop top) and thought, “Beads!” And after that, they bought it because moving beads make dance moves better. I can testify to this: I practiced the shit out of this choreography in preparation for school dances, and my high school crush still didn’t care, which is 100 percent because I didn’t have beads to dazzle him with/distract him. This is why we all started dressing like flappers in 2013. And I know that’s not entirely accurate, but it’s a truth I choose to believe.



Hillary Clinton knows about a pop of color and so does Ms. Aguilera. There’s a lot to be said about Christina’s dance outfit, but let me just say what we’re already thinking: it fucking rules. But the ensemble’s true winner? Her pants. Her oversize, orange pants—embroidered with a dragon on one pant leg, people—that arguably have no business being paired with a white, cropped, beaded shirt. But your rules can suck it because it’s 1999, and in 1999—like S/S 2015—orange and bright colors were queen, making it nearly impossible to buy anything neutral or, in the words of Taylor Swift, screaming in color. And to that I say: yes. Don’t fear color. Embrace being bright. And on days you just want to live your life swaddled in fabric that could easily clothe two of you, cast those rules to the wind and wear your oversize pants with pride. Because if Christina Aguilera can do it, then so can you.

After all, we’re all just a bunch of genies trapped in bottles. [LOOKS UP AT CAMERA DRAMATICALLY, ROLLING AROUND ON SAND.]

Anne T. Donahue would like to be rubbed the right way. Hey don't we all wanna be rubbed the right way. She's on Twitter.