Melanie C: 'I spent a few years trying not to be Sporty Spice'

The pop star on her years as a raver, her punk rebellion – and her daughter’s fondness for athleisure

Sportswear has become such a big thing in the past few years and, being Sporty Spice, I’ve really embraced that – but at the Brit awards this year I wanted to take it somewhere else.

This dress is from Fila’s spring/summer 2020 collection – it’s really grownup, beautiful, red-carpet chic, but with a bit of a sporty twist. You would never guess this dress was from a sportswear brand. You know when you put something on and it makes you feel … expensive? I looked in the mirror and I thought: ‘Wow!’

I grew up in the north-west in the 80s – everyone wore sportswear. I went to dance college and I was a bit of a raver in the early 90s, so it was all super-comfy trackie bottoms and stripy tops.

Historically, lots of girl bands have dressed the same or been very coordinated. When the Spice Girls started, we tried a few different looks, but it just wasn’t working for us. One day, we were looking at ourselves in rehearsal and I was in a trackie, Geri was in some crazy outfit from a secondhand shop, and we thought: why don’t we all just wear what we’re comfortable in? We realised that our individuality was a great selling point – lots of fans felt that they identified with at least one of us. We almost became caricatures of ourselves.

Watch the video for Who I Am.

I felt a bit rebellious when I released my first solo record. I was very keen to be seen as something separate from the Spice Girls, so I chopped all my hair off, went a little bit punk and spent a couple of years trying to not be Sporty Spice. More recently, on tour with [the LGBTQ+ collective] Sink the Pink, my costume looked like a corset version of an American football top, but it was made from old pairs of trainers: a bit of Nike, a bit of Adidas.

I still love athleisure, but I also feel confident enough to be a bit more feminine at times. I know what suits me: simplicity, tailoring, a more androgynous look. I’ve always liked that rock’n’roll chic; Kate Moss looks effortlessly cool. So much of fashion history repeats itself: my daughter is now 11 and she and her friends are all dressing like Sporty Spice – they don’t even realise that I was there first.

Melanie C’s new single, Who I Am, is out now

Contributor

Melanie C, as told to Leah Harper

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Kim Wilde: ‘I look miserable, but I was having the time of my life’
The singer on pouting like Lauren Bacall, DIY hairdos, gardening in nightwear and discovering the joys of colour

As told to Leah Harper

07, Apr, 2020 @1:21 PM

Article image
Lenny Kravitz: ‘I wore a red suede tunic suit – I knew I was taking a risk’
The musician explains how the outfit he wore in the Are You Gonna Go My Way video made him feel powerful and beautiful, and set him apart from every other 90s performer

Interview by Leah Harper

20, Mar, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Thundercat: 'This outfit looks playful, but it's very serious'
The virtuoso bass player on how cartoons influence his style, playing lockdown dress-up and how he learned not to care what other people think.

As told to Leah Harper

28, Apr, 2020 @12:00 PM

Article image
Jane Horrocks: 'Wearing a tight latex dress felt brave and liberating'
The actor on how Absolutely Fabulous led her to modelling for sustainable label Vin + Omi, and how her children helped her to reinvent her style

As told to Leah Harper

14, Apr, 2020 @2:45 PM

Article image
Neneh Cherry: ‘A lot of the best looks can happen by accident’
The singer recalls the outfit she wore for the cover of her 1989 debut album Raw Like Sushi and the ‘privilege’ of working with the stylist Judy Blame

As told to Leah Harper

04, Feb, 2020 @12:13 PM

Article image
David Lee Roth: 'My advice for aspiring artists? Breathable fabrics'
The Van Halen singer on squeezing into spandex for the 1980 Pinkpop festival in Holland – and his unfortunate run-in with a disco mirrorball

As told to Leah Harper

25, Jun, 2019 @12:29 PM

Article image
Tori Amos: 'Once the wig was on, I allowed the character to take over. I think my husband quite liked it'
The singer on trying not to embarrass her teenage daughter, dressing up for virtual book signings – and sending her father a picture of the 90s album cover where she breastfeeds a piglet

As told to Leah Harper

19, May, 2020 @12:04 PM

Article image
Will Young: ‘If I were to do this concert now, I’d probably wear a skirt’
The singer on the beauty of wearing white and anything that pushes the boundaries of gender norms

As told to Leah Harper

22, May, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Sporty evening sandals and bare ribs: Milan fashion week’s messages
Here are the five shows that mattered

Jess Cartner-Morley

28, Sep, 2016 @6:05 AM

Article image
Melanie C: 'I've had an incredible career. It's time I accepted myself'
It’s 20 years since Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm went solo, but, she says, it has taken until 2019 – ironically, the year of the band’s reunion tour – for her to really find herself

Laura Snapes

27, Nov, 2019 @6:00 AM