18 Totally Classy Ways to Channel ’90s Grunge
Doing your best Courtney Love impression has its time and place, but when you need to dress to impress, it would seem that grunge is totally out. But just because you can’t go all out rocking your fave ’90s style essentials all at once doesn’t mean you have to totally forgo the angsty styles you love. There are so many ways to get your Kate, Drew or Liv (’90s grunge icons, obvi) on without defying dress code and drawing the side-eye from HR and your inner circle. Creativity is key, but a carefully curated selection of Cobain-approved accessories, basics and statement pieces with a sophisticated edge — lightened-up leather jackets and It-girl twists on flannel shirts, for example — is what you need to effortlessly pull off grunge anytime, anywhere. Scroll on for 18 new twists on iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”-era essentials to start working into your routine stat.
1. One by KowTow Things in Common Culottes ($198): The quintessential flannel shirt (tied just so around the waist) isn’t the only way to get a little plaid in. Swap in these checked culottes for your standard tailored slacks and style alongside a frills-free blouse and mules for an on-the-clock look that is #girlboss-approved.
2. Kimchi Blue Jodi Flutter-Sleeve Romper ($69): Say “see ya” to cutoffs and mini skirts and hello to the disty floral romper that’s equal parts grungy (in a good way) and sweet. Pair with Mary Jane clogs or lace-up ghillies for picnics in the park, bridal showers and date night with bae. For a bit of tough-girl edge, layer on a leather jacket and throw a perfectly executed cat eye into the mix.
3. Charles & Keith Monk-Strap Flats ($59): Combat boots kill it in the footwear department, but for those times when your style needs to be on top of its game, throw these monk strap flats into the mix. They pack all the edge you love, while delivering a healthy dose of sophistication. Dress to impress by pairing them with cigarette trousers, an architectural blouse and sleeveless blazer.
4. Express One Eleven Cutaway Cropped Tank ($20): What happens when you take a ’90s cutaway tank and pair it up with dreamy pastels? Straight-up sartorial success. Tuck this number into a printed maxi skirt, add sleek drop earrings and dainty stacking rings and then head straight to any spring soiree.
5. Reformation Lolo Jumpsuit ($248): Instead of recreating one of Kate Moss’s iconic slip dress moments (which may or may not draw a few inquisitive stares), whip this one-piece stunner out instead. Teamed with glove shoes and a minimalist choker necklace, it’s guaranteed to turn heads whether you’re schmoozing at a gallery opening or kickin’ it on the dance floor at your cousin’s wedding.
6. Forever21 Faux Leather Backpack ($33): You’ve already snagged your diploma, but that doesn’t mean your backpack-toting days are over. This streamlined number is definitely not that patched-up sac you carried back in the day. The clean lines and understated metallic accents are so classy they’ll fit right in at your nine-to-five, no problem.
7. Mother Denim Easy A Skirt ($218): The wear-with-anything denim skirt gets a big-girl upgrade for your spring capsule collection with an elongated midi silhouette that exudes classy-lady vibes. A distressed hemline lends an undone edge to your getup and looks rad with ankle boots and a basic tee. Your new weekend uniform? We say yes.
8. Joomi Lim Love Thorn Triple Finger Ring ($180): There’s nothing preppy about these pearls. Period. Slide this baby on to instantly toughen up ruffle tops and flirty floral dresses.
9. Topshop Button Through Dress ($60): Because even classics need an update every once in a while. The must-have grunge-era essential — the button-front sun dress — gets a major makeover with a relaxed silhouette that lazy girls will love in a vibrant shade of cobalt blue. Low-profile Doc Martens and denim jackets are ready to take on gigs and coffee dates in true ’90s style, while strappy sandals and chic cuff bracelets transition the look into glam territory.
10. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Leather ($70): No grunge look is complete without Converse high top kicks. Skip the classic canvas uppers and opt for sleek black leather that puts a spin on your favorite sneakers. When casual Friday rolls around, style them alongside tailored trousers and a longline boyfriend blazer for an ensemble that reads professional badass.
11. ASOS Chunky Cardi in Cutabout Rib ($77): Instead of dishing out $100,000 (that you totally just have lying around, right?) for one of Kurt Cobain’s signature cardigans, scoop up this chic alternative instead. The architectural lines are a far cry from the god of grunge’s layering piece, but when worn over a plaid top and leather pants, it nails the rocker look you love.
12. Zara Faux Leather Bermudas ($30): Who needs a leather mini skirt when you can have Bermuda shorts like these? Whether you pair ’em with a classic button-down shirt or a chunky knit sweater, you can’t go wrong. Platform oxfords and a dark, moody mani are obligatory.
13. Mango Zip Leather Jacket ($190): Lightened-up leather is the perfect way to toughen up the looks you love without going over the top. Toss it on over your workday best for an unexpected twist on a classic blazer. Disrupt the edgy-polished balance with double-sided studs and fresh-faced makeup.
14. Express Faux Leather Stone Choker ($30): What would Drew Barrymore do? Wear this choker, duh. For a swoon-inducing look, style the layered leather number with a babydoll dress and tousled tresses.
15. Levi’s 501 CT Jeans ($148): While borrowing your boyfriend’s jeans is the way to truly rock the grunge look, sometimes occasion calls for something with a little more oomph. Enter the denim you’ll reach for again and again. Their low-key look was made for weekends spent running errands or catching up over lunch with your BFFs, but the blackout hue feels elegant enough to rock after hours with glove shoes and a leather trench.
16. Loft Beach Rainforest Floral Strappy Maxi Dress ($90): With wedding and graduation season upon us, your go-to floral dress simply won’t do. A black backdrop lends an angsty edge to this flowery maxi that can be styled with a moto jacket on a chilly spring day or paired with strappy block sandals once warmer temps arrive.
17. Vagabond Grace Slingback Mule Heel ($130): You can’t do grunge without a sick pair of shoes, and these slingback stompers don’t disappoint. Accessorize ’em with overalls and an off-the-shoulder top for a girly grunge getup you won’t want to take off.
18. Zara Frayed Check Top ($40): Lend a tough-girl ‘tude to your office repertoire with this frayed check top that would be best paired with leather culottes and lace-up booties. We’re so down.
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