How to style grunge in 2023

Welcome to Style diaries, a series where we explore the physical manifestations of our closet tours IRL. We’re asking friends and tastemakers to show us what they’re *actually* wearing during the week and give us a little insight into their thoughts on the current state of fashion. This week we follow a musician Cailin Russo from performances to parties to running errands. Her entire look exudes the grunge movement, with a touch of futurism, femininity, and sportswear—and she always gives a “bad bitch.”

View 1: Her own performance

Top: Barragán; Jacket: Vintage; Short: Rick Owens x Champion; Necklace: Lorette Colé Duprat; Socks: Urban Outfitters; Hat: Halcyon Veil;

Photo: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“I’m wearing a Barragán mesh top and Rick Owens x Champion basketball shorts and then a moto jacket. I mean, it’s just bad bitch energy. It’s just, ‘don’t talk to me at all’. This is what I perform in.”

View 2: Weekend concert

Above: Hanes; Skirt: Vintage; Bag: Vintage Prada;

Photos: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“I’m really obsessed with the black baby t-shirt and this kind of pin-up gothic makeup. I think it really balances gothic and femininity – it gives both an alluring and unattractive look.”

Look 3: Holiday party

Top: Girl with poster; Pants: Vintage Adidas; Bag: Simon Miller;

Photo: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“I wore a Poster Girl mesh top and vintage Adidas sweatpants to a White Elephant Christmas/Hanukah party—with a little glam. It’s still cute grunge. I felt like I wanted to dress like a decoration. Honestly, sometimes I really don’t want to be in a giant T-shirt because that’s a favorite too.”

View 4: Off duty

Top, shorts and belt: Vintage; Bag: Vintage Michael Kors; Boots: Gia Borghini;

Photos: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“This is a good casual look. Again, sporty, very masculine, but I’m rocking it with a kid’s t-shirt. Constantly. I was just running errands.”

View 5: Press test shots

Styled by Rose Johansen + Stephanie Vutura; Top: diesel; Shorts: Vintage; Shoes: Marc Jacobs;

Photo: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“This was actually for my press shoot, but it’s just a really cool ‘Cailin Russo as an artist’ look. It has all the elements I like in terms of gag/dramatic footwear to sporty basketball shorts to grunge leather buckles. It’s a really easy but bad-ass day-to-night look. It’s more of a daytime look, honestly. It’s very casual, but still very funky.”

Style Notes:

Show us your personal style. How would you describe the pieces you gravitate towards?

“I think the backbone of my style has always been grunge. I am always where I am. Whether I’m into futurism or elegance, there’s always a grunge undertone. I look for unique pieces and obviously pieces that flatter my body, but I definitely like to push the boundaries with it. I like to look for the ugliest things and wear them.”

What does your lifestyle look like? How does your style change for the different things you need to dress for?

“So for my shows, I like to layer and mix a lot of textures. And then in my everyday style, I’m very, very light. These are wide leg jeans with buttons. I usually wear a hoodie, and to dress it up, I’ll wear a cape with heavy spikes. But I dress super casual and let it be my statement piece. And I really like hats too. I really like short boots and high socks and basketball shorts. I really like sportswear.”

Tell us about your obsession with grunge. What a fun visual repertoire to draw references from, and I’m sure it applies to both music and fashion. Do you have any icons, eras or moments that you refer to very often or is it more just a general sensibility?

“I love really special pieces and really special sounds that make you feel that way. Do you know what I mean? I feel like effortless is my coolest style, and I think that plays a lot in grunge, because obviously grunge came out of a druggie lifestyle, but I think it’s really evolved into something that’s a lot more chic—a lot less rock and roll. I wouldn’t even put it in that box again. Obviously, Kurt Cobain is the queen of grunge. I really like Rihanna’s style, it’s very pop but always keeps a grunge edge.

“And I’m getting more and more into, not extremism, but I’m going further with it. So there are some brands like Undercover or Issey Miyake, some Japanese designers that have a lot of grunge undertones, but like Commes Des Garçons or Noir [Kei Ninomiya]. All these things are really chic. But then I also look at Courrèges or even Isabel Marant. She dropped these wedge sneakers that were so hideous but so sick. I also have a very feminine side, so I like to play with it as well. You can wear a big loose t-shirt and bike shorts, but I’d like my bike shorts to be fishnet, my boots to be pointy, and my hair gelled down in a very sleek way. There’s definitely a soft curve to my grunge aesthetic.”

What is the value to you as a musician of having a strong cultivated sense of style when it comes to dressing?

“I think a lot of times the way you dress is how you feel. I know that’s a pretty generic answer. I would go into certain studios and get a different level of respect from the people around me. But sometimes it’s really about the inner thoughts you retreat with; [people] they are really touched by your energy. But I think they both play a role in each other. Sometimes your energy will make your clothes, sometimes your clothes will make your energy.”

Do you ever think about using your style to cultivate a persona outside of yourself as a musician or is it really a representation of who you really are?

“I think there is a divide between all artists and our journey is to be authentic in both. When I step out as a musician, I step out out and when I’m chilling, I’m actually just trying to chill. I don’t put that much effort into it. But still there should be a level of consciousness that always carries two identities. But I think there is definitely a separation between me and my artistic self.”

Hair and beauty are an integral part of personal style. What is your standard hair and makeup routine, or do you change it up depending on what you’re wearing?

“I’m really trying to get better at makeup. I really want to learn how to punch my face because I think it’s so stupid. But back to my grunge roots, those bitches don’t care. They’re just playing around. It’s that vibe, but I definitely like to look more elaborate. I had just cut my hair, so I smoothed it and added curves to my outfit. I’m here right now. I like to look wet. I like my face to look very fresh and toned. So my staples are really clean thin cat eyes and then a brown lip line. But I think I’m going to do a black lip line because I’m entering a more intense era.”

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