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How To Style Grunge in 2023

Welcome to Style Diaries, a series where we research 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 to provide a little insight into their thoughts on the current state of fashion. This week, we follow musician Cailin Russo from performances to parties to running errands. Her overall look is informed by the grunge movement, with a dash of futurism, femininity, and sportswear—and it’s always giving “bad bitch.”

Look 1: Her Own Performance

Top: Barragán; Jacket: Vintage; Shorts: 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, that’s just bad bitch energy. That’s just, ‘don’t talk to me at all.’ This is what I perform in.”

Look 2: Weekend Concert

Top: Hanes; Skirt: Vintage; Bag: Vintage Prada;

Photos: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“I’m just really obsessed with the black baby tee and this kind of pin-up goth makeup. I think it really balances out being goth with being feminine—it gives both an inviting and an uninviting look.”

Look 3: Holiday Party

Top: Poster Girl; Pants: Vintage Adidas; Bag: Simon Miller;

Photo: Courtesy of Cailin Russo

“I wore the Poster Girl mesh top and vintage Adidas track pants to a Christmas/Hanukkah White Elephant party—with a little glam beat down. It’s still cute grunge. I felt like I wanted to dress like an ornament. Honestly, sometimes I just really don’t want to be in a giant t-shirt because that’s also a go-to.”

Look 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 rock it with a baby tee. Always. I was just running errands.”

Look 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 that I like in terms of the gag/dramatic footwear to the sporty basketball shorts to the grunge leather button-down. It’s a really effortless but bad-bitch day-into-night look. It’s more of a daytime look, honestly. It’s very casual but still very bitchy.”

Notes on Style:

Paint us a picture of your personal style. How would you describe the pieces that you gravitate towards?

“I think the backbone of my style has always been grunge. That’s just always where I’m at. Whether I’m going for futurism or going for 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 boundaries with it. I like to look for the ugliest things and wear them.”

What does your lifestyle look like? How does your style shift 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 day-to-day style, I’m very, very effortless. It’s button down and baggy jeans. I usually wear a hoodie and to dress it up I’ll wear a really intensely spike choker. But I dress super casual and let that be my statement piece. And I really like hats as well. I’m really into short boots and high socks and basketball shorts. I really like sportswear.”

Tell us a little bit about your obsession with grunge. What a fun visual repertoire to pull references from, and I’m sure that it applies to both music and fashion. Do you have any icons or eras or moments that you really reference a lot or is it more just the general sensibility?

“I’m into really special pieces and really special sounds that make you feel the type of way. Do you know what I mean? I feel like effortless is the coolest style to me and I think that plays a lot in grunge, because obviously grunge was born out of a junkie 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 anymore. Obviously, Kurt Cobain is the queen of grunge. I really like Rihanna’s style, she’s very pop, but she always keeps a grunge edge.

“And I’m getting more into, not extremism, but going the distance 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 that stuff is really chic. But then I also look at Courrèges or even Isabel Marant. She dropped these wedge sneakers that were so heinous but so sick. I also have a very feminine side, so I like to play with that, as well. You can wear a big baggy T-shirt and bike shorts, but I would like the bike shorts to be mesh and my boots to be pointy and have my hair gelled down in a very sleek way. There’s definitely a soft curve to my grunge aesthetic.”

What’s the value for you as a musician to have a strong cultivated sense of style when it comes to getting dressed?

“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 I would get a different level of respect from people around me. But sometimes it’s really about the inner thoughts that you pull up with; [people] are really touched by your energy. But I think both of those play a part in each other. Sometimes your energy’s going to make your outfit, sometimes your outfit is going to make your energy.”

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

“I think there’s a split between all artists and our journey is to be authentic in both. When I step out as a musician, I’m stepping out and when I’m chilling, I’m really just trying to chill. I’m not putting as much effort into it. But there still needs to be a level of awareness that carries the two identities always. But I think there definitely is a separation between myself and then my artist self.”

Hair and beauty are such a component of personal style. What’s your standard hair and makeup routine or are you switching it up depending on what you’re wearing?

“I’m really trying to get better at makeup. I really want to learn how to beat my face because I think it’s so dope. But going back to my grunge roots, those bitches don’t care. They just rock out. That is such a vibe but I definitely like to look more put together. I just cut my hair, so I’ve been sleeking it down and having that add curvature to my outfit. That’s where I’m at right now. I like looking wet. I like my face to look really fresh and snatched. So my staples are a really clean, thin cat eye and then a brown lip line. But I think I’m going to get a black lip line because I’m moving into more of an intense era.”