Wouldn’t it be amazing to sleep late, embrace your bedhead and toss on an unkempt outfit, all in the name of fashion? We have grunge style to thank for that because it’s making a stylishly disheveled comeback. In fact, 90s nostalgia and grunge go hand-in-hand and are a huge part of women’s fall 2022 trends. With that said, we’re having flashbacks of young Winona Ryder in just-rolled-out-of-bed outfits. Or, who could forget Monica Geller’s iconic grunge looks on “Friends?” Her effortlessly cool outfits were comically in contrast to her rather obsessive-compulsive nature and hankering for cleanliness. That just goes to show that anyone can pull off grunge fashion. Are you curious to learn more about this low-key aesthetic? If so, crank up the angsty tunes and keep reading.
What is Grunge Style?
What is grunge style, you ask? Grunge style is all about not making a fashion statement. Yes, you read that right. It’s less about rebellion and more about passively rejecting current fashion trends. 90s grunge style embraces dressing down, which is a direct contrast to the flashy attire that was all the rage in the decade prior. While dark clothes are a popular choice among grunge goers, washed-out shades of any color fit right in. From its core, grunge outfits are wholly androgynous so you can easily borrow items from a sibling or guy friend. In fact, de-emphasizing your shape is a mainstay of this trend with its loose fits and unstructured silhouettes. Ultimately, grunge style is über inclusive and welcoming of anyone and everyone who wants to give it a try.
Style Tip: If you’re interested in building a more sustainable wardrobe, grunge style will lend well to your mission. As a matter of fact, many of the items that fall under this lived-in aesthetic are thrift-worthy and affordable. Buying secondhand is truer to the trend’s roots and, in turn, is kinder to your wallet and the planet. That’s a win-win in our book.
The Origin and Icons of Grunge Style
Did you know that the lead singer of Nirvana was a major grunge style icon? In fact, many people credit Kurt Cobain as the trailblazer of the grunge movement and the trend-bending fashion that it inspired. Alternative rock bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were a part of the 1990s music scene where it all began. What started as a style of music quickly evolved into a visual fashion aesthetic. Grunge artists took a different approach to the punk attire of shirts without sleeves, chain accents and body modifications. Instead, they reached for simple styles that a struggling artist could afford. Unexpectedly, Cobain’s mundane outfits took the fashion world by storm and entered the mainstream.
American fashion designer, Marc Jacobs, brought grunge to the runway with flannel shirts and black combat-style boots. In the 2010s, designers coined the term boho-chic, and infused it with grunge-inspired back-to-school looks. Just as every trend comes and goes, we’re seeing a resurgence of these laid-back outfits once again. Not only are women’s grunge styles easy to achieve, but they’re also comfy to wear. All in all, we’re here for it.
Core Grunge Style Elements
While classic grunge style is the basis of the subculture, different versions of the aesthetic exist. We’ll dive into those modern adaptations a bit later. For now, let’s focus on the building blocks that bring grunge fashion to life. These core elements are items that likely live in your (or your bestie’s) closet already. On the flip side, you may need to add a few new pieces to your grunge repertoire for full effect. Put the Alice in Chains record on pause and listen up: You won’t want to miss our top clothing picks for building a wardrobe that is refreshingly ordinary.
Oversized Plaid Shirts and Graphic Tees
Loose plaid shirts and graphic T-shirts—especially band tees—are the epitome of peak grunge style. If you have a few of each, you’re well on your way to creating those beloved casual outfits. While they’re a dynamic duo, you can also wear them separately. Perfecting a grunge look involves strategic layering. With that in mind, it doesn’t mean that each layer needs to be baggy. An oversized button-up will look great over a fitted tank top if you’re looking to maintain a balance of proportions.
Style Tip: Well-worn shirts are the name of the grunge game. Got a new tee that you’re wanting to look and feel more vintage? Simply wash it with bleach (this works best with cotton) to fade the color. To wear down the graphics, use sandpaper to carefully scuff up the areas you’d like to crack and peel. It may take a few tries or multiple washes, but your persistence will pay off.
Baggy and Distressed Denim
Sorry skinny jeans, you’re sitting this one out. Instead, we’re opting for mom jeans, skater styles and the wide-leg variety for our grunge getups. Full-length jeans are the traditional way to wear them, but feel free to keep it modern with a cropped pair. If you’re a fan of distressing, make sure any holes or fraying are from genuine wear and tear. Think about the state they’d be in after touring the world as grunge rockstars. If any rips become too large, simply patch them up for a customized, one-of-a-kind look. Faded black, almost grey, washes along with acid- and stone-wash denim are prime choices. This includes jean jackets as well. In fact, grunge style embraces the double denim Canadian tuxedo, so the more, the merrier.
Chunky Boots and Skater Shoes
To step into your best grunge form, you’re going to need the right shoes. If you’re only investing in one pair, let it be a clunky combat boot. They add a masculine feel to any outfit and go with just about anything, even skirts and dresses. Choose a suede or leather finish in a neutral shade like brown, tan or black for utmost versatility. Whether you opt for a lace-up, zip-up or pull-on style, you really can’t go wrong. In addition, chunky boots fit well under loose-fitting jeans for ease of wear. Now you can stomp the day away without a care in the world.
Not really a boot-loving gal? For a contemporary take on grunge style, swap the boots for a pair of platform mary janes or loafers. As an added bonus, you can borrow from your dark academia closet to pull this one off. Or, if you want an ultra-casual feel, reach for those trusty high-top skater shoes to seal the deal.
90s Grunge Fashion
Grunge style is inherently 90s, but for a refreshing take, pull from other 90s fashion trends to spice up your life. For example, opt for a slip dress or skirt as an unexpected swap for straight-leg jeans. A rich burgundy tone will look stellar coupled with a charcoal grey vintage baby tee. Lastly, top off your look with classic combat boots for a delightful balance of feminine and masculine details. Don’t forget the pop of plaid seen in many 90s grunge fashion looks. Simply tie a worn-out flannel around your waist for effortless layering. From here, accessorize with a thin velvet choker or swipe on a dark brown lipstick for an added throwback effect. Now you’re ready to fangirl over the Backstreet Boys when their tour stops in a city near you.
Indie Grunge Style
Staying true to the counterculture theme, let’s talk about how to pull off indie grunge style. It’s easy to give your grunge aesthetic outfits a hipster twist by tweaking a few of the basic grunge elements. Instead of an oversized plaid shirt, opt for a fitted one that sits close to the body. Wear it buttoned all the way to the top for a gender-neutral look. Tuck your shirt into your most distressed pair of jeans and layer it with a chunky cardigan. Keep the knitwear coming with a crochet beanie, or style a blanket scarf around your neck. For accessories, add a personal twist to your handbag with pins and patches of your choice. Wear this nonconforming outfit while enjoying craft beer and listening to an obscure band that no one has heard of.
Fairy Grunge Style
You may have never heard of fairy grunge style before, but if you’re a fan of escapist trends, stay tuned. Similar to the cottagecore aesthetic, fairy grunge draws inspiration from nature and romanticizes life among butterflies and moss-covered trees. Fans of this trend infuse fairy folklore and femininity into their personal style with bows, lace and sheer fabric. In addition to the soft and dainty details, there’s a merging of moody elements for a grunge twist. Think dark colors, corsets and fishnet stockings. If you’re a gal who loves the idea of combining contrasting styles, this one is for you.
To pull off a fairy grunge ensemble, start with a flowy maxi dress with lace inlets and dreamy puff sleeves. Contrast your beautiful frock with lace-up combat boots that are perfect for searching for fairy life in the forest. Furthermore, leave your hair loose and a little wild with a couple of small, messy braids. Are you wanting to feel even more connected to Mother Nature? Add a sprinkling of wildflowers to your hairdo and accessorize with a sun or moon necklace.
Edgy Grunge Style
Put the grrr in grunge by taking things to an edgier level. Most people associate grunge with the 90s, but there was a definite crossover from the punk era in the 80s. Evidently, leather was a common overlap between these two aesthetics. Now’s the time to break out your favorite moto jacket and let it shine. For full-on edgy grunge style, seek out a stunning little black dress made of leather or leather-like materials. By all means, dress it up with heels or take the unexpected route with a pair of canvas platform sneakers. To complete the marrying of edgy style and grunge fashion, you’ll need that quintessential plaid print. Reserve your usual flannel for another grunge look and go for something a bit more substantial. Top off your dress with a plaid shacket in a red and black colorway to match a bold crimson lip.
Interested in breaking free from mainstream fashion? Our style experts are here to help you achieve your carefree closet goals. Take your style quiz and order a Fix to get started. You’ll have the option to leave a request note for effortlessly cool grunge styles. Sit back and relax while five styles arrive on your doorstep. Try before you buy, keep what you love and send back the rest. While you wait, head over to Stitch Fix Freestyle™ to find items selected for your style and size. Shipping and returns are on us. It’s as simple as that.