How to Dress Grunge

by Teresa Daly

Courtney Love sports a vintage-style dress and a starry tiara for a concert in Sydney in August 2014.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Grunge as a fashion trend began with musicians in Seattle in the 1990s, but its influence on international fashion and style endures. The icon of grunge, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, sadly is no longer around, but echoes of the thrift store mix of men's and women's easy-to-wear clothes he combined to create a new style can be seen in runway shows year after year. Look to Nirvana and other musicians who helped bring about the grunge movement for inspiration for your own grunge looks. Courtney Love, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and members of Mudhoney are still rocking -- and still rocking the grunge look.

"Come as You Are"

Comfort is key, with a serious streetwise edge to it. In the '90s, Love liked to wear baby doll dresses, flannel and leopard fur coats -- often all at the same time. Over the years, she adopted a more sophisticated style, adding lace and satin but keeping it edgy with off-the-shoulder or strapless dresses and adding spike heels, platforms or combat boots. Vedder made the long, long scarf a must-have accessory; Cornell was among the first to favor baggy cargo shorts and once famously made shorts out of duct tape. Combat boots, work boots or Doc Martens were worn by everyone with almost every outfit. Combine your frayed or ripped jeans with a concert T-shirt under a satin top and a long scarf for a daytime look -- whether you're a man or woman.

"About a Girl"

In the article "Street Style: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014 Part Two," "Vogue" editors describe how designers such as Stella McCartney "prove that it’s possible to make grunge look grown-up" by incorporating plaid coats and other '90s style twists into their current collections. Women going out on the town might choose a low-cut or off-the-shoulder baby doll or lace dress for evening, and top it with a plaid flannel or wool blazer. If combat boots don't fit the occasion, replace them with high or over-the-knee black or pearl suede boots with a chunky heel, or black platform shoes. For daytime, follow Jessica Alba's lead with an asymmetrical tee and flouncy floral skirt anchored by rust-colored high-top Doc Martens. Throw a long scarf over either outfit for extra grunge appeal.

"Better Man"

Men's grunge is also experiencing a resurgence, including both clothing and hairstyles. Men in Seattle and beyond can once again be seen sporting the shaggy '90s bowl cut. As with women's looks, guys who want to go grunge can't go wrong with plaid. Combine a loosely cut plaid flannel shirt with frayed or ripped jeans, combat or work boots, and a knit cap or hunting hat for a night watching the game. Step it up for formal events with a fitted plaid blazer -- or suit -- combined with a white oxford, or a plaid one if you want to really stand out. A tie is optional, but if you wear one, make it loose. Wear sturdy dress shoes or Docs on your feet.

"Little Things"

Along with scarves, add grungy or grunge-glam accessories so you don't look like you just rolled out of the thrift shop. Fur hats, knit beanies and fisherman's caps work well in the cold. Studs -- on belts, necklaces, bracelets and shoes -- add a punk edge. Women can add any jewelry that looks as though it came from the secondhand store, including long chains with big pendants, faux pearls and precious stones, and anything with a cross. Throw an Army surplus bag over your shoulder and you're ready to go.

Photo Credits

  • Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

About the Author

Teresa Daly has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She has been an editor at Denver's Westword along with several other publications and sites, and written articles for AOL, Society 6, and more.