What Is Elevated Indie? All About the Rebellious Fall Trend

Indie Sleaze got a grown-up makeover.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

It can be a bit overwhelming to keep up with the sheer number of “cores” or “aesthetics” leading conversations within fashion. But one that was hard to miss this year was the return of “Indie Sleaze," a style of dressing that seemed to specifically capture the attention of Gen Z.

Even if you’re not chronically online, you’ve probably heard the term at this point — in fact, the hashtag has over 137 million views on TikTok. It's also been seen in looks by young Hollywood style icons like Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish, who’ve tapped into the late 2000s to early 2010s era of grungy-meets-free-spirited style. The Indie Sleaze aesthetic embodies the music that ruled the time — think the indie rock and punk scenes — combining tougher-looking styles and materials like leather and a dark color palette, punctuated by a dose of opulence with shearling, chunky jewelry, and hardware details. Then, of course, the "sleaze" comes in, with scandalous styling cues like more than a hint of skin.

While revisiting this vibe may work well curating casual outfits or nighttime attire, reliving our Tumblr days isn’t particularly wearable for, say, heading back into the office. Luckily, designers offered up a solution on the Fall/Winter 2023 runways for an elevated iteration of the indie aesthetic — allowing us to rekindle our love for this style without looking like we’ve just walked off the set of a Cobra Starship music video.

<p>John Lamparski/Getty Images</p> Adeam

John Lamparski/Getty Images


Balancing grit, sex appeal, and poise (quite the combination, I know), elevated indie, a.k.a. indie chic, got a stamp of approval at fashion weeks across the globe, both from designers who normally lean into the look as well as those who tried out the aesthetic through their own unique lens. Collections offered up a rebellious tone through the use of head-to-toe leather, hardware details on knitwear and denim, punky plaid, pinstripes, snakeskin, and a deep color palette of rich reds, black, and charcoal.

Although they certainly embodied an edge, the elements were done with precise tailoring; jackets could be paired back to an ultra-feminine dress or tailored denim, and covered-up maxiskirts could transition from a meeting to a dinner date.

<p>Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images</p> Brandon Maxwell

Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Brandon Maxwell

Design houses like Adeam, Simkhai, and Khaite embraced the elevated tone with toughness, noting inspirations that ranged from music, of course, to the current societal atmosphere.

“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty around the world, and I wanted to express a feeling of inner strength to fight against the negativity that surrounds you,” says Hanako Maeda, CEO and creative director of Adeam, whose collection leaned into tough, punk-feeling details paired back to soft, romantic contrasts. “Fashion is a part of a larger cultural discourse that interacts with different creative fields like music and art. I think it feels natural that younger generations respond to this era, as punk has always been inspired by teen angst and coming of age.”

<p>Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows</p> Simkhai

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows


Similarly, Simkhai showed models in moto jackets and deconstructed garments while they walked to a moody soundtrack, and Brandon Maxwell offered smart yet undeniably cool suiting finished with chunky metal jewelry and a slew of strong-shouldered outerwear. Another New York standout, Khaite made a case for shearling apparel and pinstripe suiting that could have been seen on rock stars of bygone eras if styled for the stage versus the runway.

The throughline in all of these collections: Designers embraced indie sleaze’s innate edginess while finding opportunities to ground it with polished separates and accessories. Stylists Danielle O'Connell and Alix Gropper agree that this is the key to achieving the elevated indie look for fall.

“It’s all about balance. If the outfit is oversized and baggy, try pairing with a feminine heel or dainty accessories; if the base of the outfit is simpler, try layering a ton of necklaces or adding a chunky boot or loafer,” say O’Connell and Gropper. The duo — known for working with of-the-moment celebs like Alix Earle, Brooks Nader, and XO, Kitty star Anna Cathcart — understands that the trend may not be a natural fit to everyone’s personal style, but anyone can get in on it with the right strategy.

Related: 18 Fall 2023 Fashion Trends You'll Want to Wear Right Now



“There’s definitely a spectrum of how deep you need to lean into any trend — especially this one. For our clients that lean a bit more girly, like [Summer House star] Paige DeSorbo, we’ll push to pair a feminine minidress with a leather moto jacket to accomplish the vibe in a way that feels authentic,” the styling duo tells InStyle. “For clients that are eager to lean into the aesthetic, like Lexi Wood and Ellie Thumann, we can go super edgy with oversized everything and a ton of layers, and then pair with a chic heel.”

If you’re ready to rekindle your love affair with the Tumblr era, this fall is offering up the perfect opportunity for a second chance. Better yet, it will be done with a bit more care and intention this time around — though if you prefer a little sleaze woven in, who are we to stop you?

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