In the least melodramatic way possible, 2023 is taking a dark turn in terms of fashion. In early 2020, we saw the rise of Y2K fashion that continued well into 2022. But this is a new year, with a new trend on the horizon – indie sleaze – so we have to prepare for darker pallets, smudged out makeup and a few tears in our tights. Read on for our top picks on how to get the indie aesthetic. But first…
What is indie sleaze?
The rise of indie sleaze actually took off in the mid-2000’s with celebs such as Alexa Chung, Kate Moss and Sky Ferreira popularizing the aesthetic. Think: feminine grunge, opulent displays of club life and the early days of Tumblr. In the 2000s, the aesthetic included some preppy features as well, with some outfits paired with blazers and ballet flats. But by 2023, the style has evolved to fit a modern lens, including leather, elevated basics and baggier pants (R.I.P. skinny jeans).
Considering all this, we kept an eye on the evolution of fashion and style over the past few years and have rounded up a few ways to achieve the indie sleaze look.
Indie sleaze trend: Heavy eye makeup
Maybelline Wood Pencil Eyeliner, Walmart, $8.
The staple component of every indie sleaze look is the eye makeup – smudged out black eyeliner, dark eye shadow and faded lipstick. Translation: channel the aesthetic of slept-in makeup. We suggest a pencil or gel eyeliner and buffing it out with a dense brush or your fingers. Reach for a berry-toned lip stick – but ditch the lip liner – and lightly smudge out the perimeter. Keep your base simple with a touch of blush, and you’ve achieved the ultimate indie sleaze makeup look.
Indie sleaze trend: Faux fur coats
Matterhorn Faux Fur Coat, Nordstrom, $199.
Here’s the thing: a lot of the indie sleaze style is influenced by clubbing culture and after-after party looks. Draping a faux fur coat over a simple outfit with the signature indie makeup is an easy and fool-proof way to pulling off indie sleaze. Plus, it’s a timeless piece to have in your closet.
Indie sleaze trend: Wired headphones
Koss KPH7 Headphones, Amazon, $22.
Tech can be a functional and fashionable accessory to any outfit. Although they might not have the best sound quality, wired headphones or earbuds can be a super cute addition to your indie sleaze outfit. Paying homage to the first indie craze of the 2000’s, this relic is a super-cool addition to your look.
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Indie sleaze trend: Glitter
Kim Chi Chic Glitter Sharts, Shoppers Drug Mart, $14.
As we mentioned, heavy eye makeup is essential to completing the indie sleaze look. Consider adding a little sparkle to stand out. Although, you have to remember that messy is key to emulating this aesthetic. Pro tip: pat the glitter gently under your eyes and even on your cheekbones to get that post-party look.
Indie sleaze trend: Tights and stockings
HOVEOX 6 Pairs Lace Patterned Tights, Amazon, $28/pack of six.
In the mid-2000’s, stockings and tights were worn in all different colours with dresses and skirts a la ‘80’s glam. The indie sleaze aesthetic includes tights and stockings, but think black lace, sheer and distressed. Pair them with an oversized sweater or shirt dress and the look is complete.
Indie sleaze trend: Thigh-high socks and legwarmers
Evolution Legwarmer, lululemon, $64.
With all this talk of “balletcore” online, legwarmers have been trending outside of ballet class. However, that look was actually popularized by hipsters. Try accessorizing an outfit with thigh-high socks or legwarmers. Plus, you could layer them with sheer stockings and boots, staying true to indie roots.
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Indie sleaze trend: Denim shorts
AE ‘90’s Boyfriend Short, American Eagle, $57.
A summer staple for most people, denim shorts are a must-have in the indie sleaze subculture. This is also a great opportunity to dip into your DIY skills. Try adding metal studs on the seams or lace on the trim. Pro tip: pair them with stockings or tights for a real throwback look, paying homage to the early Tumblr aesthetic.
Indie sleaze trend: Skinny scarves
Fringed Printed Scarf, Zara, $20.
Most trends are inspired by other existing trends, and aspects of each can bleed into one another. Skinny scarves are a feature piece of the Y2K aesthetic, but are also a part of indie sleaze. The difference being, in Y2K, they are colourful and sparkly, whereas in indie style they’re focused on texture and colour. Think: fringe or patterns. Pair it with any outfit to style indie.
Indie sleaze trend: Chunky belts
We The Free Brix Belt, Free People, $66.
Large belts have a bad reputation for being a little bit country… or even emo. But a chunky belt can make an outfit. Pair an oversized sweater with a large belt around the hips versus the waist to emphasize an effortlessly chic aesthetic. Hot tip: look to Kate Moss for inspiration.
Indie sleaze trend: Graphic tees
David Bowie 1973 Alexa Baby Tee, Urban Outfitters, $54.
Elevated basics has been on everyone’s mind the last few years, and those can definitely fit into indie fashion. However, a graphic tee is timeless and can be a form of self-expression, repping your favourite band, artist or movie. Peeking through a faux fur coat, you’ve got a cute, stylish indie sleaze look.