How to Dress Edgy Classic: Classic Closet Style Series

How to Dress Edgy Classic

you can dress edgy classic at any age

“Do you think I’m too old to wear destroyed jeans? Because I love them, but I’m 40 now. I don’t want to look ridiculous, like I’m trying too hard to be young.” This question came from a friend of mine, and it’s one I hear a lot. It’s also one I’ve considered a lot because I love edgy outfits.

Most of my life I went from one extreme to the other with my outfits. I was either super classic, like right out of a Ralph Lauren catalog, or I looked like I was ready for a night out in Vegas. I was either pearls and cable knit sweaters, or red vinyl snake skin pants (oh yes, I had a pair in college) and platforms. At both ends of the extreme I felt uncomfortable. I was too prim and proper or too early-morning-detention-regular. 

I finally realized I’m a mix of both edgy and classic, and over the last few years I’ve worked to find that balance of what feels good to me. What is MY perfect ratio of edgy to classic? A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how to dress classic without looking dated. It was the first of a series. I’m going to take you through different style types to show you how to incorporate other elements and styles into your classic wardrobe to customize your look.

what my style says about me

I would say my ratio is 70 percent classic and 30 percent edgy. Sometimes even more like 80/20. Occasionally I get 60/40 or 90/10, but not often. I love the edgy side of sophisticated. I’m a Southern lady, but I can definitely hold my own. I am not someone you want to verbally spar with, and if it comes down to it, you wonder if I might kick your butt in a physical standoff as well. You’re not sure if I could, but you ARE sure you don’t want to find out. I don’t back down from a fight, even if you are twice my size. I stand my ground, but I don’t go looking for trouble. I’m not afraid of anyone, even if I should be. It takes a lot to set me off, but heaven help you if you do.

A year ago I went to get my hair done, and I actually had a raging fever. For some reason (let’s blame it on the fever) I decided to go platinum. With my edgy haircut, the platinum made me look even edgier, and suddenly I couldn’t dress edgy enough to match my hair, so my wardrobe looked all wrong on me. One of my neighbors stopped me and said, “You look like an assassin. A high dollar assassin. You would ride in on a bullet bike, dressed in all black leather, spike the victim with your Louboutin stiletto and be gone.” Clearly I had gone too far with the edge. I’m going more for high dollar attorney who will skewer you with my words in the court room, not with my shoe in an alley.

The question to ask yourself about your style is this: do you want to whisper, speak, or shout? I’m more of a whisper to loud whisper kind of girl when it comes to my edgy side.

In the Stunning Style Wardrobe Guide, everything is strictly classic, but in the shopping links I provide as many style options as I can find.  You’ll find edgy, flirty, and feminine options for many of the items so you can customize the wardrobe to your personal style, and 100 outfit options for inspiration!

edgy details in your clothes

I love moto jackets, but I prefer the mandarin collar single breasted jackets, as they are more sophisticated edgy. The leather and zippers are edgy without being too Rebel Without A Cause. I personally can’t wear the wide collar double-breasted moto jackets. They are too overtly edgy for my style, but they may be perfect for yours. And honestly they are too bulky for me. I don’t like to wear double breasted anything.  It all depends on what feels right for you. Pop quiz before class: what else makes our outfits different? 

In general I get my edgy vibes in my accessories: jewelry, shoes, jackets, purses, but there are details I love in my clothes as well. On my tops and bottoms I love to find items with exposed zippers, leather trim, studs, v necklines, angular patterns, anything triangle shaped, asymmetry, texture, destroyed fabric, cut outs, and animal prints.

The zippers could be in the front neckline, along the shoulder, the lower side seams of a sweater, pants pockets, ankle seams, etc. On a jacket they could be all over the place, from the main zipper to pockets to sleeves to everything.

Leather trim could be as subtle as piping on a neckline, along a pocket, or outlining a zipper. It can be as overt as the entire front of a t-shirt, large panels on your pants, or fully leather pants. My super classic Burberry trench has leather sleeves and collar, and zippered pockets. 

Studs don’t have to look like a Vegas show girl costume. They can be small and subtle trim on a neckline or pocket line, or large and noticeable on the front of a jacket. Quantity and scale determine how flashy they are. Grommets are similar, but I generally don’t care for them because they are usually round. Circles aren’t edgy to me.

V-necklines, triangles, asymmetry, and angular patterns are all pointy. Anything sharp, angular, irregular, or that could definitely put an eye out is a shape I want in my outfit, whether it’s a pattern in my shirt or created by my clothes. I like to create Vs in my clothes and shoes, like pointy toes and v neck tops, or buttoning the middle button of a boyfriend cardigan creates two Vs.

Texture, destroyed fabric, and cut outs all suggest that maybe you’ve been in a fight, and this detail definitely isn’t for everyone. Destroyed jeans are as polarizing as turtlenecks. You either LOVE THEM or DESPISE THEM. There is no middle ground. I’m in the can’t-live-without-them camp. However, I cannot wear a destroyed sweater or shirt. To me a torn shirt is…not me. Too much? Too homeless? I don’t know. I do know that I am not into them at all, and that is part of knowing my own personal style and accepting it. Texture could be jute trim on a wedge sandal, lace in shapes that are edgy, like triangles or rectangles, leather trim, chunky knit sweaters, quilted jackets, metallics, chain details, and more.

Animal prints are tricky for me since I only wear pure hues, or winter palette clothing colors, and the only animal print that naturally falls into that is zebra, which I don’t typically care for. I LOVE snake skin or reptile patterns, which can be really hard to find in my color palette, so it’s generally a texture added to a solid-colored item, like black snake skin shoes. I have a white tee with a silver metallic snake skin print on it that I love. I also love leopard, but the warm tones don’t flatter me or my wardrobe. The rare black and white snow leopard pattern often is too small and looks like polkadots from not too far away, and polkadots are about as unedgy as it gets. I’ve always got my eye out, though. It’s a unicorn item I hope to find one day because I love leopard.

And I can’t do a post about edgy classic without mentioning my favorite color. Black. Black is as edgy classic as it gets. I wrote all about how to be perfectly chic in black here.

edgy accessories

I can sum this up in one word: stabby. If it couldn’t double as a weapon, I don’t wear it. My jewelry is sharp, pointy, angular, and dangerous. They usually have some sort of triangular or diamond shape to them. My shoes have pointy toes, textures like jute or snake skin, extra straps, and either super stabby or chunky, substantial heels. My purses might be textured, quilted, studded, have chain details or extra zippers.

My number one edgy accessory is my hair. It’s angular, piecy, sharp, and textured. You can see how I style my hair in this video.

The way you wear your makeup can also add an edgy vibe without being Goth. A little smudged black eyeliner on the outer v of your eyelids adds some this-is-from-the-night-before-and-I-woke-up-this-way, but not I-don’t-remember-last-night-at-all-and-I-might-have-a-new-last-name. There’s a difference. See all my makeup tutorials here.

edgy classic brands

There are some brands that were made for you. Rebecca Minkoff, Gorjana, Steve Madden, Sam Edelman, all the BCBG brands, Max Azria, Bebe, Burberry, Cache (though they can get a little too Peggy Bundy for my taste), Express, Franco Sarto, Calvin Klein, Charlotte Russe, Michael Kors, Laundry by Shelli Segal, Max Studio, Trina Turk, Rag and Bone, House of Harlow, Tory Burch, Vince Camuto, White House Black Market, Frye, Zara, and Stella and Dot, Kendra Scott. Sometimes Ann Taylor, Loft, and Banana Republic. They are all classic, but their undertone can vary from season to season with the trends. 

wait a second, where is the classic?

The classic is in the style and fit of the clothes. I love button ups, dark wash, tailored jeans (even if they are shredded), shirt dresses, stripes, chino shorts, pencil skirts, flats, loafers, trench coats, and a very tailored fit. The overall look of my clothing is classic, and I sprinkle in some edgy details to add a whisper of danger. My favorite striped Breton tee has exposed zippers on the shoulders. I have a black pencil skirt with leather panels on the front. Some of my button ups are flannel (texture), and have very large scale plaid patterns. Most of my striped tees have a very wide, substantial stripe, which is edgier than a fine stripe. My classic black pumps are pointy-toed and shiny leather, but the heel has a textured lizard-skin leather. My shirt dress is straight up classic, but I pair it with stabby jewelry. I wear a lot of solid colors, which is also more classic and tones down the edge. All the details with a lot of pattern would be too much for me.

it's all about balance

I just listed a whole lot of options for adding edgy details to your outfits, but I don’t wear all of them at the same time. I pick and choose. My hair is always edgy. If I have edgy details in my top, then I will go for classic pants, meaning no extra leather, zippers or holes. If I’m wearing leather pants or destroyed jeans, I will keep it classic in the shirt. I have big edgy jewelry, and I have small edgy jewelry. I choose the size based on the level of edginess in the rest of my outfit. If I already have enough going on in my outfit, I will choose little triangle studs instead of my big dagger earrings. I can’t wear a striped tee, cardigan, jeans and flats unless the jeans are torn up because it would be far too sweet and preppy for me. 

so are you ever to old to dress edgy?

No. You’re not. If edgy is who you are then it’s more like a public service announcement to represent it in your style. I think of it as truth in advertising. I’m not cute, fun, sweet, or super feminine. I’m nice, but I have sharp edges. And reaching a certain birthday won’t change that. I won’t suddenly one day become the type of person who hugs people a lot or speaks softly and sweetly all the time, so why should I be expected to change my style to reflect something I’m not just because of the number of candles on my cake?

let's see it all in action

Since you can see examples of my edgy classic style all over this blog, let’s look at someone else, Queen Letizia of Spain. She is in her late 40s, but she often rocks the perfect edgy classic style. 

Photo credit here.

Outfit 1: She takes a classic sheath dress and chooses the edgiest texture out there: leather. That one simple switch was all that was needed. I would wear it in black and possibly layer a crisp white button up underneath. A casual look would be to wear a leather vest in a similar shape over a button up with some perfectly tailored jeans and flats. 

Outfit 2: The patterns in her classic silk blouse are angular and asymmetrical. It’s paired with a classic a-line skirt and pointy pumps. I would make this everyday wearable by pairing a top with angular asymmetrical pattern with a classic pair of jeans, like dark wash bootcut or skinnies and pointy-toe flats.

Outfit 3: The snake skin pattern of her skirt is the edgy detail she has chosen. If I couldn’t find a snake skin top in my color palette, I would make this outfit casual by putting the animal print on a bag, shoes, or scarf, and wear them with a classic tee and jeans or shorts. My animal print would likely be black and white or tone on tone so it’s not a muted blend of colors.

Outfit 4: A classic blazer and tee are given an edgy vibe with leather leggings and red pointy toe heels. I’d swap the heels out for flats to make this is an easy-to-wear everyday outfit. If you don’t feel comfortable in leggings, swap the blazer for a moto jacket and wear black jeans.

Outfit 5: The studs on her dress are neither flashy nor Florida retiree. They are a subtle edgy detail that says she means business. I’d look for a top with similar stud details. Not too blingy, not too many of them. Notice the pattern of the studs also makes a geometric shape, not swirly or twirly. If the gray portion of the dress were a hue, it would be perfect. I actually have a short sleeve color block top that is nearly identical, but no studs. I wonder if I could find a Bedazzler on eBay to fix that. Kidding. Sort of. 

Outfit 6: Is there an outfit more classic than a black pencil skirt and white silk blouse? Choosing a leather skirt makes the outfit sharper. Pants with a front leather panel are everywhere these days, so I would wear those with a classic top for an everyday edgy vibe. Or wear black jeans and a black leather jacket with the blouse.

Outfit 7: She chooses a leopard print silk blouse and a substantial leather belt to add some edge. Swap out black jeans and the animal print of your choice for a casual version.

Outfit 8: She really went all out with a studded full leather top and matching clutch! Trade those trousers for jeans and I could wear this any day!

Outfit 9: The cut outs in her jumpsuit are angular, not round or swirly. I have a tee with angular cut out patterns that I love to pair with jeans or shorts. Her substantial cuff is also edgy.

Notice that all of her clothing items are quite classic: pencil skirts, button ups, pumps, sheath dresses. The fit is very tailored. The edge comes in the details: prints, studs, pattern, and texture.

what's not edgy

As important as it is to add the edgy elements you want, it’s equally important to avoid certain elements if you want that slightly cool, dangerous vibe. Those will be showcased in the next two posts.

If you are not sure what your style is yet, please take our Classic Style Twist quiz below, and then read about the different Twists here to learn how to bring your own personality type through while still embracing classic style.

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17 thoughts on “How to Dress Edgy Classic: Classic Closet Style Series”

  1. I gotta say, your description of yourself is also me! Dangerous. Business. Don’t mess with me.
    This is a great post, as usual. Thank you!!

  2. This is great April! I love how you figured all that out about yourself and in the process help me understand my own preferences. Nearly identical except I no longer wear heals. Don’t even want to. Something I thought would never happen.

  3. I agree with Belinda – you’ve put into words certain preferences that have made me entirely more aware of my own preferences. I’ve learned that I can’t do anything other than sharp angular jewelry/accessories/pattern as well – I simply can’t do round and swirly. It creates a nice balance for me while scarves and my long wavy layered hair still honor my softer side.

  4. Hi Nicole. Its J. Crew Factory, and it’s actually navy. I’ve had it for a few years, so you could try to find it on Poshmark or Ebay. I wrote a series of posts about how to shop and sell on Poshmark recently if you’re not familiar.

  5. Oh this article was the best. I’ve been doing the casual look but I didn’t feel as edgy. Since I’m older, I do want the edginess. The idea about the jewelry is helpful as well as the single breast items. I do have some double breast items and they are hard to use jewelry with.
    You may have covered this, but what kinds of features do you look for in purses or cross bodies for edginess?
    You know, I’ve been on many blogs, but you put so much work in what you do and it really shows. I have some of your style guides. I need to get the latest one. When I did the test, of course I wouldn’t come out with edginess because I answered the question from my casual "mind." So I think I’ll ignore my test results.(hee hee)

  6. Hi Sandy. Thank you so much! I really want my website to be an educational space so you can discover and define your own style. When I look for purses I look for angles, whether it’s in the pattern or the structure. I love chevron stitching. I look for chain details, exposed zippers, studs, texture (like pebbled or a mix of suede and leather).

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