Get the perfect edgy style with your classic wardrobe, at any age
When are you too old to wear an Edgy style?
“Do you think I’m too old to wear destroyed jeans? Because I love them, but I’m 40 now, and 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 Classic style.
Most of my life I went from one extreme to the other with my outfits. I was either super Minimal Classic, like right out of a Ralph Lauren catalog, or I looked like I was ready for a night out in Vegas.
For me it was 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 because I was too prim and proper like Molly Ringwald or too early-morning-detention-regular like Ali Sheedy in The Breakfast Club.
I finally realized I’m a mix of both Edgy and Classic styles, 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?
How to dress classic without looking dated was the first post of this series. Each post investigates various Style Twists to show you how to incorporate other elements and styles into your classic wardrobe to customize your look. Take the Style Twist Quiz below to learn about your Twist(s).
what my edgy classic style says about me
My typical ratio is 80 percent classic and 20 percent edgy. Sometimes even more like 70/30 or 90/10, depending on the day and my mood. Occasionally I get 60/40, but not often. I love the edgy side of sophisticated.
As a Southern lady, I’m classy, but I can definitely hold my own. 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, and 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.
I laughed out loud when I read Danny Zoucha’s description of his wife, because it sums me up so well.
In the Stunning Style Wardrobe Guide, everything is strictly Minimal Classic, but in the shopping links I provide options for each of the Style Twists. You’ll find Cute, Edgy, Soft and Sporty options for many of the items so you can customize the wardrobe to your personal style, and 100 outfit options for inspiration!
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edgy versus Edgy Classic
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 because I don’t like the extra bulk, and they are too overtly edgy for my style. But they may be perfect for yours. It all depends on what feels right for you.
Let’s compare my outfit with Jessica Jones’ outfit. Pop quiz before class: what makes our outfits different?
Jessica’s jacket is edgier with the wide flaps and the more destroyed leather, her jeans are destroyed, (and possibly haven’t been washed this year), and her moto boots are more destroyed and showing on the outside of her rumpled jeans. Her character (from the Marvel comics) is an alcoholic, and from the neck down she looks like she’s been on a bender.
My moto jacket is shinier, sleeker, and has the mandarin collar, eliminating the extra bulk. The very classic dark wash jeans, a classic white button up, and black crew neck sweater I’m wearing are all in pristine condition and have been steamed, and would be an appropriate classic outfit any Junior Leaguer would be proud to wear. My boots are inside my jeans and have a high shine, polished finish.
Edgy Classic Details in Your Clothes
The zippers could be in the front neckline, along the shoulder, the lower side seams of a sweater, pants pockets, ankle seams, etc. When zippers replace buttons, like on Michelle Williams’ dress below, it takes a classic item to the Edgy Classic side. On a jacket the zippers could be all over the place, from the main zipper to pockets to sleeves to side vents.
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, and I plan to be buried in it.
Large doses of leather create instant edgy style, like in pants and skirts.
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 not as edgy because they are usually round. Circles aren’t edgy.
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. But I would wear the white mesh sweater in the picture below. It hints at chainmail.
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, mesh, ribbing, 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. Zebras don’t eat people, and I tend to think of it as a Cute Classic pattern.
Snake skin or reptile patterns, which can be really hard to find in my color palette, are perfect for edgy style. To avoid the muddy, blended look, my preference for snake print is generally a texture added to a solid-colored item, like black-on-black snake skin shoes, or a low contrast color palette, like the booties below. The silver metallic snake skin print tee (see below) is a wardrobe favorite.
Leopard disappeared from my wardrobe for a few years because it’s not supposed to go with my bold color palette, but I’ve found a cool-toned perfect leopard! My collection of leopard items continues to grow, now that I know what to look for. I have both of the shoes below, and more. Leopard print outfits make a frequent appearance in my wardrobe.
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. Bags might be textured, quilted, studded, have chain details or extra zippers.
Angular, piecey, sharp, textured is my number one edgy accessory. You can see how I style my hair in this video.
edgy style brands
There are some brands that were made for you. Rebecca Minkoff, Gorjana, Steve Madden, Sam Edelman, all the BCBG brands, Max Azria, Burberry, 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. A classic shirt dress is timeless, but I pair it with stabby jewelry. Most of my wardrobe is 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.
This outfit is 90 percent classic with a tailored crew-neck sweater, black pants, black boots, simple jewelry, denim jacket, and a structured, high sheen black leather bag. The 10 percent edgy comes in the details with the small studs on my boots (around the sole), the angles on my bag, stabby jewelry, and the leopard belt.
it's all about balance
I just listed a whole lot of options for adding edgy details to your outfits, but don’t wear all of them at the same time. Pick and choose based on the combination and your mood. If I have edgy details in my top, then I will go for classic pants, meaning no extra leather, zippers or holes.
When wearing leather pants or destroyed jeans, I will keep it classic in the shirt and outerwear. I have big edgy jewelry, and I have small edgy jewelry, and 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, and if I’m wearing big earrings, I choose the dainty necklace, or no necklace at all.
A striped tee, jeans and flats are too prim for me unless the jeans are torn up, or I have enough edgy details in my accessories.
Photo credit Olivia Palermo.
Miranda Kerr is wearing a classic turtleneck sweater, wool coat, and pointy-toe pumps, while carrying a classic satchel bag. She brings in some edgy style with her leather pants, which adds up to an outfit that is chic, not grungy.
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. 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.
Changing how I dress won’t change who I am, either. I won’t become the type of person who hugs people a lot or speaks softly and sweetly all the time, and I won’t suddenly sharing my many opinions, 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 Edgy style in action
As I looked for Edgy Classic outfit examples online, everything I found was all black, black and white, leather pants or a moto jacket. Edgy details can come in a variety of colors and details, from small to large, so I’m using my own pictures for this one.
Several elements in this outfit add to my edgy style. My moto jacket with the zipper details, the camo pattern in my shirt (camo can also be Sporty Classic, depending on how you wear it), the angles in my bag, the raw hem of my jeans, the small stud details on my boots, and the chainmail texture of my earrings are all subtle edgy details.
The classic comes from the tailored lines of my clothes, the timeless style of my jeans, the structure and sheen of my bag, and the simple color palette.
The primary edgy detail in this outfit is the destroyed jeans, but the chain detail on my bag, as well as the angular quilting, add some edginess to an otherwise classic and preppy outfit. Without those edgy details I’d feel too stuffy. Larger scale stripes, rather than a finer pinstripe, and my large earrings also make a bolder statement, adding to the edginess.
The rest of the outfit is pretty classic with the striped button up shirt layered under a crew neck sweater, the tailored fit of my outfit, and the structure of the bag.
Studs don’t have to be punk, or large. I’m wearing small studs on my top, and around the sole of my boots. The angular pattern on the studded top also creates more edginess. The angles in my bag, and the snake skin print pattern on my earrings are also subtle, but edgy. An all black color palette always increases the edginess, and red is THE power color.
Edgy style can be subtle. A basic dress and trench coat get subtle edgy add-ons with the patent leather trim on the trench, the chain detail and angular quilting on my bag, and the navy on black snake skin texture and pattern on my booties (same booties as shown above). Dagger-shaped earrings and a stabby coral branch delicate necklace provide subtle notes of danger.
Nothing is as classic as a trench coat, and the slight a-line shape of this dress is timeless.
A sheath dress can be classic, sophisticated, powerful, sweet, feminine, sexy, whatever you want it to be. It’s a blank canvas to paint your personality on. This outfit is subtly edgy with the double v-neck (it’s v-neck in the back as well), my studded bag, leopard earrings, and the leopard, pointed-toe heels.
Choosing a vibrant red also makes a powerful statement, and that adds to the edginess. This dress is one of my 12 capsule wardrobe essentials and I have it in 2 colors. When I wear the blue one, I have to add a little more edginess than when I wear the red one.
Stripes are my favorite color, and sometimes I like them to be jagged and stabby, just like the shards of glass I’m wearing for earrings. Subtle details like the studs on my ankle straps, the chain detail on my bag, and the asymmetrical quilting on my bag are perfect for the statement I’m making.
The classic cut of my crewneck tee, and jeans, the neutral color palette, as well as the timeless style of my wedge sandals and the structure of the bag provide the foundation I need for the edgy details.
As much as I love navy, it is inherently less edgy than black, and it needs extra details to keep it from being too classic for me. I added the edge I need in the angular pattern in my pointy-toe shoes, the snake skin pattern in my large earrings, and the pebbled texture on the front panel of my bag. Ribbing, like on my sweater, is a texture I really like to break up all the smoothness of a Minimal Classic column of navy.
A mock neck sweater, classic, dark wash jeans, pointy-toe flats, and the structured bag are all timeless pieces.
Leopard suits all the Classic Style Twists, depending on how you wear it, and this turtleneck sweater and leopard skirt could go in any direction, but adding the moto jacket and my angular, quilted bag take it to the edgy side
The turtleneck sweater, pointed-toe flats and leopard skirt are timeless, and work with any Twist as long as the details were right.
Exposed zippers are a great edgy detail, and it makes my outfit more me. The woven texture of my bag and the large size of my earrings provide subtle but important details to an otherwise classic outfit.
Leather trim is a perfect Edgy Classic detail, and the small chain at the neckline adds a little more. The stud detail on my bag, and the jagged, broken glass shape of my earrings whisper of danger as well. The all black color palette makes the outfit even edgier. Leopard flats could be Minimal Classic, but paired with the other details, it increases the edginess of this outfit.
what's not edgy?
As important as it is to add the edgy style elements you want, it’s equally important to avoid certain elements if you want that slightly cool, dangerous vibe. Minimal Classic, Cute Classic, Soft Classic, and Sporty Classic are showcased in the other Classic Style Twist articles.
Are you a human box cutter, too? Does it show in your style?
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