Going Grunge with the Fab 40s

The year Kurt Cobain died I quit my job in advertising and became a nanny.

Two photos showing a woman in advertising and then the same woman as a nanny.
Before and After: A life change, indeed!

His death had nothing to do with my leaving advertising for nannying. They just happened to occur in the same year.

It may come as no surprise to regular readers, but the King of Grunge didn’t impact my life much back then. It feels a little blasphemous to admit that as someone who became an adult in the 90s, but it’s true. I had my own depression and demons to wrestle with at the time. I didn’t need his too.

My playlist–a sample of which is below–was a mix of all kinds of music, old and new at the time.

My style was also somewhat eclectic, though I was influenced a lot by my Texas roots.

Fashion collage from the 1990s
I didn’t realize until now just how drawn to pattern I’ve always been!

Wearing Grunge in the 90s and a Move to the Mainstream

Grunge style was a look marked by flannel shirts, distressed jeans, and Doc Marten boots. The more beat-up and second-hand something looked, the better.

 

Marc Jacobs took the style of grunge mainstream when he created a whole collection of it for Perry Ellis in 1993. It was a bit of a shock to the fashion world. Bernadine Morris from The New York Times wrote, “A typical outfit looks as if it were put together with the eyes closed in a very dark room.”

He was promptly dismissed from the design label after that.

Photos from Vogue.com.
Photos from Vogue.com.

Looking at his designs today, I really like them. I guess that’s how it goes, right? It seems weird when it hits the runways but 20 years later, it looks cool.

Going Grunge Over 40

When Diane of Fashion on the Fourth Floor asked me to join the Fab 40s as a guest blogger covering the theme of grunge, I sought out Marc Jacobs’ infamous collection as inspriation.

The outfit I chose doesn’t follow any of the rules of modern style, but it does follow the spirit of grunge in a big way, especially that part about looking as if it were put together with eyes closed in a very dark room.

::insert wicked grin emoji here::

Modern-day Grunge outfit for women over 40.
Notice how the almost-scowl is as much a part of the outfit as the clothes. I call that face the Punk-Rock-Meets-Orange-is-the-New-Black scowl.

If this outfit causes you to want to scratch your eyes out, know that it pushes boundaries for me as well. It combines patterns and textures I would usually never mix together. But I still somehow like it.

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Besides being incredibly comfortable and warm for the wet chill that has settled over Seattle recently, I like the weird combination of colors and layers.

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The sweater, although new, has an oversized look to it. That bulk fits with the idea that grunge had of being somewhat practical for life in the Pacific Northwest. My sweater was a purchase from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale earlier this year. You can find a similar one on sale here at Nordstrom Rack.

The dress is vintage and bought second-hand from Suzanne Carillo’s Etsy store. I’ve purchased several pieces from her shop–many of which will be featured in future posts. They are all in pristine condition. Her pieces are thoughtfully curated for quality and style and the prices are hard to beat. I can’t recommend her shop enough.

The cut of the dress is very 1990s, although as Suzanne pointed out, the pattern is very 1920s Art Deco. I love it when two decades come together in fashion.

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The shirt also fits into the spirit of grunge because it was designed and handmade right here in the Pacific Northwest by Candace Jermaigne of Portland. This one has special little details, like a contrasting pattern sewn into the cuffs. It also tapers in slightly along the torso to create a hint of shape. I bought it at Sassafrass, my favorite Seattle boutique filled with locally designed and handmade fashion.

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The boots are Eileen Fisher. I’ve had them for at least a couple of years. They’re pretty beat-up because I walk around the city in them all winter.

Here’s a link to a similar style by Børn for about $80. Or, if you’re really committed to the grunge look, get yourself a pair of Doc Martens.

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The “choker necklace” is actually a necktie I bought from another Etsy shop called SmithLab. This long, narrow piece of silk is incredibly versatile. I usually wear it as a bow, but in this case, I wrapped it around a couple of times and tied it in the back to create a choker. Sarah the designer, has a wide variety of colors, widths, and lengths.

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My Sisters in Grunge

Below are all the ladies from the Fab 40s in their interpretations of grunge. Before I was invited to join the group as a guest blogger, I was already a big fan of Diane, Samantha, and Sheela. Having read up on the rest of the ladies and seen what they put together for this month, I’m diehard for all of them now. Together, they create a rich resource for style inspiration. They also set a great example of what it looks like when women support each other.

Diane – Fashion on the 4th Floor

Diane’s style is what I call Playful Chic. She has a knack for pairing sequined skirts with sneakers and making it look like they should have been together all along.

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One other point about Diane is that she is stunning from the inside out. She is warm, full-hearted, and generous to all creatures, great and small. She’s always been a great cheerleader for me and others in the over-40 blogging community and, if that weren’t enough, she fosters rescue dogs until they’re ready to go to their new adopted homes.

Outfit Details:

Sweater Cardigan: Nasty Gal
Shirtdress: H&M
Lace Dress: Forever 21
Studded Boots: Steve Madden
Charm Necklace: Red Pineapple
Sunglasses: Forever 21

Ann – Kremb De La Kremb

I am a new diehard fan of Ann from Kremb De La Kremb. She spent a chunk of her youth in Seattle, where I live now, but these days she and her hubby teach overseas. Her style is rich in colors and patterns and, similar to Diane, she has a playful side that comes through in all her outfit ideas. As I read through her blog, I find myself taking mental notes for styles I want to try. She really is the coolest!

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From what I’ve read so far, Ann is open, honest, and confident in the best way. I read her blog and I find myself wishing I could hang out with her in person.

Outfit Details:

Beanie: HM
Earrings: Forever 21
Dress: Zara
Denim Jacket: thrift shop
Backpack: Urban Outfitters
Knee Highs: Forever 21
Boots: Dromedaris

Jennie – A Pocketful of Polkadots

I am just dying over Jennie’s hair! Her style is just as beautiful and stylish. Like me, Jennie was an addict to wearing black and neutrals all the time before she had an aha moment and discovered how great color looks on her.

And doesn’t it just look amazing on her???
I’m having a little heart attack over her stunning hair.

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I digress….

Jennie’s style tends to be feminine and glamorous–but she does it on a budget! When I read her blog, I think of Hollywood starlets from back in the day who captured the world’s attention with great posture, red lipstick, and sparkle.

Outfit Details:

Jacket: Bisou Bisou, JCPenney
Dress: Glamorous, Shopbop
Tights: Hue
Boots: Life Stride
Choker: Amazon
Earrings: Chelsea NYC, Steinmart

Mary – Curlybirdie Chirps

Mary had me hooked when I read her blog philosophy:

This 40 something mama believes that no matter your age, the size of your butt or bank account that we all deserve to feel fabulous when we walk out that door.

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Mary creates swoon-worthy looks on a budget. Like all the ladies in this group, she is not afraid to use colors and patterns in her wardrobe. She is a lady of class and glamour. I follow her blog for ideas on creating sleek, feminine looks that don’t break the bank.

Outfit Details:

Skirt: Forever 21
Jacket: Goodwill
Boots: Shoedazzle
Bag: Vera Bradley
Hat: H&M

Samantha – Fake Fabulous

I’m convinced Samantha has some great fashion spirit guiding her eyes and hands as she chooses different items to put together. I started following her blog almost a year ago and I never cease to be impressed and inspired by her ability to put together patterns, colors, and textures.

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One of my big obsessions these days is combining styles from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Samantha does this in her sleep. Just take a look at her cool grunge look — lace gloves paired up with a dino necklace and a top given new life from an old dress. This is why I continue to be a big fan of Samantha’s. She takes styling to an art form.

Outfit Details:

Hat: River Island
Coat: River Island (VERY old)
Shirt: Old charity shop find.
Jeans: M&S
Boots: Caterpillar (older than the hills)
Lips: Spice!!!
Lace Gloves: vintage
Leatherette Top: DIY from a dress.

Sheela – Sheela Writes

When I think about Sheela’s style, the word “fearless” comes to mind. And “rock star.” And “don’t mess with Texas.” Apart from the ability to swagger in 4-inch heels, this fabulous fashion blogger from Houston kicks it in edgy, fierce styles that set my imagination on fire.

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Sheela says she hasn’t always been a queen of pattern-and-texture-mixing, but I’m not sure I believe it. Even when she wasn’t living out her full fashion potential, there had to have been signs that she was kissed by the angels of rock and roll style. For evidence, just take a look at her combo of black and blinged-out grunge.

Outfit Details:

Embellished Tee & Rhinestone Slave Bracelet: Courtney Love X Nasty Gal
Skirt: Free People
Embroidered Leather Jacket: Blank NYC
Heeled Combat Boots: Bakers
Choker: courtesy of Manic Panic NYC
Ring: House of Harlow
Tiara: indie store in Borneo
Lipstick: Opium Noir courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury

Veronica – Cid Style File 

Veronica’s blog and style are fed by this warm and rebellious flame that draws me in like a moth to a…well…flame. She has that rare ability to create styles that reflect edge and softness at the same time. Just take a look at her grunge outfit below. She has this “don’t mess with me” vibe in the black-on-black-on-black and then she tops it with this teddy bear hug cardigan.

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Veronica specializes in Plus-Size Fabulous on a Budget and her style is rich in color, patterns, great accessories, and lipstick to die for.

Outfit Details:

Fuzzy Sweater: Kensie
Slip Dress: City Chic
Boots: So Old forgot brand and its rubbed off! LOL
Purse: Rebecca Minkoff
Choker: Lovesick
Hoop Earrings: Avenue
Sunglasses: c/o Zero UV


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  • Grunge was never on my radar growing up either, Sherry!
    Probably because it wasn’t serious enough or pretty! Considering my field of aesthetic dentistry is all about making the smile look nice, I always have a harder time when styles don’t look put together.!
    But enough about me, let’s talk about your look!
    First—I love that dress! I didn’t even realize it was a dress at first. I just figured it for a skirt! Don’t you just love the versatility of throwing a sweater over a dress to make it something entirely different? I just bought an item from Suzanne’s shop too—you’ll see it soon enough!
    And that grey sweater is wonderful over the dress—you could wear it anytime with a long necklace or scarf and be considered stylish!!
    Then the plaid shirt. At first I wasn’t sure what to think about it with the rest of the outfit. But once I saw it worn like a shirt, I really appreciated the grunge that it brought to the picture!!
    I have to ask why we associate the scowl with this time? It’s almost a little funny!!
    What a fabulous addition to this fab 40’s collaboration!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Thank you, Jodie! This was a fun experience and challenging in the best way. I’m not sure why we associate grunge with scowls except that grunge music has roots in punk rock and those musicians are always upset about something. 🙂

      I can’t wait to see the skirt you bought from Suzanne!!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • Goodness, Sherry, I thought I liked this look before when I thought you were wearing a skirt. Now I have seen the dress in its entirety, I am positively in Love. I truly enjoyed seeing the different aspects of layering you incorporated in this post. So funny to read about the Marc Jacobs’ line, as I was thinking how much I like all of the print mixing and dimensional aspects it offered. 🙂 So glad to have you join our squad this month and to have been introduced to your blog.

      • I forgot to mention how much I appreciated your kind comments about my look, as well. Thrilled you like my hair so much! I just seem to keep going bolder and bolder with it and the results have been extremely freeing and the attention it draws were unexpected. I just thought it would be a fun change.

        • It truly looks amazing and, really, it fits with the starlet style I see throughout your blog. Your courage to go bolder helps the rest of us have courage too! I’m off to get my hair done today and, although I’m not sure I’m ready for a full color change, I will be talking to the stylist about going bolder somehow and I’m going to show them your photo! Who knows, maybe I’ll go for it! I’ll keep you posted.

  • What a wonderful post Sherry!
    Just brilliant.
    Thoughtful, interesting and personal….I love reading it!
    Your comments on each outfit were wonderful…thank you for your kinds words about me too.
    I really enjoyed your modern version of this 90’s style.
    Your ‘attitude’ poses were my favourites! So much fun.
    Thank you so much for joining us this month.
    It was an absolute pleasure to have you!
    XXX
    Samantha

    • Thank you, Samantha! This was such a fun project. Thank you and all the other Fab 40s ladies for including me. These kinds of collaborations always tug at my insecurities, but they also force me to push myself beyond them and try new things. It was wonderful to be a part of such a supportive group.

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • Gosh, yep, I was forewarned by Diane. What you write about and the stories you tell are simply part of the fun with your blog. I read each and every word, I loved all the intro detail, I could relate to each style story, and yep, this summer when I’m home, we’ll meet. K? K. I go home to the PNW each summer. We vacation out at our summer home in Idaho, but with my family based in Spokane and Kevin’s family in Seattle, we spend at least a week or two in Seattle each summer. Shall we make this friendship complete by meeting in person? Coffee at Pike’s Place or do you prefer a glass of vino overlooking the Sound? You’ll have to tell me (I wonder if you still have an accent from Texas) all about how you are in Seattle. I’m eager to hear your story–and I loved all the historical pictures to match!

    Much love,

    Ann from Kremb de la Kremb

    • It is a date, Ann! I’m looking forward to hearing your whole story as well! I have so many questions!

      As for my accent, it only returns when I’m around other Southerners, although I can still do a mean impression of Scarlett O’Hara when I want to. I might even do it for you, if you ask nicely. Ha ha!

      Can’t wait to meet you.
      – Sherry

  • You did such a great job with this post and look back in time.

    I was never keen on grunge or Kurt Cobain. I was an 80’s gal.

    That Marc Jacobs line you showcased clearly shows that it came at a time that was too soon for people to accept. Now look at Gucci, which basically stole every aspect of the layering and mixed patterns, added embellishments and more texture and it is all the rage. Timing is everything in life. In relationships, in business, everything.

    Fun post!

    bisous
    Suzanne

    • So well-said, Suzanne! I got goosebumps when you pointed out Gucci’s collection with all the layers and mixing patterns. Chanel has been doing that a lot recently as well this past year. Timing *is* everything!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

    • Thank you, Laurie!! One of these days I’m going to make it to the UK (hopefully in 2017) and I hope we can get together to compare all our similarities!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • Sherry, so great to have you join the Fab 40’s group. I love how you incorporated your pics from the 90’s. Great outfit too, the mixing of prints is great. I really love the vintage dress and how you transformed it with the turtle neck sweater and plaid shirt.

  • You joining this month was absolutely wonderful & so glad you could be a part of the fabulous group. I thought it was so appropriate that you be my guest as we have a common bond of beginning this blogging journey around the same time. We probably share the same challenges as we learn along the way. Your read was incredible & so happy that you referenced Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis in 1993. That was where I got my first bit of inspiration. Isn’t it amazing that Grunge is all about being rebellious & carrying a “I don’t care” attitude.? That attitude which can be so freeing at times, just got him fired. How can fashion have restrictions like that? Fashion is freedom, it is art & there is no place for anyone to say it isn’t good enough or doesn’t fit into a particular mold. I have so much respect for his risk…. guess they just weren’t ready for him yet. But, I’m so glad the world is ready for us mature fashionistas & bloggers because we are not going anywhere. I think we have the ability to share so much more with the world because we have experienced so much in life. As I was reading your post, I broke into a small cry right in the middle of a cafe…. as it hit me again that I have found a place that I am truly accepted, flaws & all. I frantically started writing & hope those words will become a full post in the very near future. So, thank you for bringing out my emotions & reassuring me this journey is ok. Hope we can maybe do a new year collaboration together. Maybe something along the lines of year in review or new year, new adventures. Would love your thoughts! You are amazing! xxx Diane

    • Hello, my lovely friend! You are so right about fashion being about freedom. It is personal expression and each person gets to decide what best expresses who they are. I can’t wait to work with you again and do some fun things for 2017!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • Hi Sherry, Suzanne provided a link to your fashion blog and I’m assuming this is your most recent post. I found that I follow many of the same women that you have collaborated with here or in other postings. I ‘ve also discovered some really intriguing new voices that I intend to check out further!
    Wow! You’re quite an impressive writer and I love the flavor and style of your blog. You are really honest, sincere and very engaging. Besides being really darling you have some impressive fluency in fashion history and culture! I’m looking forward to learning more about you and your style#

    • Thank you for following up from Suzanne’s blog, Marilee! I’m so pleased you took a peek out my way. I have a new collab in the works with Jodie and her crew from JTouchofStyle. We’re having a bit of a cyber Christmas party, if you will. Our stories will be more about personal fashion history than the overarching, global story of fashion history. I hope you’ll come back and join the party!

      Best wishes to you and yours!
      – Sherry

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