Indie Sleaze Style Has Gotten a Gen-Z Makeover for “Messy Girl” Spring |

Indie Sleaze Style Has Gotten a Gen-Z Makeover for “Messy Girl” Spring

Spring is a time of transformation, so it’s only natural that we’re seeing the rebirth of an iconic throwback trend this season. While minimalism and quiet luxury aesthetics dominated fashion and beauty over the past couple of years, we’re trading our glossy lips and glazed donut nails for tastefully smudged eyeliner and chipped nail polish. Enter “messy girl” spring: Otherwise known as indie sleaze style, this effortlessly cool aesthetic is introducing the undone nature of the 2010s to a new generation.

Trend forecaster Mandy Lee first noted this revival on TikTok in October 2021, but the aesthetic is fully reentering the mainstream in 2024. We’ve gotten clues here and there of rising interest in the eclectic trend, such as sudden fascination with the @indiesleaze Instagram account and the fanfare surrounding Saltburn (especially the film’s party girl Venetia, played by Alison Oliver). At Paris Fashion Week in late February, Chemena Kamali’s Chloé debut confirmed that 2010s boho-chic is again at the forefront of fashion.

Now with the hype around quiet luxury dying down and maximalist aesthetics like mob wife style at an all-time high, it’s time for the hipster trend to hit its stride once again—so queue up your old Lana Del Rey, The xx, and Arctic Monkeys playlists and get ready to travel back to the time of carefree, all-out debauchery. Read on to learn all about how the indie sleaze revival has found new life in 2024.

What Exactly Is Indie Sleaze Style?

If you didn’t experience early 2010s indie sleaze firsthand or simply blocked the era out of your brain altogether, here’s a crash course. The it-girls of the time were life-of-the-party types who embodied a nonchalant, slightly disheveled brand of cool, a stark contrast from the carefully curated celebrities and influencers of today. ’90s icons like Chloë Sevigny and Kate Moss brought their cool, grungy sensibilities into the era, with the likes of the Olsen twins, Rihanna, and Sky Ferreira joining the ranks to offer their fresh perspectives.

Alexa Chung, Rihanna, and Chloe Sevigny wearing Indie Sleaze outfits

There’s no denying that carefree celebrity culture and limited social media were key to making the era what it was, but fashion played just as big of a role. While the original indie sleaze era occurred when I was in middle school, that didn’t stop me from wearing American Apparel tennis skirts, Ray-Ban Wayfarer dupes, Dr. Martens, and whatever British cool-girl trends my Tumblr had to offer. For me, it was all about the clothes.

Kate Moss at Glastonbury Music Festival

On the surface, indie sleaze might read as a straightforward grunge revival, but the trend is also inextricable from twee style, another popular 2010s trend. Indie sleaze is more boho than ’90s grunge: For example, pioneers of the aesthetic routinely mixed lace patterns and A-line dresses with leather jackets and combat boots. Did it always make sense? Absolutely not, but that’s why it caught on so well: The eclectic nature of indie sleaze resulted in creative outfit combinations that felt fresh, and the aesthetic’s 2024 return seems set to breed even more innovation.

“Messy Girl” Vs. “Clean Girl”

It’s only natural to point out the stark difference between the beloved “clean girl” aesthetic and indie sleaze’s decidedly “messy girl” vibe, as they seem not to exist in the same realm. Quiet luxury and the “clean girl” aesthetic were all about fresh-faced, glowy beauty; slicked-back buns; and polished, minimalist style, championed by the likes of Sofia Richie GraingeHailey Bieber, and Matilda Djerf. The put-together, understated aesthetic perhaps brought us the no-nonsense calm we all needed post-pandemic, but the pendulum is always bound to swing the other way, and the indie sleaze revival is satisfying a hunger for maximalism that’s been growing over the past few seasons.

While indie sleaze has been back in the cultural conversation for a few years, it’s taken a while to fully reenter the mainstream as quiet luxury and the Y2K revival showed impressive longevity. Now, fashion is experiencing a bit of minimalism fatigue, and our collective desire to let loose has allowed for the return of ugly shoes, grungy staples, and nightlife-ready statement pieces as we head into spring 2024.

Lily Rose Depp, Skai Jackson, and Paloma Elsesser wearing Indie Sleaze outfits

Coquette style—another of last year’s biggest trends—has often found itself in conversation with more minimalist trends as they existed simultaneously, but while the “clean girl” aesthetic might be fading away, girlhood-inspired fashion is coming of age for fashion’s “messy girl” era. Bows are getting bigger, colorful tights and knee-high socks are back, and ballet flats are continuing their seasons-long reign, leaning into the twee side of indie sleaze. Perhaps this transition is more natural than one might think, highlighting how we all harbor a bit of both inside of us.

Gen Z’s It-Girls Get Messy

In our current hyper-curated culture, trying to capture the mid-2010s’ nonchalant energy already feels like it’s missing the point. The era was about carefree, messy fashion, and celebrities weren’t dressing for the paparazzi the way they are today. While any 2024 re-creation of the trend will inevitably be more contrived and intentional, that’s not to say it’s impossible to replicate indie sleaze’s vibe and key hallmarks.

Addison Rae and Olivia Rodrigo in Indie Sleaze outfits

Olivia Rodrigo—one of today’s biggest pop stars and arguably the queen of Gen Z—might be making the biggest case for the “messy girl” comeback with her grunge, pop-punk approach to fashion. TikTok star–turned-actress Addison Rae is also embracing some of the undone spirit of the 2010s: Her style now acts as a guide for what micro-trends are “in” and “out” according to Gen Z, and right now, her Instagram feed is full of Valencia-filtered mirror selfies that feel all too familiar.

The indie sleaze revival might feel like a stopover in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing trend cycle, but if you look a bit closer, the aesthetic reaches far beyond clothes and signals the evolution of Gen Z’s overall attitude. Filtered mirror selfies and miscellaneous photo dumps that seem like they belong on a “finsta” show that overly curated, posed Instagram posts are on their way out. New generations are looking to experience the air of carelessness that came with Instagram in its early years, and we’re even seeing the comeback of digital cameras (flash encouraged) purely for the aesthetic.

What We’re Not Bringing Into 2024

Like many trends from the early aughts and 2010s, the indie sleaze aesthetic had its fair share of issues that we’d be remiss not to point out. First, the trend often promoted unhealthy body types, specifically bringing back the ’90s “heroin chic” aesthetic and allowing for the glamorization of eating disorders. Additionally, some of the era’s hallmarks (like early 2010s Coachella style) featured an appalling amount of cultural appropriation, and signature indie sleaze brands like American Apparel dealt with legal issues surrounding ethics and sexual assault. While we’re very much here for the return of the “messy girl” aesthetic and the carefree creativity it can bring, it’s essential that we consciously curate a healthier, more inclusive version of the trend in 2024.

What We’re Wearing for “Messy Girl” Spring

Now that the indie sleaze revival is evident, it’s time to learn how to incorporate it into your wardrobe this spring. The aesthetic looks a bit different from its heyday, with rollover from 2023 revivals—think bows and ballet flats—and evergreen staples updating the trend for a new era. Most of the indie sleaze pieces making a comeback are easy to work into any wardrobe, so you can absolutely cherry-pick from the below and discover what being a “messy girl” means to you. (Wired headphones not necessary but greatly encouraged.)

Knee High Socks

Knee-high socks are nonnegotiable when it comes to indie sleaze dressing, and they’re so versatile. It’s easy to pair them with everything from round-toe heels to Dr. Martens. In need of more inspiration? Simply search for “Alexa Chung” on Pinterest and you’ll be set.


Slouchy Totes

One thing’s for sure about messy girls: They love an oversize, slouchy tote. Coincidentally or not, that trend coincides with one of this year’s biggest handbag trends, which denotes a “bigger is better” outlook as opposed to the micro-bag phenomenon of the past few years.


Wayfarer Shades

Who can forget Chloë Sevigny’s love for her white Ray-Ban Wayfarers in the early aughts? The classic square-frame sunglasses were a defining accessory of the indie sleaze era. If you’re not looking to invest in the name brand, no worries: Any square-frame sunglasses will do.


A-Line Silhouettes

Leaning into the twee side of indie sleaze, Chung, Zooey Deschanel, and other early 2010s it-girls loved an A-line silhouette when it came to dresses and miniskirts. It’s back, but don’t let that scare you: The options on the market today feel versatile and modern, and there are so many ways to style them without cringing back to your 2012 Facebook albums.


Denim Shorts

Cutoff and cuffed shorts are a staple in most spring and summer wardrobes no matter the year, but we sense they’re due for an indie sleaze makeover as it-girls and fashion fans once again style them with ripped tights and knee-high socks.


Boots, Boots, Boots

Dr. Martens’ punky combat boots were an indie sleaze favorite, and they remain just as beloved in 2024, with modern style icons like Rodrigo and Bella Hadid wearing them on repeat. At the same time, ankle boots had a major moment in the early 2010s paired with shorts and boho mini dresses, and it may be time for them to make a comeback.



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