Collage by Jao San Pedro.

Collage by Jao San Pedro.

I need help trying to make my vision of my ‘fashion sense’ in my head match what I actually wear. I’d love to be able to wear more punk/grunge/goth clothes, but I’ve always had a more colorful, girly style. I don’t want to eliminate this aspect of me, but do you have any advice on how I could incorporate the ideas in my head without alienating or shocking people? (I go to quite a conservative school.) Thank you! —Abby, 15, Cheltenham

First of all, don’t worry about alienating or shocking people. Whatever way you want to dress is your business, and yours only (aside from maybe your parents or guardians, of course). Friends should be chill and accept whatever changes you might bring to your wardrobe. After all, experimenting with fashion is one of the most important parts of being a teenager, hello! And if they don’t like it, they can avert their gawtdang eyeballs…

I have to say, the style you desire is my personal favorite. I love colorful, feminine vibes with a touch of edgy sass. Those elements are pivotal parts of my own wardrobe and the heart of my style expertise. Let’s take a look at some cool chickadees, below. They are some of my favorite Instagram style icons, and they embody that whole punk-rock-girly thing you might be going for…


Clockwise from top left: Amelia (on the right) of @missameliahart and a friend; Avalon of @avalonmonet; Tammy of @tammytrasho; and Elizabeth (on the left) of @theconnoisseurofcute with Martha of @burieddiamond.

Now, let’s talk about your plan of action. Let’s say you have a lacy dress, a colorful floral skirt, and a sheer blouse that ties in a bow in the front. (Not sure if you have any of these items, but we can envision them as examples, and you can personalize as necessary.) All three of these things could look more punk if worn with one particular piece of outerwear: the cropped leather motorcycle jacket. Dun, dun, dun!

The cropped leather motorcycle jacket is the alpha and the omega. The be-all and end-all! You can seriously throw it over anything and instantly look tougher, sexier, and scarier! What I’m trying to say here is that a moto-style jacket is the key to everything; the cherry on top. I LIVE FOR IT! And it can be faux leather, of course. Ideally, the perfect cropped vintage moto jacket like this one on Etsy will fall into your thrift-shopping lap. If you don’t want to deal with a vision quest, it’s no biggie to go new. Check out this cool pink faux leather jam!

Aside from motorcycle-style jackets, two other types of outerwear easily punkify a dress: A denim jacket, like this guy, or a vest, which can also come pre-studded like this.

Here are some more ideas:


Clockwise from top left: Faux leather moto jacket, $70, Modcloth; lace-trim moto jacket, $45, Macy’s; hunter green faux leather moto jacket, $35, Forever 21; cropped utility jacket, $28, Forever 21; lace-trim moto jacket, $18, Macy’s; denim jacket, $50, Macy’s.

And now…let’s talk about customizing your jacket or vest with accoutrements. You can buy your own studs and put them on yourself! This website has studs and spikes to buy, plus a tutorial on how to put ’em on your clothes. You can also accessorize with lapel pins and patches, which are all the rage lately. What you decide to put on your jacket is up to you, whether it’s a pin of a favorite band, a patch of your favorite badass movie character, or something that conjures up some girl power. There are tons of all of those options to choose from on Etsy. And here’s a Rookie tutorial on how to customize a denim jacket/look like the queen of the neighborhood. —Marie

I love classy and elegant clothes (I also find vintage clothes beautiful), but I’m only 165 centimeters tall. I can’t find any grownup pretty clothes that would fit me. People in my class make fun of me because the only clothes that are pretty and small enough for me are usually just very colorful and look like they’re for little kids while I like black, white, beige, or a pale blue or pink. Help? —Nina, 13, Bratislava

It’s hard to be an elegant, understated dove when the only feathers you can find belong to scarlet macaws! I’m absolutely feeling your need for pretty, classic clothes, and you’re right—those clothes can be hard to find, especially in small sizes. That being said, 165 centimeters (5’4” to U.S. readers) is a pretty average height, especially if you’re 13! Who are these classmates making fun of you? Are they all 195 centimeters (6’5”)?!

To me, “classy” clothes means well-made items with quality materials that do not go out of style. Classy clothes—like an elegant dress, a beautifully cut jacket, or a classic black pump—are the nemesis of trendy clothes. Trendy clothes are items that may look killer today, but will be out of style very quickly. Stores are brimming with trendy items; this is because stores want you to keep buying more and more clothes as your old purchases go out of style. But! Lurking among the novelty Beyoncé sweatshirts and hamburger-printed leggings (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with either) are classy, pretty items—you just have to suss them out!

When searching for classy clothes, just remember to think simple. No ruffles. No exposed zippers. No fringe, no doo-dads, no cutesy pockets. “Elegant” clothes tend to be classically cut items that women have been looking great in for decades—time-tested silhouettes like pencil skirts, A-line dresses, and slim-cut, high-waisted jeans and capris. Check out Elegance Queen Audrey Hepburn for inspiration—I dare you to find a picture of her in clothing that isn’t classy and very, very simple. Most stores—even really trendy ones—will have something simple in black, white, or beige. And if they don’t, glide your elegant butt on outta there!

Online, ASOS has a pretty good selection of petite-sized dresses, and you can use their filters to choose exactly what kind of style you’re going for. Just look at this adorable beige tea dress! Elegante! Or this stunning, classic wrap dress! Here’s some more inspiration, to get your glamorous gears turning:


Clockwise from top left: 1950s dress, $150, Etsy; high-waisted pencil skirt, $26, ASOS; shift dress, $43, ASOS; cocktail dress, $95, Etsy.

I also have some good news for you, and it is this: You can find lots of smaller sizes at thrift or vintage stores. Etsy is brimming with cute vintage style ideas for petite girls, and don’t even get me started on the vintage petite dresses on Pinterest. Tavi has loads of ideas for getting dressed while smallish-sized on her blog, stylerookie! There are also lots of style blogs devoted to petite looks—check out Extra Petite and this list of 30 great petite fashion bloggers.

In short (ho ho), your quest for elegance doesn’t have to be painful, even if you’re small. Pretty, graceful clothes in quiet colors may not jump out at you in stores during shopping trips, but they’re there. It just takes a little patience and digging! —Krista