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How To Make “Pretty Ugly” Fashion Your Whole Personality This Semester

How To Make “Pretty Ugly” Fashion Your Whole Personality This Semester

You can get weird with your style and still look 🔥

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The “pretty ugly” fashion renaissance is here. These days, the biggest trends taking over the runways are less conventional and more weird, wild, and absurd. Think: gargantuan silhouettes, high-waisted underwear sans pants à la the Kardashians, plus the slew of internet -core trends (ex. Barbiecore) — all of which break the fashion status quo.

The tricky part is translating what’s on the catwalk into a somewhat functional ‘fit, especially for the classroom. That’s where the experts come in, aka #FashionTok’s biggest stars. Content creators Tanya Ravichandran, Luena Gama, and Alexandra Hildreth know exactly how to take whatever you’re interested in (vintage items, bows, chunky boots, etc.) and translate it into an it girl-worthy school look lewk.

Ahead, you’ll get all the tea on “pretty ugly” fashion and how to channel it into your wardrobe this semester, based on recs from some of TikTok’s most-beloved fashion creators.

The “Pretty Ugly” Aesthetic In Full Force

Victor VIRGILE/Contributor/Getty Images
Dave Kotinsky/Stringer/Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Contributor/Getty Images

According to Gama, a 29-year-old former lawyer-turned-ceramicist and digital content creator, there isn’t one specific aesthetic that defines “pretty ugly” fashion, but rather an accumulation of styles that emulate the not-so-traditional. It sits right in the gray area of self-expression through everyday fashion, stemming from counter-cultures, alt-communities, and avant-garde designer collections.

“In the past couple of years, there has been a massive push by everyday cult brands to align themselves with these aesthetics that allow them to push the boundaries of their usual consumer a little further,” she says.

It’s the TikTok-ification of quiet luxury.

At the root of “pretty ugly” style, “it’s the ‘TikTok-ification’ of quiet luxury,” says Hildreth, a 26-year-old writer and fashion commentator. She associates the movement with over-accessorizing, standout vintage pieces, and big clunky belts, to name a few.

Take “Pretty Ugly” Inspo Straight From The Runway

Some of the biggest ready-to-wear moments from the past couple of years mark fashion’s transition into this aesthetic. Collaborations like Cecilie Bahnsen x Asics and Salomon x Sandy Liang added a douse of “girlhood” to the hypebeast world, turning many of its target shoppers into undeniable sneakerheads.

On the runway front, Miu Miu made an even bigger statement, debuting a collection full of exposed underpants ahead of fall 2023.


Of course, there might be some limitations on a student budget, as spending hundreds on resell kicks or sparkly underwear isn’t the most accessible.

Luckily, you don’t need to spend a chunk of your tuition to indulge in fashion’s most talked-about trends. You can exude a similar vibe for a slash of the price — as in, under $100 an item — and still look good with a backpack on.

It’s All About Polarizing Silhouettes And Mixing & Matching Colors

There’s nothing that says capital-F fashion than pieces that aren’t the most practical. But at the base of every eclectic runway look is a simple outfit technique, and it involves lots of experimentation with colors and unconventional silhouettes.

Ravichandran, a 21-year-old fashion creator and college student, says that “pretty ugly” fashion transcends the desire to look as “snatched” and flattering as possible.

[‘Pretty ugly’ style is] about pushing the boundaries of what general society thinks looks good.

Instead, playing around with ways to wear items that don’t commonly go together is the name of the game. “It’s about pushing the boundaries of what general society thinks looks good,” she says. “With this mindset, you can be more creative with your fashion choices and find more ways to re-wear items in your wardrobe.”

Ravichandran’s go-to pairing has been sheer fabrics, especially a loose dress layered over a pair of pants. “I love the way these pieces work together,” she says, “With a sheer dress, you can see the texture and design of the pants through it, adding another dimension to the outfit.”

If frills and lace aren’t your thing, Hildreth recommends staple items stemming from the day-to-day grocery store-run aesthetics like chunky boots, big belts, or old shearling coats.

The Right Accessories Can Weird-ify A Basic Look

Whether there’s a uniform to abide by or simply comfort restrictions, sometimes the whole OTT look isn’t ideal for class. Thankfully, there’s a solution to incorporate the quirky pieces into your everyday attire to create eye-catching ensembles: statement accessories.

In recent months, Gama’s been seeing a mixture of hyper-feminine (aka coquette) elements like lace, bows, embroidery, and sheer layers against “the harsh utilitarian shapes of utility vests and work shoes like dad sneakers.”

Heeled boots and massive earrings can contrast a ‘boring’ school outfit.

Despite being in a conservative college town, Ravichandran says she still finds ways to let her “pretty ugly” fashion shine through in everyday schoolwear. “Heeled boots and massive earrings can contrast a ‘boring’ school outfit,” she says. “I love seeing those videos on my TikTok where they are like, ‘When you see another fashion MF, and you are wearing your casual, comfy outfit’ — that is exactly how I feel at school and I spot the rare occasion of someone with a cool outfit.”

TL;DR: Wear Whatever. You. Want.

Ultimately, you only need to have one thing to embrace the “pretty ugly” aesthetic at school: confidence (and maybe the audacity). What pulls together an outfit isn’t always what you have on but what you *feel* while wearing it.

Ravichandran takes style inspo from her close circle of friends who enjoy wearing styles beyond the typical college town uniform. “I applaud them for having the confidence to wear these styles,” she says. “Being college students, most of their wardrobe may come from thrift stores and affordable items on Depop, but often channel styles similar to brands like Miu Miu, Fancì Club, Andersson Bell, and even Japanese fashion trends.”

When you feel ready to experiment, start with adding different elements and accessories to your everyday looks.

Gama recommends starting by looking at the items you already own; “pretty ugly” fashion is all about juxtaposition and polarization. She suggests establishing what colors and silhouettes you usually gravitate toward and elevating them from there. “When you feel ready to experiment, start with adding different elements and accessories to your everyday looks,” Gama says. “You can also sift through new and emerging designers and cult fashion houses as both points of inspiration and recreation to explore your own personal style.”

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Sources cited:

Tanya Ravichandran, fashion creator

Alexandra Hildreth, writer and fashion commentator

Luena Gama, digital content creator