Chicago, IL

Indie is the new VSCO Girl, and it may have roots in Chicago

Danielle Braff

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Anya Karpinos, 12, is the face of an Indie Girl.Vadim Karpinos

By Danielle Braff

(CHICAGO) First came the VSCO Girl. Decked out in Birks, scrunchies lining their wrists, carrying a Hydro Flask everywhere, the VSCO girl was the “It” girl of 2019.

These teens have moved on, tossing their $35 water bottles and ditching their crop tops. They’re now Indie Girls. The Indie Girl aesthetic is essentially the opposite of the VSCO girl aesthetic, though it tends to be coveted by the same group of teens. They’ve just grown up a bit, and are trying to show off their independent style.

The #Indieaesthetic has more than 750,000 posts on Instagram, and 120 million people have watched TikTok videos with the #indieaesthetic hashtag. On Etsy, you can purchase an entire 330-piece Indie room decor kit for $9.

Anya Karpinos, 12, a self-declared VSCO-turned Indie Girl who lives in River Forest, now dons oversized sweatshirts, her bedroom walls are lined with records and she likes to show off her t-shirts with band names such as The Rolling Stones on them (she admits she’s never heard their music).

“It’s an aesthetic,” Karpinos says.

The Indie aesthetic may have originated in Chicago, thanks to the Chicago-based Beach Bunny, an indie-pop group that’s super popular with TikTok users - but the vibe quickly spread across the United States. The group doesn’t look like a typical band: Instead, they look slightly dorky, like the friends you actually have.

And that’s the root of Indie: It’s all about being yourself, embracing your weirdness and . . . being independent. But of course, most of the teens who define themselves as “Indie” appear to dress similarly and decorate their rooms in the same style - which they proudly display on TikTok.

“Their style is reflected by vintage clothing found at thrift stores or boutiques,” says Jackie Condura, a personal stylist and fashion blogger. “Band tees and flannels are some common elements.”

Venk Modur, a celebrity stylist and costume designer whose clients have walked the red carpet, describes the Indie aesthetic as a revival of the 90s, in particular blending the looks from Clueless with My So Called Life.

After being described as a “VSCO girl” last year, Ella Anderson, 12, of Illinois, changed her style drastically this year.

“She likes those ripped jeans and bucket hats,” her mother, Molly Anderson says. “She’s certainly always herself, I do know that.”

Some independent teens, however, are rebelling against the term “Indie girl” - which essentially is part of the Indie aesthetic itself. To be Indie, you should have independent thoughts and ideas.

“It’s a way to specifically make fun of girls and whatever they like at the moment,” says Madeline Block, 17, of Oak Park, who admits she followed the VSCO girl trend when it was popular - but she still didn’t like being called a “VSCO girl.” “We don’t need a label,” she says.

Label or not, the trend isn’t expected to last long. VSCO girls lasted about a year. Condura gives the Indie girls the same length of time.

“Given that the VSCO girl’s peak was about a year, I would estimate that the Indie Girl trend would follow the same path of maximum exposure,” Condura says.

After all, many consider the Indie girl trend to be a rebirth of the 90s grunge - which came and also went.

Immaculata Stepanek, a mother of adult children in Illinois, says her daughters have always been Indie girls - so she’s pleased they’re back in style now.

“I call them hippies, but they are Indie,” she says. “They have an eclectic fashion sense.”

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I'm a lifestyle writer with a focus on trends, fashion, parenting and business. My stories have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and more. I live just outside Chicago with my husband, daughter, two cats and a dog. I love to travel to exotic locations and to read memoirs.

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