The TikTok megastar talks embracing low-rise jeans, scoping out Depop for graphic tees and bringing back Ed Hardy.
We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
Much has been written about Addison Rae’s rise to social media superstardom — seriously, you can read about it here, here, here, here, here and here — and how, ever since she started to post regularly on a lil’ app called TikTok in the summer of 2019, she’s leveraged her influence beyond the platform. She’s launched a beauty brand, released music, headlined a Netflix film (“He’s All That,” coming to the streamer August 27), worked with major stylists and forged partnerships with a range of fashion brands. She turns 21 in October.
One of Rae’s longest brand relationships has been with American Eagle. She starred in the retailer’s back-to-school campaign last year, and returns again for the 2021 spot, titled “Future Together. Jeans Forever.” Though American Eagle has very much remained in the zeitgeist over the years, the name still triggers a feeling of nostalgia in a lot of shoppers — Rae included.
“I always wore American Eagle when I was young — that was just something that I feel was so iconic to the time,” she says. “With trends changing, they’ve evolved and kept up their amazing quality and been able to have this diversified style and stay on top of it, which I love, because American Eagle stands for so many amazing things, like self-expression and being comfortable in who you are and in your body and wearing things that make you feel just as great as you look.”
Rae was born in 2000, but she’s made headlines for re-popularizing trends from the ’90s and early aughts, from babydoll tees to low-rise jeans to butterfly hair clips. Somewhat infamously, she was papped wearing a hot-pink Ed Hardy T-shirt dress — with platform flip-flops, no less — helping reignite interest in the brand. There’s some context missing from the images seen ’round the Internet, though.
“That night, I was at a 2000s-themed party, which people didn’t seem to know,” she explains. “People thought I was just going out wearing this Ed Hardy dress — which, granted, I probably will. I would and I will.”
“My mom and dad actually always used to wear Ed Hardy. I remember I used to steal my mom’s Ed Hardy clothes, like, ‘This is so cute. I love this’ — just really interesting designs that I honestly think are super cute,” Rae continues. “It’s different and it’s edgy, and that’s what I like… People were like, ‘What is she wearing?’ I was like, ‘If only you guys knew.’ I love the dress — I’m keeping it.”
Ahead, Rae discusses how nostalgia shapes her style, what she’s trying to communicate with her outfits, why her mom is her ultimate fashion reference and more. Read on.
“My style now is pretty much anything that makes me feel comfortable and confident. I try not to listen to what people have to say about it, because at the end of the day, they’re not the ones wearing it. I definitely love that nostalgic vibe. I like channeling my mom and how she dressed when she was my age — I think it was really cute and fun and edgy, but still youthful.
“In the past few years, I’ve definitely had my fair share of bad fashion moments. I’m not one to say that I won’t have any more either, but I’m learning my style every single day. That’s just a part of trying new things and figuring out what makes you feel best. And look, sometimes people do not like what I decide to put on my body, but at the end of the day, it’s my body and I like being comfortable in what I put on. If I feel good in it, I really don’t mind what people have to say about it.
“[Working with stylists,] it’s definitely changed the way that I look at things, from a full-picture standpoint. You want to be able to tell a story and really make everything make sense… You put together this story of who you are. People look at your fashion sense and see you through that, so [it’s about] making sure that everything you put on is something that speaks to you and is a part of your overall persona. I’m edgy but fun; maybe sometimes want to be reminiscent of the ’90s, then sometimes I love the 2000s and sometimes I love something a little more futuristic. It’s really interesting to put it into perspective a little bit more — like, ‘Okay, let’s make a little more sense of every different type of thing that I love and put it all into one specific vibe that may be different than what anyone else does, that speaks more truly to who I am.’ Just being really intentional with the things I decide to put on, because those are things that should reflect who I am.
“I really liked what I wore to the MTV Movie Awards [styled by Law Roach], the black look that was low-waisted with the body jewelry and really simple, but still fun. I like things that make people turn their heads a little — I feel like that’s always really fun for me, for people to question what I wear. If people aren’t questioning what you’re doing, you’re not doing anything interesting enough, you know?
“I met Law on the set of my first magazine cover shoot. It was for Glamour U.K. and Law styled it, which was a dream come true, because Law’s just an icon in himself. I remember I was like, ‘Wow, he really has a vision, and he portrays his vision so accurately.’ Being able to speak to him about my personal style, what I really love, what I want to wear and what I want to reflect who I am and my energy, and him just executing it — the fittings we’ve had have been insane. Everything he’s brought has been like, ‘Wow, you just get it. You get the whole vibe. You understand who I am and what I love to wear and what I feel comfortable in.’ It’s been incredible working with him because, like I said, he’s an icon.
“[With] my personal style, you can see little changes throughout, but you have the same essence of a little bit edgy but still youthful, enough to be able to be classy and timeless as well. I feel like that makes sense with the fact that I do so many different things. As an actress, you’re a little more classy and put together; you’re portraying roles. As an artist, you’re really giving off who you are, being very honest and vulnerable and combining those two. Being able to put myself in that is kind of what I’ve tried to do, to really make everything feel like a whole. But sometimes I will bounce around, like, ‘Oh, I definitely want to be a little more crazy for this performance or a little more classical for this carpet.’ My personal style is kind of all over the place, anyways. I feel like I kind of love to do everything.
“Right now, I’m loving a really baggy, low-waist jean. I think low-waisted is so cute. I don’t think that should have ever gone away — low-waisted is really nice and to me, it makes me almost have to be a little more comfortable in my body. I’m like, ‘You know what? Who cares? Show my stomach and feel good and [don’t] worry about what anyone says about it, because I like the way it looks and I like the way it feels.’ And also, my mom was the queen of low-waisted jeans back in her day, so I love to be reminiscent of times that she’s inspired me.
“Feeling confident and comfortable is the biggest priority to me, and really making sure it reflects me and who I am. That’s why I’ve enjoyed working with American Eagle so much — every piece that they have can be so comfortable and casual and make you feel like you can express yourself through any jean style. I feel like they’re such a big, expressional piece of clothing, because there are so many different styles and colors of jean. Is it ripped? Is it not? Is it low? Is it high? Is it baggy? Is it tight? You can really express yourself through [them], and feel comfortable and cute at the same time. Going forward, I want to wear pieces that make me feel true to myself and comfortable and confident and a little edgy and pushing a little bit of boundaries sometimes.
“I definitely love to embrace my body and different assets that I like about myself… If that’s a low-waisted jean with my stomach showing more, maybe it’s something that’s a little more form fitted — I feel like just really accentuating things that you love about yourself is the key to finding confidence.
View this post on Instagram
“I recently did a shoot for tmrw, which was really, I feel, reflective of my personal style. Those looks were just so memorable, too — they’re so fun and fresh and a little bit different than something I would wear out in my everyday life. I’ve definitely had a few paparazzi photos where I loved those moments and thought they were really reflective of myself. I wore this one shirt that said, ‘He wanted more space so I locked him outside.’ It was just a funny graphic tee, but I love graphic tees… Even just like the ‘I Heart New York’ shirts, those are the shirts that I wear so often. I’m like, ‘It’s true. I love New York.’ If it’s being honest and I like it, then I’m definitely going to wear it.
“There have been so many things that I’ve really enjoyed being able to showcase my style [in] —different campaigns and even for my music video, I was really collaborative with the stylist to come up with looks that I thought reflected me and made me feel comfortable and confident. One of my favorites, too, is when I did my ‘Obsessed’ cover art. The hair is really wet and sweaty and I have a cropped white tank and leather pants on. I think it’s so edgy and fun, but still young and new and different. It definitely drew a lot of inspiration from [the early 2000s], almost like the essence from that time, it was just so confident and really celebrated the way you looked and felt. Just feeling sexy and bold and edgy — all of the words that I said to describe myself and what I love to wear, that was the idea, to be reminiscent of something that was really confident and had no boundaries or limits.
“I’m a big Pinterest girl. I love Pinterest. I’ve always loved Tumblr too. Tumblr was something that I started developing my style from when I was probably way too young for Tumblr — I was definitely 9 or 10 getting on Tumblr and figuring out my style. I love a ’90s grungy feel, mixed with a little bit of pop princess to early 2000s. I love a good hot pink and blue, but I also do love being a little darker, a little edgier and sexier. I’m only 20 years old, so I’m still really young — I was still a teenager last year! I love channeling that sexy, confident and strong type of style, but also being able to be youthful and still tie in things that remind me that I’m only 20 and I’m not trying to rush growing up.
“I really like online shopping, because I like to use resale apps. I’ve been very, very into vintage shopping — not even just vintage. I can get someone’s hand-me-downs, which I think is also special, because it carries a story. It already lived a life, and now I get to wear it, too. I’ve been ordering so many things off of Depop. It’s actually insane. I love Depop. I use it for everything. I’ve spent so much money on it, but I’ve gotten so much stuff that’s great quality. And I always enjoy saving a few dollars on things.
“I bought these graphic tees [on Depop] — they’re so cute and I’m obsessed with them. They’re kind of intense. I haven’t worn them yet. They’re just hilarious. I’m obsessed with a graphic tee that’s really straight to the point. Okay, I’m going to tell you what it says: It goes, ‘Apology not accepted, bye bitch.’ It’s really intense, but I feel like it’s so funny. I love funny things on a shirt. I like a graphic tee that makes you laugh. And also, I like corny stuff, so, of course, I had to get it, and I’m obsessed with it right now. And I’m probably going to wear it every day for the next few months.
“I have this vintage Versace dress that’s definitely going to stay with me forever, because it’s such an incredible dress and it’s really beautiful. Keeping things like that, that are vintage and have been worn before and can be worn again — I really want to pass down most of the outfits that I have worn or the dresses that I own to my kids in the future. And hopefully, the trends will come back around and it’ll be really cool that I kept those for them, because I really wished my mom would’ve kept more of her stuff. This vintage Versace dress for sure is one that’s special to me because it was one of my first vintage pieces that I bought myself and now I get to keep it and hopefully my kids one day can wear them.
“There are definitely certain designers that I really like [to look for in vintage]. I love Jean Paul Gaultier — I feel like that’s one of my favorites, actually, ever. I love Versace. I have these Pinterest boards with just all of the vintage that I just die for, and a lot of it is JPG and Versace. Recently I’ve loved Betsey Johnson. I think vintage Betsey Johnson is so cute. It’s just cool and different. I love Blumarine. Those are incredible pieces and hopefully, I’ll continue to find more brands that I really like. Other than that, I really just like a certain feel of an outfit; what brand it is at that point, I don’t really mind.
“I’ve always enjoyed going into resale shops. My mom is a huge fan of reselling things and buying things that are resold, and I think I got that from her. To me, it’s not about how much or how expensive the piece is: You can make anything look amazing if you take the time to find the good stuff and put it together in a certain way.
“I really trust myself for the most part [when I’m shopping], but I will say my friend group has the greatest style ever. I’m obsessed with the way that they dress. They’re very edgy. They’re musicians, so they’re artists and very creative. I feel like those are the people [that will] be honest with me. A lot of my friends that are guys, I feel like I trust their opinions because I’m like, ‘Does this look good?’ And they’ll be like, ‘No’ — like, wow, thanks for actually being honest with me. My guy friends have amazing style and I love to ask them for their advice. Usually, I’ll go shopping with them and they’ll dress me like, ‘Oh, this is really good. This quality is great. This is amazing. This looks good together. This is whatever.’ And I’m like, ‘All right. I love it. You love it. It looks good.’ I always feel confident in things they put me in.
“I’m really into lace again [for fall]. I think lace is an interesting thing that kind of isn’t as common lately — you don’t really see a lot of lace outfits, but I think it’s such a classic thing and very reminiscent of the ’90s, like the silk slips with the lace trim and the lace camis. [Those are things I] have been loving and haven’t incorporated it into my style yet, but definitely plan on doing so.”
Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.
Never miss the latest fashion industry news. Sign up for the Fashionista daily newsletter.