This Is How New York Teens Actually Dress

Blair Waldorf. Kathryn Merteuil. Carrie Bradshaw (played by AnnaSophia Robb). Hollywood's portrayal of the quintessential New York teenager is that of decadence and privilege; and while it may make for great entertainment, it isn't exactly an accurate depiction of how the majority of the city's under-20 set acts, talks, or dresses.

Today's real teens aren't spending their dollars on Dior; they're thrifting, digging through second-hand shops, and trading clothes with friends to ensure they're not pictured in the same outfit twice on the 'gram. Their personal style is being defined not by what's considered "popular," but by what appropriately reflects their identity. Their outfits are a rumination of their beliefs, their taste, and their environment. Rather than subscribing to the status quo, they approach getting dressed as an opportunity to be both authentic and unique. And isn't that what fashion is really about?

Here, 17 New York City teenagers show off their style, and open up about life, social media, gender, and how clothing is so much more than something you wear.
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Alexis Jae, 17
@aalexisjae

How would you describe your look?
"I’m wearing thigh-high boots from NastyGal. I’ve been looking for a thigh-high pair that didn't cost a million dollars and I finally found these on sale. I haven't worn them that much because it's summer and it's really hot, but I thought a short romper (which is from ASOS; I got it when I did an interview with them) would be really cute with it. It's kind of a cowboy look: a modern, sexy cowboy. My look is everything and a little bit extra. I love standing out from the crowd and I don’t want to blend in with anyone. Being unique is very important to me, because if I wasn’t unique, I wouldn’t feel confident. I feel like being different is what makes me really confident."

What excites you most about fashion today?
"That it can be whatever you want. It's 2016: There aren't really any boundaries when it comes to what you wear. It’s cool seeing everyone else's style, and how unique and creative they can get."

How does being a woman in 2016 affect your life and style?
"It’s definitely hard being a woman today, because I’m someone who always wants to wear something that might considered a little provocative...it doesn't even have to show that much skin, it just has to be somewhat provocative, and guys act like freaking animals towards me. It’s gross. I hate being a woman in 2016, just for that reason. Style is so important to my identity as a woman, because I like looking good. I like looking down and saying, 'Oh, you look so cute!' But it can be really dangerous to walk down the street just because I want to wear a certain outfit.

"Besides that, I know that I definitely have a bigger voice than someone else in a different time period, and I’m really happy about that. I couldn't stand to be a woman in any other decade."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Maia Zoe, 18
@localcoolgirl

Tell me about what you’re wearing.
"It's really funny, I’m wearing all American Apparel except for the shoes which are Vagabond. And my choker, which is L Train Vintage. I really love [the top]. It’s old American Apparel, like 10 years old. They stopped making stuff like this, and this is the kind of stuff that I really enjoy. It’s not like their usual pieces; it's very, 'I’m here,' and ‘life of the party,' which is like my personality. I'm very extroverted. I’ve always been that way, and I like fashion that makes that statement."

What would you say most inspires your style?
"I want to feel like Rihanna, because she is just so cool! She’s a musician, like me. Personally, I just really appreciate someone who can ― I mean, she obviously has a team ― curate themselves in a way that appeals to so many different types of people. And that’s one of the main reasons I like Rihanna: She’s not afraid to be herself."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Sophia Richards, 19
@sophialorichards

What would you say is a quintessential "Sophia" outfit?
"I do very classic silhouettes. I wear pretty much only neutral colors. To me, I like to be pretty subdued, but then always with something contemporary thrown in. For example, I was wearing kind of weird-ish sunglasses with this earlier. Otherwise, I would’ve looked like a '60s mom."

Where do you look for style inspiration?
"I mean, I like really, not really old, but pretty old things, from like the '40s, '50s, '60s. Also, Linda Rodin. She is the coolest ever. I kind of freaked out when I saw a picture of her for the first time, because I was like, This is what I want to look like now and also when I’m 67. She understands everything I want to be."

How accurate would you say your Instagram is to your real life, and what's something you've felt really good about posting?
"I try really hard to not let people think that my life is pretty cool, or that I own cool things, or make people feel bad about themselves, I guess. Because that’s what a lot of people who use social media like to do, and I think that’s really harmful. I think [my Instagram] is pretty authentic.

"A few weeks ago, I was shooting a personal project with my friend Heather, and I was in my underwear, but not sexualized; it was in really gross, weird positions and like a really awkwardly close, stomach folds and all, type of body project. When she released something from it I was like, ‘Wow, I’m kind of becoming the person I want to become!'"
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Sage Adams, 19
@sageaflocka

What is your biggest style influence?
"I’d probably say 2000s teen boys; they dressed pretty cool. I mean, there was a lot of weird stuff happening then. I feel like that’s where a lot of graphic tees come from. The whole shoelace belt, I love that. It was the idea that, 'Damn, I didn't have anything else, so this is what we have to use.’"

How does your identity as gender non-conforming influence the way you dress?

"Sometimes, I’ll wake up and be like, Hey, this is not what I’m supposed to be wearing. I’ve gone through half a day and had to leave and change because I was wearing something I didn't feel comfortable in. Recently, I’ve been trying to wear shorts again, really short-shorts. But whenever I see a crop top, I’m so afraid. I feel like fighting it. I don’t know what it is; I've never really felt completely comfortable in my own body. Once I realized I was gender non-conforming, I started to feel I could dress the way I want and represent myself accurately, rather than having to stick with you’re a girl, or you’re a boy, and if you’re a girl that dresses like a boy, you’re gay, and if you’re a boy that dresses like a girl, you’re gay. You know, this whole weird gender thing we have going on."

How do you navigate that day-to-day, or is it just a feeling?
"It’s just a feeling, and once you put words to it, you can’t really un-think it. You have this girl identity, and then you get out of high school and you’re allowed to wear what you want, think what you want, and say what you want. And you just feel differently. You’re just like, that’s not what I identify with anymore. I don’t identity with just being a girl. I don't identify with being a dude. I don’t feel like I’m in the wrong body, I just feel like I should be able to represent myself how I want to outside of the gender binary."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Gala Prudent, 17
@gala.wav

Tell me about your outfit.
"I really love jackets, and today I’m wearing this Isaac Mizrahi jacket from 20 years ago. It was given to me by my mom, who was Isaac’s assistant for like 10 years. So, it has its own history behind it that I’m not attached to. But other than that, I’m wearing this random skirt I got for $8 at a thrift store; a shirt I bought in fourth grade, also in a thrift store; and shoes I bought during a semester I was in California, which was about four years ago. I got them for $4, and they had this ugly Ed Hardy button on the side, which I ripped off immediately at the store. At the time, I was really into flames, which I still am. When I got home, I took some time to color them, and I never really finished."

Is there a certain style you'd say you're wearing?
"I don’t know. I think I would say it’s a teen-delinquent-meets-fire-girl situation. If you split it in the middle, look down and I look like I should be somewhere illegal, look up and I look like I’m a singing child."

How does this outfit reflect who you are as a person?
"I think I like contrast in general. Both in the work that I make and also just in everyday life. I think it’s important to have opposing sides. For this outfit specifically, a church girl is not going to get caught in the same space as a teenage rebel. So, I think it’s interesting to take two things that don’t really belong together and force them to exist in the same place. And I do that, honestly, whenever I can."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Genesis Vega, 19
@genvegaa

How does your style give you confidence?
My style is very quirky and '90s; it's unusual, interesting, where everything clashes. Like, it's weird, but it looks good. I love looking at Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and getting inspired by their outfits. And Rihanna, too. I get [my confidence] from Rihanna. Before, I used to get it from Kate Moss. She's so free. Before, I used to be so scared of showing skin. But I watched a documentary about how Calvin Klein loved her because she wasn't afraid to be sexual and be herself and be naked all the time. She was just like 'Hey, this is me. This is the real me.'"

Everyone on Instagram identifies as something. What do you identity as?
"My Instagram bio says: 'petite is the new model.' Especially in this industry, you don't see a lot of representation for different body types. You have to be a 0 or 2, your shoe size has to be 7 or 8, and you have to be 5'10". Devon Aoki is 5'5" and she's a high-fashion model: What's the the difference between her and me?"

How does being a woman in 2016 affect you?
"It affects me a lot. Especially now, because if you post a selfie of yourself in a bikini, girls will be like, 'Ugh, you're showing off too much,' and men will say, 'Hey, would you like to go on a date with me? Are you single? Are you married?' And stuff like that makes it hard. You're being judged for what you do and what you don't do. It's like a competition. We're always judging each other."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Mallory Merk, 15
@malmerk

How does gender influence your style?
"I can't really say it plays a big role, because I really don't care if you're a boy or a girl. If I want to dress a certain way one day, it doesn't matter to me. There's no labels for me. In the store, you know how there's a boys' section and a girls' section? If I like something from the boys' section, I'm not going to look at the sign and make a different decision just because it says 'boys.' Most of my clothes are from my brothers' or dad's closet, anyway, so it's all a blur when it comes to gender, I think."

Have you ever worn something you regret, or that got you in trouble?
"I got box braids once, and I got a lot of backlash that it was cultural appropriation. I understood and I learned from it and apologized and addressed the situation. Yes, it was cultural appropriation. But some people don't know that my father is mixed, he's half-Haitian, half-white. So, I grew up in places where everybody had braids. I thought it was cool. But once I put the picture on social media, I realized, Wow, there's a real world out there that knows more than I do at 13. Now, I'm pretty aware; if something doesn't feel right, it's probably not."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Lilli Hymowitz, 17
@lillieve

How do you curate your look?
"My biggest style influences are probably Kylie Jenner and my friends. Honestly, my friends help me curate my look. It happens that a few of my friends are in the fashion industry and get to be around such amazing people, and bring me around amazing people. It all builds. I see the way my best friend Luka [Sabbat] dresses, and he inspires me to find my own style. They let me be me and help me bring it out to the world, I think. Nowadays, [you can] really create whatever look you want. Even if I’m inspired by Kylie, it doesn't mean I have to dress exactly like her. But, I could take one piece of clothing I see her wearing and wear it my own way."

Talk to me about the New York magazine article, and being dubbed "The Prom Queen of Instagram."
"I didn’t really know where New York magazine was going with the article, I guess. I tried my best to show myself in the way I see myself, and whatever the author wrote beyond that was out of my control, I realized. I learned a lot through the experience, and it taught me a lot of lessons; it showed me that I can’t control the way other people perceive me. So, I do my best to share myself. It gave me a platform ― although, some people view it as negative. It brought me a lot of attention, and then it was up to me what I wanted to do with it."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Lumia Nocito, 17
@lumia.nocito

How would you describe your outfit?
"Something that’s very...pretty accurate to describing who I am. It’s a more self-expressive outfit, because I always try to be as self-expressive as possible, physically as well as verbally. It reflects the way I feel. I don’t know, I think it’s important to not look boring, or I try to not look like everyone else, because I don’t feel like everyone else."

How does being a woman affect your life?
"That’s a big question. I mean, it affects everything. I’m a girl. The fact that I have a vagina makes it threatening for me to walk home really late at night. I think right now, there’s a widespread, at least maybe in all of America, recognition of the fact that both girls and boys need feminism, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to figure out what your voice is, as a woman in 2016, or use your voice with other people, and be able to speak out on actually what you feel and not be oppressed."

How do you do that?
"I don’t let anyone talk down to me. Especially guys. Because I think that that’s a really hard thing that a lot of girls are yet to be able to do, to talk back to guys, if they’re being rude to them, and tell them that they’re being rude. I think that there’s this big imbalance in power initially when you come to this world when you’re not a boy."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Chloe Pultar, 16
@chloe_pultar

Do you have a signature style?
"To be honest, I'm always in overalls. I really like baggy clothing, it's just what I'm most comfortable in. I've always gravitated towards oversized clothing, even as a kid; I was always in basketball shorts and tall tees, that's what I call them. I'm in my element what I'm dressed like this. As a kid, people would always be like, 'You're a dyke,' or 'You're a lesbian for dressing like that,' so there was this phase I went through when I was 13 or 14 that I dressed super feminine, not because it was what I liked, just because I wanted people to stop saying things to me. Then this past year, I was like, 'Okay, this is all stupid.' My sexual identity isn't anyone's business, and you can't tell someone's sexual identity from what they're wearing. So I'm just going to wear what I want."

Is there someone or something that inspires your look most?
"Probably my mom. She dressed a lot like me when she was in her mid-20s, wearing a lot of gender-neutral clothing. I have a lot of pairs of my mom's overalls in my closet. I have a lot of hand-me-downs, which is great. The life of a piece of clothing doesn't end."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Kaira Widodo, 16
@kittywidodo

How would you describe your look?
"Today I’m wearing my mom’s shirt that she bought a long time ago in Indonesia, these overalls from L Train Vintage, as well as my Nike Air Force Ones. The significance of what I’m wearing is basically just something that I’m really comfortable in; I want to be really natural, and not so extravagant. I think the most important thing about being natural is just being comfortable with yourself, be laid-back, and don’t care what anybody else thinks, because it’s just you."

Were do you pull inspiration from?
"My style influence is a lot from the '90s, and also from my mom, and Jennifer Aniston in Friends."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Lulu Bonfils, 16
@louisvuittoncrocs

Is there a story behind your Instagram name?
"I don't know. I feel like it's kind of me just because it's like, funny and weird. Like Crocs are so funny to me. I used to go to summer camp and it was the 'thing' to have really chill Crocs. And we used to put charms on them, and if you had a bunch of charms, you were the coolest kid, ever. I had pink Crocs with a bunch of Smurfs on them. They were really tight."

What does authenticity mean to you?
"To me, it's someone who doesn’t try to impress other people with who they are, but just kind of is unapologetically themselves. Like, a personality should be the same wherever you go, no matter what crowd you're hanging out with. That's authenticity. Having a consistent personality and not trying to change it for someone else."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Victoria Crabbits, 17
@loserbree

Tell me about your outfit.
"I kind of like the early 2000s vibe. The style then was a little bit crazy, though. Like the show H2O, have you ever watched that? It’s a really good show about these two girls that become mermaids from the moonlight. I like their style."

How would you describe your style?

"I don’t know, whatever looks cute. I think, Alright, I’m going to wear that. I’m going to try that and fix it whatever way I’d like it."

What inspires how you dress?
"I like the '80s, the '90s, and oversized stuff. Just chilling and vibing. I kind of get a lot of inspiration from boys, because sometimes what they wear is pretty dope."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Ellis Clare, 19
@edgyellis

What about your look is edgy, as per your Instagram handle?
"People say my eyebrows, a lot. That’s my main thing, I guess."

Do you identify with a certain scene or look?
"It really differs depending on my day. A lot of people say I have, like, a mom style. No matter what I always wear, I always incorporate really clean cut things with really baggy and dark things, like black shoes with a white outfit. I've noticed that on Instagram, people always want to have different outfits. I know a friend who borrows clothes from everybody because she doesn't like wearing the same things in pictures. And I’m like, that's ridiculous. That's why fast fashion is cool, because it's throw-it-away fashion. I do believe it's really important to spend money on good basics, like jeans, a trench coat, and stuff like that. But, it's also about experimenting: If you buy something cheap and you don’t end up loving it, it’s not so bad."

What do you think influences your style the most?
"My mother, the '60s. I bleached my hair, and everybody is like, ‘You look like Twiggy, like Edie Sedgwick.' Now I'm going to [try] their makeup, because they look great. I just love '60s style, it’s very feminine, but also very mod."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Lula Hyers, 18
@lulahyers

How would you describe your style?
"It's very fluid. I try not to think of clothing having any gender, so I really just wear whatever I want. If I wake up one morning and want to wear a suit, I'll wear a suit. And sometimes I'll wake up and I'll want to wear a dress. But, it really changes depending on how I feel. I think the thing that's so cool about your personal style is that you're not attached to any brand, you don't really owe anyone anything, so you can change it up however much you want."

What do you think is the best thing about the state of fashion today?
"I think it's really exciting that more women and femmes are wearing what they want, especially in an industry mostly run by men, who have been dictating what they think is good for us to wear and what they think makes us look good. And it's cool that women and femmes are taking that back."
Photographed by Kate Owen.
Ajani Russell, 18
@ajvni

Would you say your style falls under any specific category?
"My style is very functional. I dress to accommodate the various activities I partake in throughout my day, like skating, painting, sculpting, and modeling. It might be a combination of skater and girly. I love to accessorize, even if I'm wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes."

How much of a role does fashion play in your identity and how you express yourself?
"My artwork and my style is how I express myself; I feel that I have the same amount of freedom with my style as I do with my art. My appearance usually has an impact on my mood, too. The more comfortable I am with my outfit, the more positive and optimistic I am during the day."
Fighting for inclusivity, diversity, and gender-neutrality, Generation Z is poised to turn the fashion world on its head. Get to know today's most influential teenagers with #TheZList, our week-long celebration of under-20 visionaries changing how we think about style.

More from Street Style

Nothing gets us rethinking our entire aesthetic like changing seasons. As soon as the fall equinox rolls around, it's back to the drawing board to narrow ...
In spite of the downpours and semi-chilly weather, London Fashion Week show-goers served up a large dose of irreverent dressing over the past few days. Off...
There's a shift happening in street style — while it used to be about doing the most, it's now about not looking like you tried. The same old rules of what...
Lately, the freezing cold temps in New York City have prevented us from — gasp! — shopping (at least at brick-and-mortar stores). Still, the holiday show ...
If you've been going to, or following, Fashion Month for some time, it's hard to imagine a moment before street style — and its unofficial motto, more is ...
If we published a book that contained every single "fashion rule" we've ever been told to follow, well, it'd likely be the size of an encyclopedia. And ...
Admittedly, festival style has gotten a bit bland. In a sea of chokers, fringe, and jean cutoffs, we often find ourselves wondering where real personal ...
(Paid Content) Fit is everything. It’s a phrase we’ve heard from stylists, designers, and generally everyone who’s particular about the contents of their ...
Ever think of how many great things come in fives? The Rolling Stones, the United States gymnastics team, fingers and toes, the Spice Girls. But, the next ...
No other club in the world is so shrouded in mystery as Berghain in Berlin. Every tourist wants to get in, standing in the infamous line for hours upon ...
No matter how old you are, a trip to any Disney park is a magical experience. But it can also be a bit of a fashion conundrum. While it's completely normal...
Every music festival has its own personality. Coachella is the perfect blend of bohemian-meets-basic, while Governor's Ball is a little more streetwear-...
When it comes to festival style, there's typically a less-is-more approach — and we mean less clothing. Short shorts, tiny crop tops, and bare-it-all tutus...
Couture isn't just a type of fashion: It's a craft, an art form, a movement rooted in heritage and legacy. It includes clothing made from silicone, pleats ...