Karen Elson Shares Her On-Stage Style

The ethereal, flame-haired Karen Elson first came to fame modeling on runways and in editorial spreads, but with the release of her first album, "The Ghost Who Walks," she's become even more famous for her haunting music and distinctive personal style. A queen of the Nashville scene, an ardent vintage fashion collector, and a respected collaborator with brands such as Nine West, Elson took a couple minutes out of her busy, multi-hyphenated life to answer a few of our questions.

How has your experience as a model influenced your stage style?
"I realize the power of an outfit has to set the tone of the music. Think Stevie Nicks with fringe. Her style added a whole other element of mystery and that's what I'm aiming for!"


What's the priority when dressing for a performance? Comfort? Style?
"I need an outfit that's comfortable but looks whimsical and delicate, I can't have anything get in the way of my guitar-playing, and if my shoes are uncomfortable, I'll be focused on my feet, not my voice."

What's your favorite stage look?
"I can never decide what my favorite look has been. It's always changing."

Which performers have influenced your on-stage style?

"I love Stevie Nicks’ style and Emmy Lou Harris, David Bowie, Bjork, and Mick Jagger. I also love how Florence Welch has created a powerful stage look for herself."


Are there any runway show steals that you wear on stage?
"The Anna Sui floor-length dress I wore for the Etam performance in Paris."

What are the five things you MUST have in your suitcase when you go on tour?
"Olatz PJ's, my boots—both high heel and low—from Nine West's Vintage America Collection, my collection of vintage dresses, Saint James striped T-shirts, and MIH jeans."

Nashville has such a rich musical history. Has living in this city influenced your style?
"It's helped me personalize my style more. They're not obsessed with the current high fashion or what's in season. There, it's more about creating an identity."


What characteristic do your music and your style share?
"My music and style are both haunted, and somewhat falling apart."

What are your pre-performance beauty tips or tricks?
"YSL violet waterproof mascara, YSL cheek color, fresh lip glosses, NARS highlighters, and NARS lipstick in La Dolce Vita are what I use onstage. I take it all off with a Chanel remover. It's so pure and rich!"


Preferred on-stage footwear: Comfy boots or sky-high heels?
"High if it's comfy and a night show. For outdoor festivals, flat boots."

While we adore your original music, what classic song are you dying to cover?
"I'll keep that a secret for my next record."

Well that's a tease. So, what stage are you at with this new album?
"I'm writing new songs right now. Time will tell when they manifest into a record."

More from Fashion

R29 Original Series