why grimes is my personal pinterest board
Author of 'Dear Diary' and TV writer Lesley Arfin on getting inspired by the "Paper Bag Princess" herself.
I have a vision of Grimes where she's asleep, curled up between two large amps, cocooned in a pile of old army jackets. This isn't based on anything factual whatsoever, I just like to pretend it is. The truth is that I don't know many facts about Grimes. I know her tunes, and I know she's from Canada. I have no idea how old she is—not that I couldn't find out by doing a Google search that would take all of five seconds, but I actually prefer to not know. Sometimes I think she's a teenage runaway who eats pizza from the trash and speaks in a sign language she invented with her boyfriend. Other times I think she's eleventy-hundred years old, Gandalf's goddaughter who was raised by blood-sucking faeries. (I just looked it up by the way. She's 28).
I have a long list of style icons, but for my entire pre-Grimes life I'd been living with a fashion deficit—sorta like when a record skips and the needle jumps the groove and you miss the bridge after the second chorus. This deficit didn't ruin me entirely but if you're listening to an incredible song, the bridge is crucial. There I was, living my life as an incomplete song. I was missing a reference for something even though I didn't know what it was. See, everyday I pick out my outfit based on a personal reference. Michelle Pfeiffer from Grease 2? Check. Struggling comedienne in New York City during the 1970s? Yes. Bonnie Raitt if she never became famous but instead sang in a cover band at a bar that served hot wings? Obviously yes!
Although I had yet to discover this Grimes chick, I did have one outfit that was based on her. I called it "Paper Bag Princess." I'm not claiming this is a great name for an outfit. I'm not even saying it was a great outfit. But goddamnit it wanted to be. And oh, how it tried.
Becoming a Paper Bag Princess would usually involve wearing an oversized sweatshirt over a barely visible skirt, and Reeboks. As she got older, Paper Bag Princess leaned in to a nineties raver thing. Sometimes all a Paper Bag Princess needed was a pretty dress and three days without a shower. She was more than an outfit. She was a concept. She was a goal. Sometimes being a paper bag princess was Who I Really Was, and it was effortless. Other times it was Who I Wanted To Be, and that took more work because I was trying to copy someone I'd never seen before.
And then one day, there she was.
Enter: "Oblivion." A few years ago I stumbled upon a music video starring herself the elf, Grimes. She was all pink bangs and weird braids and baggy sweatshirts and good dance moves and I'm suddenly an eyelash away from my computer screen, transfixed. It's not that her look was groundbreaking to me—anyone can dye their hair a weird color, or find a cool coat at a thrift store. Anyone can and everyone does. But there was something about this girl that was both clean and dirty at the same time. She had such a sweet face. She looked like a nice person! So then, how on God's green Earth was it possible for her to look so fucking cool? Who was this girl who looked as though she'd just been plucked from the suburbs, and why was she bewitching me? Who was this girl, dancing around with football players in a glittery sweater, either purchased (stolen?) from H&M, or gifted from probably like, Christopher Kane or something. I wondered. But I already knew the answer. She's the Paper Bag Princess of course.
Finally, a living, breathing fashion reference I can finally call my very own… Pinterest board. In some photos she looks like a supermodel: 7 feet tall, dewy, and bored. In others, she's a ragamuffin who'll steal your wallet and then help you look for it. I want to be that! It helps to be a musician—there is no cooler person on this tiny planet than the musician. It helps to have gone to McGill University—"the Harvard of Canada," as she did. It helps to walk around with Brooke Candy carrying a thick, buttercup-colored snake around your neck, as she does in her video for the song "Genesis."
I'm no copycat or style biter, and I couldn't nail down a flawless Grimes look even if I tried, but inspiration isn't about that. What makes Grimes my style icon is that she seems to have style icons too: Marie Antoinette, Diane Keaton, Mad Max, the Suicide Girls, Katherine Hepburn, and Sailor Moon on angel dust, just to name a few. She translates these references into her own style, creating something new and totally her own. That's what I'd always been missing. That's Who I Want To Be and I'd also like to think it's Who I Have Become. Grimes is a Paper Bag Princess, sure, it's just not all she is.
I think? I actually have no idea.
We'll be rolling out stories by our favorite writers on their personal style icons all week. Who's yours?
Text Lesley Arfin
Photography Robert Kisby for Getty Images