@shesvague captures the dgaf authenticity of early 2000s fashion
Instagram's mysterious pop culture queen wants celebrities to be celebrated for living their best lives.
In Melbourne, Australia, the 23-year-old woman behind @shesvague might be DMing with Kim Kardashian as you read this. Such is the magic of being a person in 2018 who can harness the power of old MySpace profiles, the archives of online forums, and the weirder nooks and crannies of Pinterest to create a visual moodboard that 200K people follow on Instagram. Even Kim K couldn’t resist double-tapping a post of Paris Hilton wearing low-low rise pink booty shorts and a trucker hat that read “Material Junky.”
If you’re savvy to the internet and pop culture in a certain way, you’ve likely seen more and more late 90s and early 2000s images pop up in your Instagram feed — Britney Spears in denim cutoffs with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, a beaming Pam Anderson with a barbed wire tattoo and bleach blonde hair framing her face in piece-y layers, Mariah Carey in a white denim miniskirt and body chain, quotes abstracted from The Simple Life that stand as excellent one-liners on their own. These are images we study now, looking for clues of what life was like in the not-so-distant past — a past many of us lived, but that seems far away now.
@shesvague was a name Erin gave to her Instagram when she started it in 2014, simply because vague sounded close to vogue. Erin, in spite of a day to day life working in an office in Australia — “I’m an office hoe,” she says via email — is all about “glamour, trash, sex, money and fashion.” She mostly likes to remain anonymous on her Instagram page, but that might be increasingly difficult with collaborations like the one @shesvague did recently with House of Holland. If she’s going to reveal her identity, it will be 100 percent glamour — a big reveal, she muses, “in a mansion wearing a fur coat and stripper heels.”
I would love to know the story behind @shesvague. Where did the idea come from, and when did it start to take off for you?
I was in a bad relationship, and I had no idea what I was doing with my life, where I was going, who I was. I finished high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I was just spending a lot of time on the internet and realized I was really into fashion. At the beginning I wanted to be a fashion blogger, and then I realized, “Wait, I hate this. I can’t write. It’s so boring, and everyone’s the same.”
And then I just started posting things that I actually liked, like movies, pop culture, Paris Hilton, and I realized I loved it. I wish I had an amazing story, but it’s literally just I posted things that I like, and I don’t know, it just blew up. People liked the things I post, and I gained a lot of attention. Whether I had like 200,000 followers or one follower I’d still be posting the things I like.
I think that’s actually a great story! A lot of good things can come from a breakup. How long after you started @shesvague did it really take off for you?
Maybe like 2016? I started it in 2014, so maybe after a couple of years. Gabriel Held followed me, and I feel like that’s when it took off. I think he’s incredible, and he followed me and shared some of my posts, and a lot of people found me. I never planned on it getting this big. It’s weird, celebrities follow me, and it’s just the strangest thing.
I noticed Kim Kardashian likes your posts!
She follows me, and we DM — it’s really weird! It’s like we know each other. I did a collab with another brand for some clothing, and I sent her some stuff. She loved it and was like “Thank you so much,” and sometimes when she’ll post a story, I’ll reply and be like, “Oh my god, I’m obsessed,” and she’ll be like, “Oh my god, I know.” [laughs]
Is running @shesvague something that feels separate, in a sense, from your everyday life? Or does it take up a fair amount of your time now?
@shesvague is kind of like my alter ego. I have my day job, in an office just doing boring shit, and then @shesvague is kind of like a second life? It does take up a lot of my time, because I love it so much and I’ve met so many cool people through @shesvague. I like speaking to people and replying to DMs and comments, and I’m always looking for new content. I never want to post the same thing.
What is it about that time and style and women like Britney or Paris or Anna Nicole Smith that appeals to you?
I think it was a time where women were just very fearless with their style and what they did, their day to day lives. They were living their true, authentic selves; whatever they wanted to wear, they’d wear it. There was no Instagram; they weren’t posting certain pictures to Instagram. I feel like it was really real and raw, and I think I also love the fact that during that time, a lot of celebrities were like partying, on drugs. Now those celebrities that were like that are so different now.
I kind of love their pasts. I love celebrating their pasts because a lot of them have been put down and shamed for who they were, and they kind of want to forget about it, but I want to celebrate it.
Yeah, maybe they’ve cleaned up or removed themselves from that identity in some way.
Whenever people talk about the early 2000s or the ‘90s, they always talk about the worst fashions from the ‘90s or ten of the worst outfits that Paris Hilton wore, and it’s like, those were the best outfits she’s ever worn. They’re not the worst — they’re amazing! I feel like that era wasn’t appreciated enough. It was just crazy and ridiculous, and you don’t see anyone like that now. I feel like it’s coming back, but not to the extent that it was.
On your site, you say the images you share “celebrate sexuality, freedom and individuality without being subject to objectification and dehumanization.” How do you feel like the images you post inspire young women today?
I feel like women showed their bodies a lot more and were very proud of their body no matter what it looked like. Back then, it didn’t matter what body shape you had, you showed it off. I’m all about women being confident no matter what they look like, where they come from — I just don’t want anyone to be shamed. If a woman wants to show her boobs, show her nipples, or wear a short dress, wear a long dress, it doesn’t matter. Just do it! Some of my friends are like, “I can’t wear this because people are going to look at me. My boobs are out, people are going to say things,” and it’s like, no you want to wear this, you look amazing in it.
Do you think, as far as some of the women you love from that era, do you see that potential in any of today’s celebrities?
I love Kim Kardashian, obviously. Cardi B or Nicki Minaj.
Cardi, yes, she’s totally it. Has @shesvague influenced your IRL, everyday sense of style?
Definitely! I’ve started buying a lot of vintage designer pieces that are kind of ugly but really beautiful. I bought a Dior fanny pack, and it’s pink and it’s so cute. I bought a Louis Vuitton backpack, just things that I thought that I’d never buy, but I love them so much. In real life, I’m very simple. When I meet people who follow @shesvague, and they find out that it’s me running it, they seem surprised because I think I’m not who they thought I would be.
Do your coworkers know you have this whole side project?
Recently they found out, and they can’t even believe it. They’re like, “What?” At work I’m very professional; I’m just there to work. And then they see what I post on the internet, and they’re like, “What the fuck?” It just makes me feel awkward. I don’t know if they follow @shesvague or not. It’s so weird; my parents don’t really understand what I do.
I don’t really like to talk about it too much. I don’t like introduce myself as @shesvague. I don’t want it to be like that. For me, it’s fun, and it releases stress. I don’t want it to ever turn into something that gives me stress or that I avoid.