It’s growing on me.

I wasn’t planning to do an editorial about Grace VanderWaal’s red carpet look for Rolling Stone’s “Women Shaping the Future” event. My first reaction was “that’s a lot of look!” But, compositionally, I’m really starting to get it: Some interesting and non-traditional color blocking – deliberately non-proportional pieces – the hair, the glasses, the laced up platform boots. A nod to anime fashion. It all comes together on the red carpet.

Radio Disney (@radiodisney) tweeted the red carpet event with a comparison picture of Grace and eighteen year old Meg Donnelly, an actress probably best known for her role as Taylor Otto in the ABC sitcom American Housewife. Donnelly looks very pretty in a traditional cocktail dress – a pink slip-dress topped by a chiffon cape trimmed in marabou feathers dyed to match. One wonders at the choice of wearing a cocktail dress to a brunch celebrating the first annual issue of Women Shaping the Future, featuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other women members of congress… but she looked very pretty.


Grace did not opt for looking “pretty” (although she does look very pretty). She went for young, quirky, fun and interesting. I know which young woman I’d rather approach and talk to.

The soft, buttoned collar blouse of pale yellow, lightly scattered with blue flowers, would be a fairly traditional paring with the wide, brown ankle pants Grace was wearing. Worn together as an outfit it would be ladylike, modest, and conservative. It would be pretty. It would be safe. It wouldn’t be particularly interesting… or memorable. But then there’s the sweater – the wide cable stitched edge on the deep v-neck of the dark blue, bulky, overly large sweater perfectly frames the delicate blouse, drawing attention to Grace’s face. Not an easy feat when the sweater is barely hanging on to her thin shoulders and the brightly colored bits of flowers, sequins, and other oddments scattered across its front are screaming “look at me!”

Color blocking (wearing two or more colors covering large areas) is usually done in contrasting or complementary colors, or a bright color with a complementary neutral. Color blocking two dark, neutral colors, in this case dark brown and dark blue is unusual. Generally, if combining dark colors, one is usually subordinate to the other rather than taking up the same volume of space. In this instance, if a bright color had been substituted for one of the neutrals it would have competed with the details of the sweater’s bright spangles and the delicate flowers on the blouse. Having the sweater and pants in the same color would have destroyed its anime edge. Instead, the brown pants, blue sweater, and yellow blouse broke the outfit into three distinct segments that balanced and complemented each other giving it a natural rhythm.

Speaking of the “anime edge” I really have to go back to the size of the sweater and the ankle pants. The large sweater suggests “hand-me-down” while the short ankle pants (which have been in style for a few years now) evokes an image of “out-growing your clothes.” It’s a deliberately young look that is still quite sophisticated.

But what really pulls this outfit together is the spot-on accessorizing. Let’s talk about those shoes! You really need to think hard about your shoe choice when wearing ankle pants. The black, laced up platform boots, with what appears to be a bone-colored fleece tongue, perfectly anchor this bold outfit. High heels or sandals would have been overwhelmed. (She might have gotten away with tennis shoes but, really, the boots are perfect.) The two tiny, asymmetrical ponytails were easy, breezy and in perfect keeping with the whimsical look. And the huge red glasses were to die for! The rims are so deep that they evoke goggles, while the lenses are so large that you can see every nuance of Grace’s large, intelligent eyes. She looks beautiful, smart, and kind of nerdy.

What makes this outfit of particular note is that Grace put it together herself rather than wearing a designer outfit or having a stylist put together the look for her. I love her Hollywood Life interview where she describes pulling everything out of her closet the day before and picking these random pieces. Rest assured that her choices were not random. Each was carefully chosen by Grace to create a “Look,” something memorable, fun, age-appropriate, and in keeping with the occasion. Remember that she wasn’t just an attendee at the Rolling Stone “Women Shaping the Future” event – she was a performer, part of the entertainment. She definitely made a splash!

So! What do you think of Grace’s fashion sense? Nightmare or genius? Or was she just cold?

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: