Carly Rae Jepsen is like us.
I don’t mean that in the way Us Weekly does when highlighting a particular celebrity’s ability to navigate the parking lot of the Calabasas Whole Foods. I mean that, out of every Top 40 singer, Carly Rae Jepsen’s professional and aesthetic trajectory is downright normal. Jepsen embodies Mall Chic™ — the most relatable and accessible of all styles since it levels the aesthetic playing field, making her look less like the pop star she is and more like our friend who works at Claire’s and just happened to costar in Grease Live.
I thought of this as soon as she debuted her new, Joan Jett-esque haircut. With a look that channels both Jett and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles, Jepsen’s evolution into her idea of what a pop star looks like has sent the message that style needn’t reflect genre, and vice versa. Upon the release of “Call Me Maybe” five years ago, she toed the same fashion line as a Disney-friendly Miley Cyrus, spending her video in pink, fringe, and sweet, young-girl florals. Now, she dons silver dresses and black leather pants, showing she’s obviously grown up, but slowly and organically – and without making anybody who’s been along for the ride feel like she’s ready to drop them off and leave them behind.
And that’s old news in the music industry, I know. The pop landscape is built on the idea that everyone is riskier than their professional predecessor, as artists walk red carpets and perform in their personas’ costumes (and not their own clothes). So this means that who an artist is on stage and who they are at the Whole Foods are two very different people whose fashion senses are arguably opposite. While other genres of music may allow for “I wear what I feel like,” Top 40 does so only in terms of amplified risks to be seen in large public arenas. Wearing what one feels like is a form of theatrics. You’re not going to see Britney Spears singing in Vegas wearing her go-to TV-marathon soft pants.
But Carly Rae Jepsen rejects that approach, treating her public appearances the way any of us would: by wearing the best pieces we found at the mall (or the shop of our choosing). I mean that as a compliment, despite me sounding like Regina George. Whether wearing a button-up, a sheer long sleeve top with bralette, or the same leather jacket she’s sported at numerous live shows, Jepsen personifies the normalcy we don’t often see represented in pop music. Her clothes aren’t costumes, they’re just her clothes. This makes her unflinchingly unique in a climate and industry that applauds performative dressing over what’s functional or what fans can also wear.
Which is another reason I’m willing to stand up on my chair right now and sing the praises of Carly Rae Jepsen. As a fan of pop music and pop fashion and writing about both, I’ll be the first to drape myself in sequins or forego pants in the hopes of elevating myself to the level of Beyoncé, Britney, or Demi Lovato. But Jepsen’s approach to fashion is friendly. As in, she is our friend, wearing clothes that we could also buy and afford and feel unfuckwithable in because our leather jackets make us feel badass, too.
And that’s just as important as donning designer garb or electing to wear pieces a school dress code wouldn’t sanction. Not just because Jepsen uses her wardrobe to ground herself to fans, but because she represents so much of the millennial approach to professionalism. For years, Jepsen has worked hard, hustled, hustled harder, and then found herself taking on everything from musicals to opening act slots for Canadian pop-punk bands. (Which I shouldn’t get started on, because she is so beyond Hedley it’s ridiculous.) And now, following relentless Internet praise, extensive live dates, and a positive, enthusiastic approach to both, she continues to climb the industry ranks the way all of us hope to in our own fields. Meaning? Like us, Jepsen works hard because she has to. And also like us, she experiments with fashion on her own terms, creating a look that’s inherently hers and also inherently achievable.
So for many reasons — but especially this one — I will defend Mall Chic™ and Jepsen’s clear affinity for it. After all, the mall is great. It is a mecca for diverse tastes and splurges and savings, a place where you can and will find me at some point almost every weekend. It’s where fancy leather coats live and button-up tops are plentiful. It’s for everybody — especially celebrities like us.