What do you get when you combine the looks of hardcore punk-rock band The Ramones with the wide-eyed, mini-skirt-wearing anime superheroine Sailor Moon? According to Massachusetts-bred, LA-based trio Potty Mouth, that’s the exact formula for their signature look.
Upon seeing Abby Weems (guitar, vocals), Ally Einbinder (bass), and Victoria Mandanas (drums) walk into Charm School Vintage it became immediately clear to us that their image is totally different, totally cool, and totally their own.
While a little more hardcore than Charm School’s stock would suggest (it appears more “Texas cowboy” than, say, Texas Chainsaw), the girls of Potty Mouth have a look like no other. And each piece I saw on Charm School’s Instagram during my pre-SXSW stalk-session struck me in the exact same way.
While certainly comfy-casual, each item is unquestionably eye-catching, possessing some characteristic that elevates it to more than, say, just a jacket or pair of jeans. From 1970s handmade Pakistani dresses to red-sequined burlesque hot pants, Charm School offers a solid vintage supply. And with a killer accessories and shoe stock to boot (get it), this shop stands out–just as punky Potty Mouth does.
While dreams of fringed suede outerwear, cowboy boots, and leather everything filled my head, we reached out to Charm School owner, stylist, and art director Shari Gerstenberger. She graciously allowed us to come in with Potty Mouth for a unique photoshoot. United through the arts of style and music, we couldn’t have picked a better shop or band to work with for this project.
Before the photoshoot even began, the Potty Mouth girls arrived at Charm School in style. Abby wore a vintage wool rainbow-striped sweater her friend Kate had gifted her a few days before. Star-spangled black tights (ripped, of course) were under a dark denim skirt, and she had cherry red Doc Martens on her feet. Blue-tinted lenses stood in sunglass frames perched atop her head.
Ally had on a silver holographic tank that matched a shimmery mini backpack. She wore white jeans over yellow-green fishnet tights, which, along with neon pom-pom earrings, coordinated with her dip-dyed hair. I immediately wanted to buy a pair of boots exactly like the incredible jet-black chunky-heeled ones she wore.
I noticed how both Ally and Abby had matched parts of their outfits to their hair colors (electric blue for Abby and neon green for Ally) and wore bold eyeshadow and their signature winged eyeliner.
Victoria, who said she doesn’t really wear explicitly girls’ clothing often, chilled in a maroon t-shirt with a rainbow stripe, washed-out charcoal jeans, black Vans, and a red beanie.
Working from the front of the store to back, the girls’ eyes lit up as they browsed the racks, showing one another their cool finds. Abby loved the various solid-color dresses, t-shirts, and overalls adorned with a single rainbow stripe and shared them with Victoria, while Ally paused nearby at the selection of deep purple and indigo maxi dresses and skirts.
Charm School shop assistant Sam Jean, just as kind as she was stylish (which is a lot), brought the girls’ many picks to the back dressing rooms. Victoria, Ally, and Abby held up their initial picks before their first selections.
With a suggestion from Sam Jean to check out Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, the outdoor music venue named for the legendary jazz trumpeter and East Austinite, we headed across the street. The girls turned heads–certainly nothing new–while rocking their vintage picks.
KENNY DORHAM’S BACKYARD / DIVERSEARTS CULTURE WORKS
Abby had on a sick navy and orange military jacket paired with a silver sequined skirt–equal parts “fight the power from within” and glam rock. Ally and Victoria wore vintage band t-shirts (The Who and Queen, respectively) and Ally paired hers with the aforementioned red sequined burlesque hot pants.
What I loved most about the girls’ picks is that they had no reservations, no sense of “can I pull this off?” Their confidence, which I’d already noticed listening to their hard-rock songs, certainly shone through their personalities.
After some impromptu ping-pong matches, we headed back inside for round two. Victoria had found a vintage baseball tee, threw it on with her red beanie and some cool aviators, then waited with us for Abby and Ally.
Abby excitedly put on her favorite pick, a denim shift dress with two rainbow stripes on each side, and paired it with her own rainbow wool sweater.
Ally had grabbed another vintage band tee, and I offered some leather shorts to go with it. They were a bit big, though–but we solved the issue in true Texan style, with a slick black vintage belt.
She wanted to add something, though, and when we saw a huge, fluffy cream-colored fur vest while walking out of the store, she giggled and grabbed it off the rack.
The girls laughed and encouraged her to don it. “I look like a marshmallow!” she exclaimed as we headed around the back of the shop. Even so, she rocked it like no other.
ALLY: Usually vintage shops. We try to stop in one in each city we play. We recently shopped in Athens, Georgia, and in Chicago. I actually got these pom-pom earrings in Chicago. The woman I got them from said she was drunk off of Robitussin when she made them, and was worried no one would buy them, but I did.
ABBY:And we’ve actually been to Charm School before. A year ago while on tour with Beach Slang, I needed a pair of shorts. We stopped here and I got some.
ALLI: Can you describe your style on stage? Is it different from your normal, everyday dress?
ALLY: It’s what we wear to parties, just amplified. On stage, I usually default to black, so I’m trying to be more colorful. Abby always dresses colorful.
ABBY: I call my style “power clashing.” It’s when you wear different patterns and in a specific color. Like I have a pair of blue camouflage tights, so I’ll wear them with a yellow top and my red boots. Just as many colors as possible.
BRITTANY (HIGHLARK): Who are some of your style inspirations?
ABBY:Shirley Manson, and Peggy Nolan, and [the brand] Wacky Wackos.
After the shoot Potty Mouth headed off to prep for their first performance. Sadly, no one bought anything this time around, but with Charm School’s ever-changing fabulous finds combined with both mine and the girls’ shopping habits, I have a feeling we’ll be back for more very soon.
And while I opine that truly good musical groups don’t necessarily need to be fashionable, there’s no doubt that it helps cultivate a stand-out look. Potty Mouth is already an incredibly talented and powerful girl group–but their style-icon status elevates them even higher on the rock god scale. We at HIGHLARK can’t wait to see what they make–and wear–next.
**Special thanks to Shari and Sam Jean of Charm School Vintage and Harold of DiverseArts.