STYLE EVOLUTION

Karen Elson Has Never Been Afraid to Go a Little Goth

Karen Elson & Karl Lagerfeld on way to Pierre Hotel, gala,  New York - 1995
Rose Hartman/Getty Images

Since her 18th birthday, when Steven Meisel convinced her to shave off her eyebrows for a Vogue Italia cover in 1997, the model and musician Karen Elson has become more than used to presenting herself in daring looks for the public eye—and, of course, also pulling them off. She spent the ’90s in sheer dresses that seemed to make her skin even more translucent while attending major events alongside designer dates like a mullet-bearing Jeremy Scott and a fan-carrying Karl Lagerfeld, the latter of whom famously—and fondly—referred to Elson as “a mixture of something from the Middle Ages and a mutant from another planet.” All that amplified once Elson paired up with the equally pale musician Jack White in the 2000s, which brought along a bevy of color-coordinated black outfits. After all, it’s not just Elson’s vampiric beauty that’s earned her a reputation for being just a bit goth: over the years, she’s consistently opted for fishnets, darker designers like Alexander McQueen, and even temporary septum rings, like at the 2013 punk-themed Met Gala—an event Elson’s consistently come through for, even in a bejeweled Dolce & Gabbana crown. As she pivots even further into music, with her sophomore album Double Roses out next month, take a look back at Elson’s ever enduring style over the years, here.

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Karen Elson steps out with choppy bangs and a fan-carrying Karl Lagerfeld to a gala at the Pierre Hotel in New York, 1995.

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Elson keeps it casual in a cardigan at the 1997 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards at Madison Square Garden in New York, 1997.

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Elson still manages to stand out from Jeremy Scott in a mullet at the 1999 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala for “Rock Style” in New York, December 1999.

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Elson pairs a ruffled sheer dress with a rare wavy head of hair at the opening gala for the Christian Dior boutique on 57th Street in New York, December 1999.

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Elson brings along a pashmina scarf to celebrate the unveiling of the new LVMH towers designed by Christian de Portzamparc in New York, December 1999.

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Elson suits up in a sheer corset, choker, and evening gloves to Vogue‘s Moulin Rouge! premiere party and auction to benefit AIDS charities in New York, April 2001.

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Elson pairs roomy velour pants with a hospital bracelet for the opening of the Alexander McQueen New York store on 14th Street, September 2002.

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Elson sparkles at the 2004 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala in New York, April 2004.

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Elson wears nude fishnets and a head of soft curls to the global Louis Vuitton store opening in New York, February 2004.

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Elson takes a break from red in a tiered blue gown at the Fashion Group International’s 22nd Annual Night of Stars honoring “The Romantics” in New York, October 2005.

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Elson skips out on a bra with a sheer shirt, and fishnets, at the Fashion Group International’s 23rd Annual Night of Stars Honoring “The Visionaries,” October 2006.

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Elson keeps things sheer even at a book signing—for Grace Coddington’s The Catwalk Cats, hosted by Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy, in New York, November 2006.

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Elson matches Jack White in stick-straight hair and all-black black tie ensembles at the afterparty for the Quantum of Solace world premiere in London, October 2008.

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Jason Kempin

A pregnant Elson turns to another designer, Zac Posen, for arm candy, along with a delicate pink clutch, for the 2007 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, June 2007.

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Elson and Jack White color coordinate in black and white again at the 2009 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in New York, May 2009.

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Elson wears another semi-sheer dress, this one from the fall 2009 Rodarte collection, to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards in New York, November 2009.

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Elson is a vision in head-to-toe red, from her lipstick and hair to her floor-trailing velvet gown, at the 2009 British Fashion Awards in London, December 2009.

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A ghostlike Elson wears a strapless, fringed Versace gown to the amfAR New York Gala to kick off Fall 2011 Fashion Week in New York, February 2011.

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Elson again opts for fringe for the opening of Tom Ford’s Beverly Hills store, February 2011.

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Elson shimmers in a sequined, trailing Alexander McQueen gown for the 2011 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala for “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” May 2011.

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Elson changes it up at the 2012 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala for “Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations” in a headband in New York, May 2012.

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Elson stood out in an emerald green Proenza Schouler ensemble at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, June 2012.

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Elson embraces the “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” theme at the 2013 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala with a temporary septum ring in New York, May 2013.

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Elson keeps it simple in a white gown and a short bob at the2013 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Finalists Celebration in New York, November 2013.

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Elson throws it back to the ’90s in a silver slip dress at the Vintage Vanguard event benefiting Dress For Success in New York, January 2014.

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Elson bares her chest in a glittery Michael Kors dress at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, June 2014.

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Elson wears an architectural feat of silk, made by Zac Posen, to the 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala for “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” in New York, May 2014.

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Elson wears a shimmery, cut-out take on Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress to present the designer with the Superstar Award at the Fashion Group International’s 31st Annual Night of Stars in New York, October 2014.

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Elson adds some leopard print to her usual sheer sleeves in an Alexander McQueen gown to a celebration of the 2015 Pirelli Calendar in Milan, November 2014.

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Elson goes all out at the 2015 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala for “China: Through The Looking Glass” in a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda gown and bejeweled crown in New York, May 2015.

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Elson sticks to Gucci in a red turtleneck and accent belt at the spring 2016 Gucci show during Milan Fashion Week, September 2015.

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Elson wears the Atelier Versace fall 2016 couture gown Bella Hadid debuted on the runway the day before to amfAR’s annual Paris dinner, July 2016.