In her music video for the new single “Living Life,” Steady Holiday (a.k.a. Dre Babinski) sails down a winding Los Angeles street, hanging off of the back of a moving postal truck — a moment that simultaneously references The Royal Tenenbaums scene where Royal takes his grandkids for a garbage truck joyride and calls for our continued support of the USPS. As she glides through the city, she’s wearing a teal button-down blouse tied at the waist with matching trousers — a bright pop of color that makes her immediately stand out against the hazy L.A. backdrop.
Though she’d probably deny it, the dream-pop performer, who is welcoming her third full-length album early next year, has built something of a cult following around her vivid personal aesthetic (a Ford Models employee once name-checked Babinski’s Instagram account as a source of inspiration), which primarily consists of gently modified thrift store and Goodwill finds. “I have always been really scrappy,” she tells Uproxx. “I was shopping in thrift stores when I was really young, beginning in high school. I went to school in Orange County, so it wasn’t cool. There was nothing cool about the way I dressed at the time. But I knew I didn’t fit in and I think I just unconsciously started doing things just to be a contrarian and wear baseball shirts and stuff.”
After spending a “solid 15 years” rocking “quirky T-shirts you can’t get anywhere else,” Babinski says that both her music and fashion philosophies are about “world-building” and “using elements that already exist. Making something new out of something old.”
Now in her 30s, Babinski primarily looks to women like Miranda July and Charlotte Gainsbourg for style inspiration. “I love the way that Miranda July looks and how effortlessly she wears modern and vintage stuff,” she says. “She always looks so easy. That’s something that I think that I’m drawn to: people who have an ease about them. I think because I run a little anxious, there’s something calming about seeing a simple confidence in Charlotte Gainsbourg. I got to play a show with her last year. I don’t remember what she was wearing. She’s just always wearing something sloppy and just looks cool as fuck all the time.”
As her look has evolved, so, inevitably, has her music. Kicking off her career as half of the folk-pop project Miracle Days, the California native spent some time touring as the violinist/vocalist for Dusty Rhodes And The River Band and has since taken the solo path, first releasing 2016’s quietly contemplative Under The Influence, followed by 2018’s more uptempo Nobody’s Watching. Today, on the cusp of her third album, Babinski, who also supports herself as a TV and commercial actor, feels much more comfortable with herself as an artist — not to mention a person living in the world. “[On my first] records, I hear how clever I’m trying to be, how intelligent and wise,” she says. “I honored that stage that I was in, but I’m moving towards a very different place with this record musically and aesthetically. It’s going from being very adorned and detailed and interesting for lack of a better word to being simple and bold and direct, which is very much who I was and who I’m becoming.”
One thing has stayed consistent, though: Babinski has always been dedicated to being a mindful consumer, outright rejecting fast-fashion brands and instead investing in vintage pieces that span the decades. “The exploitation of human rights in the garment industry — specifically fast fashion — is a major reason why I can’t contribute to the demand for it in good conscience,” she explains. “I think a lot of my aesthetic has come from just a personal constitution of wanting to be conscious of the footprint that I leave. I’m just really aware of how I consume and how I dispose of things.”
Take, for example, the thrifted baby blue blouse with puffy sleeves and round, oversized buttons Babinski wore to Coachella last year, which she jokingly says was “me trying to be interesting on a budget.”
“I took this shirt — it flared out at the waist and had these big wings. I should’ve taken a photo of it before, I just looked insane [wearing it]. So I just cut it off and I added fringe to it. I cut it up in the back and cut the sleeves off, which were also massive. And now it fits kind of funny, but it works. And then I wear it with some big, weird pants.”
Statement pieces go a long way on tour, she surmises. “I’ll have a few different sets of monochromatic either all white or all red or all black. And I’ll put this [points to a large, patterned raincoat] over and them and it looks like I tried.”
Of course, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, touring is an impossibility. Not one for livestreams (“I haven’t had the courage to”), Babinski hasn’t felt the need to go out and buy a whole new set of loungewear. “I haven’t purchased a piece of clothing since the pandemic started, so I’m still working with the same set of tools,” she says. “But I wear my yoga pants and my workout shorts almost exclusively. When I leave my house to do something, to run an errand, I’ll put some pants on. But otherwise, it’s comfort first, always. I’m just in Patagonia and athletic shoes.”
Once touring can safely resume, however, Babinski will no doubt show up with a fresh round of self-altered creations. Though now she looks back at her earlier live outfits with a deeper understanding. “I would make a lot of things [for my] earlier Steady Holiday shows. I would buy a weird suit jacket and cut off the sleeves and then add sequins and stuff. It was just a vehicle to put my anxiety — to try to be different and interesting. I say that with just a little sadness for that person. Because I needed so desperately to be an individual. [Wanting to be] seen is why I think I’ve pursued this in the first place. And why I would insist on being so different, even from a young age, going to thrift stores when everyone was wearing crisped Billabong shirts.”
Take The Corners Gently is due out in February 2021.