The dark and twisted return of formal wear (2023)

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (1)

It can be difficult to pinpoint what's really "trending" in fashion and style at any given time, but if there's one look that feels truly dominant, it's the preparation.

My TikTok feed is flooded with prep-related content. There is a concern, even an obsession, about distilling quality, richness and heritage. Women talk about "classics" and what rich people "really" wear and hide their wealth; Showcasing Hermès cashmere suits and unbranded handbags, they tell their followers that the key to becoming a wealthy husband is to read Paul Fussell's 1983 book.Class: A Guide to the American Status System.

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (2)

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (3)

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Fashion brands are already following these enthusiasms. Numerous European houses are developing their image in the direction of "classic" or "heritage"; Former Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele's refusal to completely abandon his decadent aesthetic in favor of something more traditional was said to be one of the reasons for his departure late last year. In mid-2022, Balenciaga launched a range of seasonless basics called Garde-Robe. Saint Laurent has won crushes for its classic coats and sultry yet stately dresses inspired by the celebrities of yesteryear.

Good ol' preppy clothes lurk beneath some of fashion's most exciting collections. Celine's Hedi Slimane continues to explore the early '00s look in New York and Los Angeles, but many of the models at her December show in Los Angeles looked like extras from the original version of Celine.Gossip Girl,Intriguing school uniforms with huge designer bags tucked into the crook of their arms like status badges. As cheesy as their low-waisted outfits look, Miu Miu has doubled down on pleated skirts and smart jackets, tennis skirts and après-ski outfits; Technically, Miuccia Prada revived the lady who lunches in uniform.

On a more intimate level, offbeat American brands like Noah, Bode and Thom Browne are no doubt fueled by dreams of rugby stripes, baggy trousers and activities generally conceived for the country club. The big fashion news making women in their 20s, 30s and 40s shopping across the United States is that their beloved J.Crew is "back" as our own Halie LeSavage cleverly explores in her profile of the amazing fashion designer. Brand, Olympia Gayot.

And one of fall's hit podcasts, the latest season of Avery Trufelman's beloved fashion thinker,articles of interest,focused on the recurring allure of preparation and the story of "Ivy Style" in particular.

“In programs likesuccessor,dealing with formal dress and even wealth itself is distorted.

It may seem like everyone plays tennis; Everyone buys vintage Cartier watches; Everyone takes their L.L. beanbags to scour Goodwill for fisherman sweaters and discarded Oscar de la Renta in the best parts of town. In the words of a WASP Dean I know, "It's scotchy-wotchy time" - but why?

Maybe we go back several times to prepare because we feel like we know him so well. It's like the basis of American style. But what draws us to it, especially when it's so closely tied to wealth, privilege, and all the other things that have been so effectively maligned by the horrors of income equality? In other words, is grooming the ultimate trend or the negation of all things trendy?

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The dark and twisted return of formal wear (5)

Prep is timeless, robust, classic. It's well done. Everyone looks great in big crisp pants and tweed blazers over cashmere waistcoats and ensembles. It can't make you looklegal,But as Ralph Lauren taught us, by wearing cowboy boots or a tie as a belt, or by tying your cardigan around your waist like a weird skirt, you make your point and...ta-da!- suddenly you're an eccentric with an impressive personal style.

You can see what can appeal to shoppers and women who just want to evolve their style at a time when there are so many trends and so many pieces of clothing feel cheap or disposable. The preparation takes time. Preparation is quality, and essentials are available at a reasonable price. Prep is the basic styling palette.

And yet it means that the preparation is conservative. It's a pattern we shy away from in this fashion chaos - we all look at these micro trends and fast fashion and think: We were once a country, a real country! And come across the proven basics that made Muffy look so classy.

About a year and a half ago “Old Money TikTok”became a phenomenon, but it still does well, with characters like a woman calling herself "Kiki Astor" in a broken English accent demystifying what "old money" guys actually wear: L.L. Bean boats and totes instead of Chanel bags, Barbour jackets instead of Blair Mantas Waldorf. (As someone who grew up in Delaware, the "family home" of the du Pont and Biden families, I certainly have my own opinions on this -- which is not meant to imply my authority over theirs, but rather to express how different or localized these status symbols are are.)

"Why do young liberals cling to these reactionary clothes?"

Many of the Old Money TikTok videos take the tenor of Kiki Astor: You all got it wrong and let me tell you somethingrealwealth, it seems. It's anthropological - a digital sequel tothe preppyManual- but it represents an odd fetishization of class and wealth when, hey, I thought we all hated these people by now! So many people use social media to critique the way class and privilege works in America, as they do to celebrate the way it looks.

So why young peopleget that unlike their parentsmoreLiberals in old age, cling to these reactionary clothes? Shouldn't we throw all the rules overboard?

I think there is indeed magic beneath the surface of this pre-Renaissance that has been lost in our traditional framework of reporting and trend dissection. Trend reports - or the definition of "aesthetics" - are a way of making sense of a chaotic world. I get it: who the hell knows what else is going on? If I could give you a few pictures and a few words over a 15 second period... it's like taking a pill that makes it all make sense.uhh.

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But that really doesn't make sense, and the inconsistencies in the preparation suggest how shallow it can be when we're trying to make sense of the world, especially style, through social media. I think behind all that chin stroking is an approach to preppiness that's really fresh, bizarre, and exciting. And very individual, but not like Ayn Rand. (Is there an Ayn Rand Tok? Please don't tell me; I don't want to know.)

Take a closer look at the brands leading the grooming revolution. This attire looks traditional, classic and even dapper, but it defies all the ready-made associations we have with the term: pastel colors, snobbery, elitism, conservatism. For example, one might discourage Mrs. Prada from looking back out of fear of the future or a desire to return to what seemed a rosier past. (In fact, she's one of our happier designers.) And Saint Laurent's Anthony Vaccarello makes cashmere and cardigans, of all things.excitingto give them a dangerous attitude and spirit; He moves fluidly and deftly between men's and women's fashion codes to make a statement about sensuality that feels timeless and even dignified. Her clothes don't look androgynous, which would be old-fashioned, but confident and elegant:I'm fancy enough to wear that fancy coat!That's itmodern,And I don't think that's conservative at all.

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (6)

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (7)

But even the smaller or less traditional designers who drive true fashion innovation by challenging us to see clothing, style or identity in new ways all have one thing in common. It is - you guessed it! - Preparation!

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Thom Browne convinced generations of men that wearing a skirt belongs at prom. Bode, encouraging consumers to think of themselves as custodians of heirloom clothing, molds antique quilts into the simple American workwear shapes Brooks Brothers sought in the 1920s; The brand's stylist, Emily Adams Bode Aujla, looks to evening wear from this period for her womenswear, recalling a time when a beaded or low-waisted woman's dress could mean she was a rebel, an iconoclast or even a political dissident was.

In the UK brands such as JW Anderson, S.S. Daley, Chopova Lowena, and Wales Bonner use school uniforms and tailoring tropes to unveil deeper, more complex (and sometimes painful) stories behind the societies that have championed these clothes as a sort of beacon of fashion.

In other words, the brands that are perhaps most fundamentally shaking up the fundamentals of fashion are the ones that would almost anywhere be described as preppy. But instead of reinforcingthe lifestyleof preparation and their pitfalls, they open them, play with them, question them. Prep is back and this time it's personal!

"Button pants, khaki pants, and crew-neck sweaters have a long history as 'revolt' uniforms for black Americans, as author Jason Jules puts it."

That's one of Trend-Brain's downsides: we distill our understanding of a bygone "aesthetic" into the most digestible or immediate form, compressing the beautiful, complicated, and weird in the process. As one of the best books on the history of preparation,black Hera,articulate (the book came out in 2021 to coincide with Preprenaissance), formal attire isn't as white and exclusive as we might imagine. Buttons, khakis, and crew-neck sweaters have a long history as "revolt" uniforms for black Americans, as author Jason Jules puts it.

Another provocative dissection of the formal uniform appears inAndy Warhol's Diaries, the 2022 documentary film based on the artist's diaries. The film series is much more personal and therefore more curious than previous Warholia. He argues that Warhol and his longtime friend Jed Johnson wore crew-necks, tweed blazers and khakis practically as a prank of sorts so they could look normal but live and feel more open at a time of serious hostility towards LGBTQ+ people.

Of course we find ourselves in a time like this, reviving the power of the uniform. But in programs likesuccessorand the rebirth ofGossip Girl,The approach to formal or classy attire, and even wealth itself, is dark and distorted, even perverted. As my colleague Tara Gonzalez points out, it issexy. It's as if the wearers of these clothes take the worlds, people and ideas normally associated with them and deliberately play around with them. Kill your darlings as they say!

The story of preparedness manifesting today isn't Abercrombie cargo pants, pink polos, or mint juleps on the lawn. Instead, I see the spiritedly complex style of Diane Keaton, who loves avant-garde fashion but always wears her checks and leathers with a playful wink. Her 1994 Golden Globes look, for example, has her looking like a fashion editor on her way to a 2023 runway show in a Junya Watanabe leather jacket and Chopova Lowena kilt — two brands known for deliciously remixing fashion archetypes. (Keaton is also a campaign model for J.Crew, not coincidentally.)

Or I see Fonzworth Bentley - businessman, former servant of Sean Combs and one of the most stylish men of all time - who saw the majesty of Atlanta prep as something to be studied closely and then played to explosive proportions. Or Princess Diana in her spandex and hoodies or witty sweaters, reminding us that fashion can be armor by being balm and a source of joy. Or Mick Jagger in his grumpy late '60s era, singing nasty pop songs about living in sin but dressing like a teacher's pet in a fluffy striped dog sweater. Frank Ocean, who pairs Prada's turtleneck sweater with chunky woolen jackets and Old Celine bags, seems like a new grooming icon to me.

What do all these people have in common? Like the designers I mentioned, they use these utterly familiar garments in a way that feels unusual, exciting, and provocative. They challenge us to see what seems almost irksome as special and individual, a product of choice rather than peer pressure. The reason the supplement endures is because its recognition offers some of our most creative and emotional stylists the opportunity to keep challenging their values.

The dark and twisted return of formal wear (8)

Rachel Tashjian

Rachel Tashjian is Fashion News Director forBazar makes a harpist, works on print and digital platforms. She used to beGQwas the first fashion critic and worked as deputy editor of theGARAGEand further as an authorvanity fair. She has written for publications includingbook forumeart forum, and is the creator of the invitation-only newsletter Opulent Tips.

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