At New York Fashion Week earlier this fall, model Gigi Hadid casually walked the runway in glittering gold lounge pants tucked into blue satin heels with a green sequin button knotted across the top. Silver and gold chains encircled her wrists, a diamond choker rested around her neck, and a dazzled handbag hung at her hip.
Almost every look that designer Tom Ford sent on the runway for his Spring 2022 collection were equally sparkly – from a sparkling gold chainmail bomber jacket to a floor-length silver sequin duster. And while his show may have been an extreme, it wasn’t an outlier. The catwalks this fall were showered with splendor.
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“What caught my attention the most was this extravagance in all its forms,” says Jessica Testa, a reporter for the Style section of the New York Times, who was at the shows this fall. “Great colors, great patterns. And, of course, sequins, sparkles, metallics and rhinestones.”
Testa says one thing was clear: none of the clothes were meant to be at home. They were made to be seen.
While glitz and glam pop up every year over the holidays, this time around is different and will likely persist into spring as well. After nearly two years of sweating in the shadow of a pandemic, people – and designers and fashion brands – are ready to step out and capture the light.
(1) Amy Sussman / Getty Images; (2,3) Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for Gucci
“People know the world hasn’t returned to normal,” says Testa. “Like, sure, we’re post-pandemic, but we’re not really post-pandemic either, right? But people are trying to get back to their lives and when the world around you is still very dark and you decide to dress your best, I think there is something very similar to the middle finger in the air in this. “
It’s not just the runways that make a statement. Shoppers are flocking to second-hand stores as well, picking up every ounce of glitter they can find. Shilla Kim-Parker is the CEO and co-founder of Thrilling, a huge vintage online marketplace, where she says she saw the desire to shine big.
“We’re seeing people having a lot of fun with what they’re wearing: sequins, shiny, shiny things, even chain mail,” says Kim-Parker.
Oye Diran / Exciting
Gold, silver, and red colors account for nearly 30 percent of Thrilling’s current sales, he says, a tenfold increase from last year. Trendy jewelry has quintupled, while 80s clothes, with all its bold colors and over-the-top glam, are flying off the virtual shelves.
But the sparkle doesn’t have to be big to count, Kim-Parker points out.
“I just bought some vintage rhinestone brooches because I was thinking that even if I’m wearing a second hand sweatshirt, I want to dazzle it somehow… even if it’s just for my little Zoom window,” he laughs.
Oye Diran / Exciting
This desire for a little (or a lot) glam after this dark doesn’t surprise fashion watchers like Kate Bellman, chief fashion editor for Nordstrom, where there’s a whole team working to predict trends. She says they’ve been following the rise in demand for glitter for some time.
“What I think is really cool about what we see nowadays in terms of glam, glitz and sparkle, is that they’ve really seen it come in terms of historical context since the roaring 1920s,” says Bellman.
The sequined dresses and rhinestone-encrusted headbands we associate with the 1920s were a response to the 1918 flu pandemic and World War I. There was a lot of death and people were finally ready to go out again and be seen. Do you feel familiar?
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What Bellman says this time around is particularly special, however, is that people aren’t sparing the glitter for the holidays, especially as the holidays are being canceled again.
“I mean, I’ve seen people with sequin T-shirts in the supermarket. I’ve seen people with shiny shoes on public transport,” he says. “I think we’re just starting to see it reflect more on how people feel, just wearing it in such a versatile way – which I, as a trendy person, find so exciting, inspiring.”
Jessica Testa says it might be easy to dismiss this trend as simple, bright, and fun, but you’d be missing much of it.
“There’s a real emotion behind it,” he says. “There is a bit of a challenge, there is a bit of irony, there is a real persistence that I appreciate.”
So take out those sequins. Bring out that high beam. Roll on glitter.
Persist and shine.