We are in an acute phase of ferocious opulence. Corsages, worn in bunches, are the jazz hands of winter coats. Then there's iridescent ombré nylon, safety orange lug soles, flamboyant wallpaper florals – and that's just the men! We've gone from austerity measures of sleek Céline minimalism to regalia in full bloom. The street is a spectacle more festive than we feel. And that's the point.
Gucci's men's wear is as much madcap librarian with latent glam rock tendencies as Doctor Who's Colin Baker in his signature patchwork tartan, pinstripes and polka-dot suits. The magpie look was initially the domain of street style stars but it's become ubiquitous, from high-end technicolour dreamcoats like Marni's multicoloured mink to Smythe's oversized Lurex houndstooth camouflage jacket to the crinkled and ruffled lamé day dresses of The Vampire's Wife, Susie Cave's nouveau-goth label. Right now, fashion is bright dress-up every single day, not just for special occasions and holiday parties.
Cosmetics executive Leonard Lauder coined the term "lipstick index" for what a surge in lipstick sales said about the economy – during a recession, women trade down from designer garb to more affordable small indulgences like lipstick. But I like to call what we're in now the Rhinestone Index; The aesthetic isn't based on the economy, it's psychology.
Fashion fluctuates like a pendulum, but this latest swing is born not as a cyclical correction to all that Kondo-inspired decluttering but as a reaction to the nonstop terrible news of the world.
A year ago loafers with pearl-studded heels seemed outré. What was once novel is now everyday and they've since been joined by rings on every knuckle, furry slides and saddle shoes encrusted with glass pearls and rhinestones that tread into an uncertain world bedazzled and largely ornamental. In one holiday window display, shoes look as though they were first covered in Elmer's glue then rolled in glitter, before being capped by a quiff of feathers at the ankle, like a child's exuberant craft project. It's fashion maximalism to escape and enchant, even momentarily, from the wretched state of the world and the antithesis of that desaturated, soothingly understated Instagram aesthetic – imagine if Palm Springs were an outfit (specifically a four-year-old's favourite outfit).
At J.Crew, melton wool duffle coats come in bright yellow and pockets of tuxedo jackets are being stuffed with silverfoil tinsel. Linda Lundström's new outerwear brand Therma Kota includes quilted velvet parkas in jewel tones and gold jacquard and leopard-print bomber jackets with pink-tipped collars, and they are the norm not the exception.
Etro, Antonio Marras, Moschino, Missoni were all tartans and twinkles and pleats; MSGM's supersized zigzags can be seen at a distance. Even accessories have accessories: Shrimps and Simone Rocha fun fur collars and scarves wear beaded brooches, and layers like Eleven Thirty's colourful perforated dot handbags.
This is a time to leave minimalism to those who can afford it. Let them have terse sobriety. For the rest, varieties of panné, moiré and crushed velvet are sartorial comfort food, studded with glimmering strass and more feathers than a burlesque revue. The textured delights of pleats and peplums, feather and fringe offer a glimmer of optimistic distraction.
During the Great Depression, a time of psychological and economic devastation, the versatile rhinestone dress clip became the most ubiquitous and popular cheap-and-cheerful neckline and lapel accessory. That costume jewellery category has been obsolete since the 1960s, but this year it too has made a comeback – earlier this year Canadian designer Chelsea Armstrong relaunched the diamanté dress clip with her brand Jubilee Jones, offering art deco and Victorian-inspired pieces that can be converted and worn as hair combs, brooches and earrings.
Let the sequins, satin and glitter that used to have a New Year's Day expiry date live well into spring. When the world is a garbage fire, multi-sensory vulgarity is a consolation. Gilded in sequins, girded for tomorrow's news cycle.
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