Fashion

Fashion Has Entered Its Villain Era

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Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.

Wellness obsession, virtue signaling, toting around green juice—consider them all a thing of the past. The national mood has shifted to one of gleeful self-pollution: downing martinis instead of natural wine, nights out bingeing your substance of choice over nights in bingeing HBO Max, and generally indulging in our worst behavior.

Pop culture—from the misbehaving teens of Euphoria to The Weeknd’s debaucherous anthems on Dawn FM—is right there along with us. And fashion, too, is taking its cues from the lifestyle vibe shift. Back when designers were looking hopefully ahead to post-pandemic dressing, they turned out exuberantly body conscious, Y2K-inspired offerings for the “hot vax summer” that never fully was. But if this season was any indication, they’ve shifted to something darker, slicker, more transgressive, and harder-edged that speaks to our collective world-weariness. Nostalgia for the bygone “indie sleaze” days of unfettered partying, the hedonistic “night luxe” ethos that popped up on TikTok, and the celebration of the cigarette-in-hand “rockstar girlfriend” aesthetic (think: Kate Moss in her Pete Doherty era) are all helping drive this archetype of the no-holds-barred, no-fucks-given party girl.

a black model wears a red and purple ensemble

A look from Blumarine’s fall 2022 collection, inspired by Helmut Newton.

Pietro S. D’Aprano/Getty Images

But the most notable framework for thinking about fashion’s new era might just be the villain. On social media, the early pandemic idea of being the “main character” in one’s life has ceded to the concept of being in your “villain era,” a TikTok trend wherein women declare that they’re done with people-pleasing and other niceties. It might be more optimistic to aspire to be the main character of your story rather than its villain, but both tropes seem to stem from the same problem: feeling a lack of control over one’s life, and having to create a false narrative around it as a result. While channeling “main character energy” is an attempt to graft meaning onto chaotic experience, the villain era embraces pure chaos.

two brunette women in seethrough bedazzled dresses

Bella Hadid and Mica Argañaraz backstage at Coperni fall 2022.

Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

If you’re looking to dress for your own villain era, just look to the runways this season. Blumarine’s Nicola Brognano has been one of the biggest advocates of aughts-era everything, riding hard for low-rise jeans and resurrecting the Mariah Carey-style butterfly top. But his fall collection looked further backto ‘70s icon Helmut Newton. His lurid photography was channeled into looks fit for a disco villainess: a scarlet catsuit cut to the navel, a Cruella De Vil coat over a barely-there purple scarf top, even a pantsless look with one of his handbags shielding the model’s crotch.

a readheaded white woman in a cutout dress with gloves

A look from Ambush fall 2022.

Victor VIRGILE/Getty Images

Brognano wasn’t the only one feeling the bad girl moment. At Coperni, we saw designers Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer put a rockstar girlfriend-worthy cut-out minidress on Moss’s daughter, Lila Grace, and deck out Bella Hadid and Mica Argañaraz in louche see-through looks. Ambush’s Yoon Ahn forwent streetwear for slick going-out dresses, fetish-adjacent pieces, and villain-esque full-length gloves. And LVMH Prize Winner Nensi Dojaka has become known for her stringy lingerie-like garments, which this season came with a Catwoman-style allure. That’s all to say, if we’re going to be the bad guys, we might as well dress like them.

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