Fashion

Meet TikTok’s New Tastemakers: The Impeccably Dressed Women of New York’s Upper East Side

Trends move quickly on TikTok, and fashion has always been cyclical. What’s old or uncool is almost always new and “in” again. Case in point: the video app’s newest tastemakers: the impeccably dressed, coiffed women of New York City’s Upper East Side. Accounts like @LadiesofMadisonAve, @ThePurseBlog, and @NYCFashionGal showcase daily looks from the sartorial set whose elevated street style is currently racking up thousands of likes, comments, and followers who praise their sartorial elegance, discreet designer baubles, and styling constraint. From outerwear to footwear choices, their aesthetic remains refined, prioritizing substance over fleeting trends and innate personal style over influence.

While a fascination with the aspirational aesthetic of the upper echelons of society is hardly new, the sudden interest from younger generations can be credited to fast fashion fatigue and the “quiet luxury” trend currently dominating social media feeds.

The look stems from haute-minimalist fall 2023 collections and impactful pop culture references that romanticize status, privilege, and inherent wealth. Think: timeless wardrobe essentials, subtle signature detailing, a muted palette, and investment pieces that serve as status symbols to those in the know—as evidenced in the buzz surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow’s simple-yet-covetable court wardrobe, or the understated, stealth-wealth uniform worn by the powerful Roy clan on Succession.

While the previous examples exhibit the “less is more” approach, for the sophisticated uptown set, luxury doesn’t necessarily equate to minimalism. While their style is hardly considered muted, it speaks to the essence of the trend: functionality and quality. Their wardrobe choices are an authentic reflection of their glamorous existence that serve as the blueprint for escapism shows like Gossip Girl. They don’t have to prove their immense wealth; they simply embody it. Therefore, the approach to fashion is more expressive—prioritizing wearability, premium fabrics and fit, and mixing in distinct add-ons like family heirlooms, designer vintage finds, unexpected hues or textures, and modern touches from contemporary brands.

While their lifestyles (and closets) may be unattainable, their ability to fuse luxury and individualism is undeniable. This is probably what makes Upper East Siders so charismatic and approachable, explains Joshua Kamei, creator of the TikTok account @LadiesOfMadisonAvenue, which currently boasts nearly 60k followers. Kamei, who often interviews his subjects, typically ranging from their 40s to 80s, about their polished look of the day, notes, “These ladies understand a good investment and value practicality over price.” Their typical looks could be described as a mix of “elegance, confidence, color sensibility, proportion, glamour…and a deep-rooted relationship with their hair stylist.”

In a recent video with over 300 comments, Kamei chats with the statuesque Elizabeth during her midday stroll. She’s returning home, after lunching with a friend at the upscale Armani Ristorante on 5th Avenue, wearing a red wool hat she purchased 40 years ago from Bergdorf Goodman, a silk Versace neck scarf, a structured fur coat, and classic Bottega Venetta woven leather gloves. Describing her sartorial choices, she explains, “I always dress for myself…[never] to please anyone else [or] worry about coordinating because I have enough things that I’ve collected in my lifetime…I always find the right thing.”

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This self-assured style ethos is common among the women Kamei interviews. He explains, “They share a sense of pride in putting themselves together in the way they want to be viewed and to show respect to the places and people they patron.” When it comes to getting dressed, the goal is “paying attention to detail that appears effortless and accessorizing masterfully.”

There is also a common theme of chic sensibility. In one of Kamei’s most popular videos, he spots one of his most popular subjects, Nadine, running errands in a sleek, reversible Prada raincoat. The black jacket is layered over a grey crewneck, cargo trousers, and chunky leather ankle boots by The Row. To personalize the utilitarian look, Nadine layered on vintage Yves Saint Laurent necklaces from her personal archive, a dainty Chanel pearl AirPods chain, and a slim Hermès Collier de Chien bracelet while carrying a hefty tan Birkin.

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Other than the subtle Prada triangle and tiny Chanel Cs, there isn’t a flashy logo in sight. Whether viewers can afford her look or not, her modern ensemble prioritizes comfort while staying true to her personal taste, which is universally appealing. Comments on the video include, “She is my favorite! So personable and stylish”, “AirPods on a Chanel chain…I LOVE her”, “The confidence on her is inspiring!”, and “I want to be Nadine when I grow up.”

For Brooklyn-based photographer Olivia Joan Galli, who has shot editorials for Architectural Digest and Vogue, wearing designer vintage pieces is a source of pride and connection to family. In the past two years, she has amassed a following of over 150k on TikTok, with fans who are enchanted by her closet of heirlooms she inherited from her grandmother, the late Joan Johnson, who co-founded the successful cosmetics company Johnson Products in 1954, which then became the first Black-owned business to be listed on the American Stock Exchange.

As an international businesswoman, Johnson boasted an impressive couture collection thanks to her penchant for timeless silhouettes, high-end fabrics, and logo-free details from her favorite labels including Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Gucci, and Givenchy. Her keen eye for versatility, range, and craftsmanship is truly a lesson in power dressing. Galli notes, “If we think about what it must have been like to be a successful Black woman in business in that era, her style reflected her stature, and she used it to portray her tone. When I wear her clothes, I try and channel that energy.”

On TikTok, Galli documents the process of incorporating the vintage pieces into her everyday looks, and it’s evident that she shares her grandmother’s creativity and instinct for fashion. On one occasion, she layered an oversized, sequined Bob Mackie blazer over a cropped tank and jeans. On low-key days, she’ll wear her grandmother’s Chanel leather loafers and sweaters with a distressed moto jacket or a pleated Burberry skirt with an oversized Tom Ford knit and leather platform ankle boots. The pairings are unexpected, but they feel relevant and edgy—and always luxurious. Her fresh take on styling and ability to make vintage feel current has helped her rack up nearly three million likes (and counting) thus far.

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Regardless of the borough, the new crop of street style stars represents a welcome reprieve from overconsumption, the importance of preserving the past, and a celebrated return to the classics—at a certain price tag, of course.

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