This year, celebrity fashion returned to its pre-pandemic heights: concert tours resumed, fashion weeks around the world picked up, and red carpets renewed in full swing. The latter, in particular, saw celebrities flexing their fashion muscles with some of the most viral style moments in recent history. This, in turn, resulted in some fashion trends that will come to define the 2020s.
No Rules Apply
For proof, look no further than one of the year’s most influential style-setters: Bella Hadid. Named as Lyst’s “Power Dresser of the Year” — causing nearly a 2,000% increase in searches for items that she wore — and one of the New York Times’ most stylish people of 2022, the model delivered a series of buzzy looks in the past 12 months, including a dress that was spray-painted on her at the Coperni spring 2023 show. But it wasn’t all about the aspirational runway looks. “Some of the moments that I think have really been impactful have been more of the casual ones,” says trend forecaster and writer Kendall Becker, referring to items like the Adidas Samba sneakers, UGG platform boots, and cargo pants that became some of the year’s must-haves following Hadid's endorsements.
Then there is Julia Fox. Like an oracle lit in paparazzi flash, the It girl-turned-actress stepped into the style spotlight early in the year, wearing a series of confounding outfits: a grey motorcycle jacket with matching pantashoes (spandex shoe–legging hybrids), a lower-than-low rise latex leggings, and a Canadian tuxedo with chaotic, black eyeshadow that delivered endless memes and Halloween costume inspo. With her downtown cool demeanour, unapologetic style, and unfiltered TikTok persona, Fox made 2022 her own. Armed with torso-bearing crop tops, corseted mini dresses, and subversive cut-outs, she secured appearances on the Tommy Hilfiger runway during New York Fashion Week and at the CFDA Awards, as well as a devoted fashion following, including New York-based designer Elena Velez, who heralded Fox for her “zero fucks given” style.
This speaks to the highly versatile, “no rules applied” mindset of 2020s fashion that emerged post-pandemic. “There are so many facets of what the 2020s fashion looks like,” says Becker. “But the overall notion is about making [style] look easy, but also having it look elevated.” Take, for example, Anne Hathaway’s hot pink Valentino look in Rome and Rihanna’s Alaïa coat dress, which celebrity style expert Cindy Conroy believes are some of the most influential looks of 2022. While Hathaway’s outfit included sky-high platforms and a glittery frock, the ensemble carried a monotone ease. Meanwhile, Rihanna’s robe-like red dress looked equal parts comfortable and glamorous. This was only one of the multihyphenate's masterclass looks this year, with the Savage X Fenty founder delivering unapologetic ensembles that defied what maternity style could look like going forward.
Rosalía’s Motomami, the Spanish pop star's biking-inspired album, was another prime example of the power of tapping into your personal style. The singer’s commitment to the bikercore aesthetic shined through both her stage and street style looks with motorcycle jackets, cut-out bodysuits, biking helmets as handbags, and asymmetrical mini dresses in a consistent palette of red, black, and white marking a new fashion era for the performer. Even as she stepped on the Met Gala red carpet, wearing a Gilded Age-inspired dress from Givenchy, Rosalía kept the brand’s version of gas station sunglasses on.
But perhaps virality — a result of TikTok’s accelerated trend cycle and our societal fixation with the platform — is the most defining fashion trend of the 2020s so far, and celebrity style exhibits this phenomenon the best. “I feel like celebrities have shifted from having a signature style to selling items or aesthetics,” says Becker.
Take, for example, “Barbiecore,” heralded as the trend of the year by Lyst. According to the fashion shopping platform, after pictures from the upcoming Barbie movie — starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling — were shared ad nauseam on the internet, searches for pink products skyrocketed by 416%. Meanwhile — boosted by figures like Hathaway, Zendaya, and Lizzo sporting Valentino’s fall 2022 line — the ultra-pink collection has amassed almost 80M views on TikTok. There was also the bizarre glass handbag trend. Stemming from Coperni & Heven's fall 2022 collaboration, the highly unpractical piece made its way to the red carpet when Doja Cat wore it to the 2022 Grammy Awards, resulting in over 8 billion views for "glass handbag" on TikTok. (Kylie Jenner also contributed to the numbers when she showed off the trend on Instagram.)
From Dua Lipa’s 1993 Versace gown at the 2022 Grammy Awards to Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe dress at this year’s Met Gala, celebrity style has also become a revolving door of nostalgic references that require footnotes to digest. Emerging alongside archival fashion's popularity on TikTok, the trend has swept us all up into a time machine, dressing as if the best has already passed. And while most of the trend comebacks have been enjoyable (Y2K's low-rise jeans not included), many of the toxic traits left behind have also made their return, with headlines like “Heroin chic is back” rejecting strides made in favour of size inclusion since the early '00s. This became especially apparent in the case of the viral Miu Miu skirts. Since making their debut in 2021, the micro sets puzzled and dazzled many, launching Instagram accounts like @miumiuset, gaining millions of views on TikTok, and appearing on virtually any celebrity that mattered (Nicole Kidman on the cover of Vanity Fair, Bella Hadid in Vogue, Zendaya in Interview, etc.). With their flat stomachs and defined abs, most celebs and influencers seen wearing the set revealed a sad reality about the fashion industry’s lack of size diversity, especially when one of the only plus-size celebrities wearing it — Paloma Elsesser on the cover of i-D — needed to get a custom version made.
While style-wise 2022 was all about viral moments and nostalgia, Becker thinks that 2023 will shift the vibes a bit. “We're going to start seeing a lot of celebrities enter their chic, more buttoned-up era,” she says. Meanwhile, Conroy sees the release of albums like Beyoncé’s Renaissance, paired with Rihanna’s unabashed maternity style and celebrities’ overall disdain for rules as signs that “style exploration and the freedom that self-love brings” will continue to be a highlight of 2020s fashion.
As 2023 looms, it's hard to imagine a world in which internet culture and celebrity style don't influence each other, making trends last the lifespan of a milk carton. Will we be able to keep up?