Once upon a time, people wore metal armor to fight in battle and participate in jousting tournaments. While the Knight's Tale days are long behind us, lately, designers have been taking some cues from the Middle Ages and presenting chainmail-inspired looks in their collections.
The modern iteration of the trend has been some time in the making. Take, for example, Tom Ford’s Spring 2020 collection, which showcased a slew of glossy breastplates that were strapped to the bodies of the models like futuristic versions of Maximus’ armor in Gladiator. The look was quickly embraced: Zendaya wore the pink version to the 2020 Critics’ Choice Awards, while Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in the same piece on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar’s February 2020 issue. (The trend came back to the red carpet this week when actress Elle Fanning wore a Balmain Spring 2022 embellished link crop top to the 2021 InStyle Awards.)
For more proof of the trend's pervasiveness, see Schiaparelli's recent collections. The fall 2021 couture line featured metal bras, nipple coverings, and full-torso breastplates (that came equipped with six-packs!). Meanwhile, the fall 2021 ready-to-wear lineup mimicked the armor look in a more subtle way, with gold waist belts, metal bodice-shaped plates (with a belly button included!), and boob-shaped metal bras.
For spring 2022, it was Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson that took inspiration from King Arthur. The designer juxtaposed easy jersey dresses with gold and silver metal plates in amorphous shapes, as well as sent out trench coats (worn backward!) adorned with foil-looking bodice pieces.
While this trend may have started trickling in before the pandemic took hold, if we are to believe the recent runways, it’s about to really take off now, almost two years after the worldwide health and social crisis left people feeling vulnerable and exposed. Following the mass adoption of surgical face masks, full-face coverings, and gloves amid the pandemic, the armor trend is a continuation of the skin-to-world boundaries we’ve since set. Like the knights who walked around in full-on armor as they fought plague in the Middle Ages, we, too, are now ready for battle and dressed accordingly.
Sure, a field armor — which, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, weighed between 45 to 55 pounds — is heavier than most modern-day garments, but have you seen fashion’s go-to platform shoes recently? And because designers are moving away from head-to-toe metal suits, creating new types of shields that border the line of jewelry and clothing, today’s armor is versatile enough to wear around town. The styling is more casual, with chainmail-like pieces and metal plates paired with easygoing maxi skirts, jeans, and trench coats that add interest to the otherwise minimal looks.
It’s often said that clothing is a type of armor, but, if you want to take it literally, now is the time.