Here’s some exciting news for anyone like me, who can’t get on with so-called ‘stealth wealth’ dressing: the era of the understated wardrobe with its snore-fest neutral palette and languid silhouettes could finally be over thanks to the rising popularity of bolder, flashier fashion styles that Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn’t be seen dead in.
That’s right, loud luxury, otherwise known as ‘filthy rich’ fashion is back and it’s taking shape via two very different trends. In one corner, we have the girly, overdressed-for-everything look of a Park Avenue princess, in the other, the racy bad-girl style of a mafia wife.
The key connector that loops these seemingly conflicting looks is the idea of flaunting your wealth (whether you have it or not), which, in my opinion, is far more visually enticing as a fashion craze than a load of beige.
By far the biggest trend to take over Tik Tok is the latter look which draws inspiration from the sleek vixenish styles of cinema’s most iconic mobster wives including Elvira Hancock played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, Anjelica Huston in Prizzi’s Honor and Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna in Casino, as well as the more gaudy ‘rich bitch’ looks favoured by Carmela and Adriana from the cult TV show The Sopranos.
Translated into today’s scrollable universe, this means an audacious mix of satin slip dresses, long sequin gowns, vintage fur coats, feather trims, leather, big gold jewellery, leopard print and anything black and figure hugging with a plunging neckline, always accessorised with a supersize pair of dark sunglasses.
But that’s not all: TikTokers are adding a dash of kookiness to this mix of trophy-wife-meets-feisty-hellraiser glamour. Think Marisa Tomei in her Oscar-winning turn as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny, for which she wore an array of outlandish skin-tight ensembles including a full-body floral print catsuit, copies of which have completely sold out on Etsy with over 4000 positive reviews posted by wannabe (mob girl) Mona Lisas.
Really this trend is about channelling your favourite gangster diva, mine being Jennifer Tilly in the 1996 neo-noir thriller Bound, mainly because she survives a fantastically improbable shootout orchestrated by her menacing mafioso husband whilst looking wickedly seductive in a tiny red velvet dress. As a tribute to Tilly’s sassy character, I’m tempted to snap up Reformation’s 90s-inspired Merel bodycon dress cut from claret-coloured velvet, though I’m not sure I could give it the thrilling life it deserves.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of slinky dresses, chunky gold costume jewellery, leather trousers and animal prints online and on the high street, everywhere from Marks and Spencer and Asos to Ganni and Whistles, not forgetting Dolce & Gabbana, which is the godfather of mafia wife style in the luxury arena.
And it’s no wonder given Domenico Dolce’s Sicilian heritage and their predilection for figure-sculpting couture. Their muse of three decades is Monica Bellucci whose signature look is a D&G’s lingerie-inspired black lace mini dress. Very gangster chic.
It’s the manicured femme fatale style of Bellucci and Pfeiffer’s Elvira Hancock that’s harder to nail. The outerwear is easy if you take inspiration from Kendall Jenner and Dua Lipa who were recently photographed wearing full-length fur coats (Jenner’s was vintage; Dua’s was faux) paired with high-heeled long boots, channelling Ginger in Casino who had a penchant for extravagant animal pelts.
Another designer gangster go-to is Polish couturier Magda Butrym whose pre-spring SS24 collection includes a dramatic silver sequin floor-length dress with a daring thigh split and a strict-looking fitted black leather blazer paired with a matching pencil skirt. Butrym’s looks exude sex appeal and you can easily imagine them on screen, worn by the kind of double-crossing seductress who could make enemies out of lovers, and lovers out of enemies.
Understandably, glamorising the mafia and its ruthless business practices, even within the creative realm of fashion, may be too much of a moral compromise for some.
But this doesn’t rule out the other antidote to stealth wealth dressing that’s fast emerging on the social media scene, also driven by a keenness to showcase power and success, albeit inspired by more clean-cut influences.
Championing this second style is the edgy Parisian fashion brand Jacquemus, known for its vibrant, playful designs and innovative marketing campaigns. Its latest muse is Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis who fully embraces her prim and proper Charlotte York persona in a new viral video for the label in which she is seen gleefully unboxing, ironing and caressing a new woollen grey jumper.
It’s not so much the look that she’s wearing that sets the sartorial tone (said jumper and her crisp white shirt are certainly ‘quiet’ sophisticated classics), but rather what Charlotte symbolises as the new face of the label, namely the return of an ultra-polished feminine style that no longer whispers wealth but screams top-of-the-heap status.
Typically, this look is full of nipped-in waists, flounces, flourishes and frills. It’s pretty, romantic, tidy and immaculately curated - never wrong yet always a little overdone. In a word, it’s competitive which is to be expected of a style associated with Manhattan’s moneyed Upper East Side. But how does this attitude cross over to us Brits?
According to Liane Wiggins, Head of Womenswear at Matches, it’s all about being more aware of the purposefulness of dressing up.
“This style really speaks to the art of getting dressed and knowing how to dress for every type of occasion and social engagement – not just for events and dinners but understanding how to dress for breakfasts, the office and more casually at the weekends,” she says. Her style recommendations reflect the ineffable allure of a stylish socialite in possession of a certain confidence and hauteur:
“For a modern, feminine daytime look pair an Emilia Wickstead jumpsuit with a ballet flat. Carolina Herrera’s strapless gown with a sweetheart neckline is the ultimate for me in super-feminine eveningwear, perfectly styled with a boxy satin clutch bag from Hunting Season. Bernadette is also a great option for eveningwear. I love their strapless gowns as they offer so much versatility – you can wear one with a lightweight cashmere roll neck and flats in the day and then with heels and jewellery for the evening.”
The Mob wife aesthetic may be the look going viral at the moment but I predict that Park Avenue Princess style is soon set to gain the upper hand thanks to the imminent release of two star-studded TV dramas set in the mid-20th century which focus on the fashionable lives of the wealthy elite.
There’s The New Look, which stars Ben Mendelsohn, Juliette Binoche and John Malkovich based on the life of Christian Dior (expect silken hourglass dresses galore) and Ryan Murphy’s Capote vs. The Swans, the second instalment of the director’s ‘Feud’ anthology about historic rivalries, featuring among others Naomi Watts, Calista Flockhart and Chloe Sévigny as the glamorous New York socialites or ‘swans’ betrayed by Truman Capote.
The costumes, which are thought to include vintage pieces by Balenciaga, Valentino and Givenchy, promise to be as spectacular as the dramatic showdowns and catfights.
So maybe great new trends are founded on old tensions, scraps and tussles, after all, it was Christian Dior’s own adversary, Coco Chanel, who once wisely said, “Dress like you are going to meet your worst enemy today.”