It was there all along, right in front of me, but I couldn’t pinpoint what was I looking at for the life of me. While I was perusing through hundreds of looks from the Spring-Summer 2024 runways worldwide, the prevalent feeling I experienced was familiarity. Gen Z model after model, from all walks of fashion, strutted across the catwalks dressed in clothes that looked avant-garde and retro in the same breath.
The stark new styles, although clearly designed with the TikTok generation in mind, gave off a whiff of nostalgia, nuanced by equal doses of rebirth and facelift. Everything in the world’s fashion parade looked cutting-edge daring, sexy, sparkling, powerful, and liberating, yet it conveyed the impression of déjà vu. While I was scanning with increased puzzlement the mini (almost) everything; the trench coats; the gold, the glitter, and the shiny; the florals, the corsets, the ballet flats, the baby-doll dresses; the formidable fringes; the all-encompassing denim; the masculine shirt; the couture jeans; the assertive leather – all I could think of was not: Look at these new styles, the youngsters are having such a blast with fashion this year, but – weirdly: I know that. I grew up with that. I wore that. That’s me. How could this be possible, I wondered.
I knew right away that it wasn’t the case of my usual grumbling about the complete lack of innovation in fashion’s last decades. True, no groundbreaking style has shaken the runways since maybe the ’90s. All we’ve gotten lately as major fashion directions were just nods to past glorious decades, particularly the ’20s, the ’40s, and the ’60s. But now something was different. In front of my eyes, it wasn’t just an homage paid to the 1960s, but a full-scale revival of that revolutionary fashion era, over which I couldn’t help but swoon. Just for the record, I fall directly between the baby boomers and the millennials, and I’ve always tried to take no sides in the yearly generational fashion war. What’s in and what’s out, the fads, the whims, the flops, the wins – I notice them all with amused professional detachment and let my readers make up their own minds.
This time, though, I was curious to understand the why of it. Are the millennial designers all of a sudden nostalgic? Have they looked at their parents and grandparents, listened (for real) to their often-told life stories, and, in the current screwed-up global context, envied them for what they had lived and how they’d lived it? Do the generations born after 1980 feel that they are missing out on something extremely valuable but elusive and once-in-a-century rare?
Right when I came across the image of Kendall Jenner closing the Schiaparelli Spring-Summer 2024 show, it hit me: the largest, most educated, diverse, technologically savvy, and politically liberal generation of adults in the Western world wants to live at least some of the spirit, the effervescence, the sense of possibility, and pleasure of living that the earlier generation experienced and, oh, so thoroughly enjoyed. They say you can’t miss something you’ve never had, but here we are: the new generations miss la dolce vita – truly, deeply, madly. And they want to conjure it up through the 1960s styles they re-create, endorse, and wear in 2024. But why?
Bearing in mind the increasingly complex challenges of the last few years, the wish to turn back time to the Great Sixties comes as no surprise. The drab and doom of a present marred by violence, ignorance, ongoing crisis, costly failures, cultural dérapage, and dangerous moral imposture at a worldwide scale, can only make us long for the boisterous time past that is most famous for its historical shifts in culture, politics, arts, and fashion. After all, each of the ’60s iconic style moments made, at some point, a statement that went way beyond fashion. Minis, bikinis, and risqué sheer dresses talked courageously about women’s empowerment and sexual liberation. Bold colors, fringes, denim, leather, and flower power signified the American opposition to war and the legendary anti-establishment movement. 1960s fashion portrayed a revolution against all that was mainstream, the optimism of rebirth, and the hope that something new and wonderful was going to be created, something much more inclusive and peaceful.
It’s only natural that a time of such cultural magnitude serves in 2024 as inspiration and the perfect mood board for mankind, which finds itself in dire straits once more – this time at a disaster level. Alarmed at the multiple setbacks to our hard-earned progress, the present generation of adults feels unprepared for a worldwide explosive unrest that hasn’t been experienced since the ‘60s. We are so polarized by the stupefying present-day argument over what’s true, who you can believe, and who we really are, that we grasp at the chance to find the answer, to right as many of our wrongs as possible, and maybe start afresh, doing it differently. Going back to fashion, I think that’s why and how, in a rarely-seen generational style armistice, we find ourselves all on the same page at the beginning of 2024, wishing hopefully to turn back time. Is that possible, though?
Rocking the Schiaparelli bright red, strapless mini dress, with a bodycon fit and all-over beaded design, paired with the ‘60s staple flipped bob, Kendall Jenner was at once the embodiment of nostalgia for la dolce vita of yesteryear and a masterpiece of vibrant modernity and willpower. At least, I’ll give it a try, her attitude spelled out, for all of us to enroll. And all the fashion trends that have carried the torch for women’s empowerment through the decades lined up in her corner as well.
The most prevalent one this season is the sixties-inspired mini. We get to wear miniskirts – tiny or mid-thigh length – in denim, leather, vinyl, ruffled or pleated cotton, and plissé silk; a large variety of minidresses – from the ingénue baby-doll to the baroque and punkish type; as well as minishorts, in a rock’n’roll version, a minimalist jet-set kind, or a neo-tailoring comfy stylishness.
Bolder than the mini, the no pants is definitely a hot trend this summer. The pantless look emerged on many catwalks, with black panties paired with jewel-collared tops; in a decadent workwear style; in an austere, sleek version with a matching camisole; the swim trunks variety; or with embellished floral or jewel panties.
Depending on the body type, some of us would prefer to drop the top rather than the bottom and find the bra-top trend appealing, which consists of wearing your bra as an actual top. The bra-top choice may favor a minimalist look or a sophisticated one; be worn like a statement jewel or sported over a T-shirt; could send out a delicate vibe or a sober I-know-my-power message. Whatever style we choose, it’s clear that lingerie now becomes a fashion statement.
For an even more suggestive and voluptuous look, there is the see-through trend, which may take on a romantic and gothic flair, or a vestal and fatale aura, with black dresses so transparent they reveal more than they dress. At the opposite end of the spectrum, bridal-white tulle see-through dresses, transparent fringes, or a nude palette coupled with rhinestones, are very sweet and demure but just as self-conscious and revealing.
The ultimate polishing effect on the sensual style described so far is brought by the quintessential spring coat – the trench coat. In full spotlight on runways, the trench coat makes a strong comeback for the Spring-Summer 2024 collections with classic design or oversized pieces made of two different fabrics; with square shoulders, strict look, and maxi length, often reconnected with a military style. For a night out, a moonlight tryst, or a romantic getaway, the trench coat appears also in black satin, as a négligée, or adds a casual touch to a femme fatale mini slip-dress — think Ellen Barkin seducing Al Pacino in the movie Sea of Love.
If you look at the big picture of fashion as the reflection of our society, you realize that some things are immune to the clock ticking – such as grit, dignity, style, a great sense of humor, and knowing who you are at all times. Others just get sucked into the world’s continuum that spins around and around until the very end, getting lost into irrelevance.
To the generations who feel a wistful longing for la dolce vita, hoping they’ll find all the answers this way, I have only one thing to say, spoiler alert: we can’t turn back time. That’s the way of the world – time races onwards and new generations are creeping up behind us, ready to make the mess messier with all the best intentions. Living a genuine, sweet life is still possible, though. We just have to be aware of the emptiness in the modern delusional rituals, see the void underneath obedient trappings, discern what is true from the horror of lies and deceptions, decide who we really are, and do our own thing, rightfully so.
Revolutionary, today, is to redirect our voracity to what’s really in this year – which is, in the TikTok generation exclusive language, the motherf*cking truth.