As I was getting comfortable in front of my laptop to work on the Holiday season fashion piece, I had a terrible déjà vu moment. At the same time last year, I was doing exactly the same thing, in the same quiet room. The only noise was coming from the news tickers running like crazy on the TV screen in the background, announcing the same (heart)breaking news about countries at war, overwhelming attacks, and innocent people murdered by the thousands. The same trail of terror of a world gone mad, crushing down in blood and tears. WhatsApp’s nervous buzz was following the tickers closely, making my heart skip a beat with each new message lit on my cell. Last year, my friends were reaching out, worried about Russia’s nuclear threat to Ukraine within miles of my native country’s border. This year, some of the same friends were keeping me posted about their dire circumstances, from safe rooms and bomb shelters in Israel. How surreal was that? And how on earth could that happen? I sat there for a while with my throat feeling tight, completely lost in the blinking white screen.
Truth was, I longed with all my heart for a time when the end of a year meant just the season of reflection, relief, and joy, the promise of rest, and the anticipation of renewal. When deciding on the Thanksgiving perfect menu (and guests list, for that matter) or planning the most entertaining New Year’s Eve party and the best outfit for it were the top seasonal worries. And I resented the way everything that had happened in the world these last years was making the good old Holiday spirit look frivolous, stupid, and tone-deaf. I flipped through the styles selected for the article with the regret you have for a job well done that turns out to be pointless. Still. They spoke to me in a language I understood very well, telling stories of grace and dare, of having courage and fun, of survival, of hope.
In the grand runway of life, 2023’s fashion has navigated the increasingly demanding and demented world with undeniable intuition. On catwalks and on the streets, sanity came before vanity, in a celebration of the everyday and the real. Equally shaped and affected by the digital age, climate anxiety, a shifting financial landscape, and a divisive, polarized political environment, we recognized instinctively that darkness cannot drive out darkness, and turned to the candor and brightness of ‘looking good and feeling good are the same thing.’ So elementary anyone could do it, right? Well, simple – yes. Easy? Absolutely not.
From the late Jane Birkin’s iconic style, whose je ne sais quoi made a knit sweater worn with a white blouse (the sleeves rolled just so) and a messy topknot come together into everlasting elegance; to Gwyneth Paltrow’s courtroom style, of impeccable low-key neutral outfits and nondescript fashion items; and all the way to Sofia Richie’s status as the face of ‘stealth wealth’ and quiet luxury flair; 2023’s fashion sent out the general message that amid the world’s outlashed wildness, we found an equilibrium point, which looked chic and effortless, even though it was costly and tough.
Thank goodness, there are always ways to remove oneself from drama, in life and fashion alike – stay truthful, be quiet, be selective, double the fun – and we checked them all. Celebrities gave us the cue, as always, sporting jaw-dropping, sassy outfits at most famed events.
Kendall Jenner attended the 2023 Met Gala, celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”, in a cheeky Marc Jacobs onesie covered in black sequins, with an à-la-Lagerfeld collar, and dramatic floor-length sleeves, paired with lace-up platform boots, no pants in sight.
Actress and singer Zendaya stole the Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2024 show in Paris, during Fashion Week, wearing a floor-length white dress of Nicolas Ghesquière’s design, with a double-zipper detail down the front that zipped from top to bottom. To up the ante, Zendaya wore the dress zipped down to nearly her belly button and up to her thighs, showing off a pair of white stilettos for added flair.
In the same vein of good-humored fun, Kylie Jenner showed up for Schiaparelli’s Paris Couture Week show in a brand-new creation from the designer’s latest couture collection, a gown adorned with a massive, incredibly life-like lion head. The style premiered on the runway on Irina Shayk, but Kylie Jenner mirrored the dramatic look sitting regally in the front row. To mention that the tastemaker, socialite, and businesswoman is also a Leo only piled significantly on the fun.
As for the Holiday fêtes, this is the time of year when you feel free to go all-out in sequins, satin, metallics, Lurex, and lamé – perhaps even all thrown together. The festive looks of 2023’s final season take inspiration from essential elegance and timelessness fantasy while keeping in a perfect dose of posh as a proper measure to ensure the Holiday spice and joy.
Therefore, rich textures and deluxe elements like satin, velvet, tulle, and lace; tasteful touches such as moody floral details, oversized bows, statement boots, ballerina slippers, engulfing shawls and scarves, vintage accessories; and a certain fluid, liquid elegance, given by metallic or barely-there sheer fabrics, floor-grazing lengths, full skirts with tapered waists, dramatic pleats or peplum cuts, and ethereal cozy cashmere knits, are all de rigueur. Legs are on show this winter as well, showcased by patterned tights and mini styles with thigh-skimming hems, or simply – and iconically – by the little black dress – Audrey Hepburn be blessed. Time and again, fashion proved to be an accurate societal reflection, expressing this year’s need for all the light and lightness of this world to seep in, and lead us out of the shadows.
In the days before writing this article, when yet another war was about to start and drag in its tragedy people I loved dearly, I saw a movie that melted my heart with its mature tenderness.
A love story and a life story told with the unique Asian sensibility, the film had me watching – for the first time in a very long time – decent people trying their absolute best to be decent, adults living their lives with eyes wide open, and partners negotiating their most fragile emotions, and their ideas of love, chance, and fate, with the life-altering precision of a bomb squad.
It talked about the (unknown to me) Korean concept of in-yun, based on the Buddhist philosophies of reincarnation and rebirth, which describes the fated paths that entwine two people, throughout their past and future lives. If your knee brushes a stranger on the subway; if two people meet in a crowded place and their sleeves touch, that’s in-yun, said to be caused by hidden reasons that had their beginnings years and lifetimes before. It could be about lovers having known each other in their past lives, but I perceived the notion as being more about universal human connectedness.
I understood it as an ineffable suggestion that human love and the effort to be connected in harmony with the other – depend on so many more factors than just individuals’ feelings and deeds, that it has to be an effort over multiple births and lifetimes. I sat teared up in the movie theatre through the credits roll, not only flooded by sadness for all the irretrievable what ifs and what could have beens of a lifetime, but also overwhelmed by hope at the infinite possibility of life itself.
What happens in the world these days is complicated and heartbreaking. Relationships and processes, as legitimate as they seem to be, grasp at harmony and truth antagonized and out of focus. Wrest apart in layers of in-yun and missed connections, we seem incapable of seeking accord, at least not for now, not in the current year’s lifetime. But I believe in past and future lives, and I trust the endless possibility of ‘no coincidence’, the anchor of purpose offered us by fate.
I hope we’ll keep trying. I hope we are just one lifetime shy of the wished-for mark. Or, who knows, maybe just one year.
They say love conquers all. Stepping into 2024, I wonder whether that’s valid for hope as well.