Will Quiet Luxury Ever Go Away?

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Quiet luxury this, quiet luxury that.

You’re all harried from hearing about it. We’re weary of writing about it. Even the beige-toned Oppenheimer bagging the Oscars for Best Picture that (let’s not kid ourselves) rightfully belonged to the hot pink utopia that’s Barbie confirms it: stealth wealth will continue to haunt us.

On behalf of fashion, dear readers, I offer my sincerest apologies.

But it’s also true that quiet luxury is now in sartorial retrograde, where, in Miranda Priestly’s words, it has “filtered down through the department stores and then trickled down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin” – from a reductive pile of overly TikTok-ified last season stuff.

And if this scathing commentary seems somewhat unwarranted, you’d be surprised to know that there’s already a long list of newer micro-trends in place of fashion’s situationship with stealth wealth, be it the Francis Ford Coppola-approved “mob wife” aesthetic or the logo-bedecked Wild West fantasy at Pharrell’s sophomore season at Louis Vuitton, and Act II of the Beyoncé Renaissance album respectively.

Could it then be true? Has the frenzied churning of the fashion cycle mercifully delivered us onto some ridiculous new trend that is neither quiet nor luxurious?

Fashion’s Year of Rest & Relaxation

It was sometime in late 2022 when it collectively dawned upon humanity that we must rid our wardrobes of all things logomania and maximalism and instead swathe ourselves in layers of cream cashmere à la the Roys of the Succession multiverse.

Of course, it didn’t help that the show’s succeeding season (see what I did there) aired shortly afterward, bringing down the Burberry plaid in one fell-swoop and giving us our new object of obsession – nameless, logoless, and sometimes entirely featureless clothing and accessories that cost as much as a Manhattan apartment.

But while the thread count was high, so was the need for discretion. At a turbulent period of global living cost crises – the phenomenon likened in many ways to the rise of post-recession normcore aesthetic circa 2008 – conspicuous consumption was seen as gauche, overt displays of wealth insensitive, explicit branding transactional. 

Gwyneth Paltrow’s quiet luxury looks.
Gwyneth Paltrow 2
As seen during her ski trial.

Consequently, minimalist labels like Khaite, The Row, Totême, and Savette rushed to fill the (huge) shoes of Phoebe Philo at Céline nearly a decade ago. TikTok was kind enough to decree the phenomenon formally; quiet luxury was born.

Did Stealth Wealth Ever Truly Exist?

But aside from the fancy click-friendly moniker, the reams of reels imparting obvious non-specific advice on how to achieve that “old money” look, and the 1.4 billion TikTok views under the hashtag as HypeBeast reports, where does the stealth wealth trend actually diverge from the longstanding previous ethos of minimalism?

Our very own Amanda Mull, now of The Atlantic, makes a compelling case that it doesn’t. So does fashion critic Rachel Tashjian of The Washington Post.

The takeaway is in both instances that the idea of quiet luxury is very much an imagined one, designed to market budget-friendly knit blends from the likes of H&M and Zara to the vast majority of twenty-somethings on TikTok, which only faintly resembles the Loro Pianas and Brunello Cuccinellis of the world. 

The Roys’ wardrobes were meant to parody the wealthy, not emulate it.

On the other hand, the truly wealthy rarely conform to a singular, consolidated aesthetic the way they’re currently made out to be on the platform, being vulnerable to the vagaries of advertising just as much as anyone else may be.

Sure, they can drop considerably more cash on each shopping trip. But look no further than our very own Paris and Nicky Hiltons for colorful, generationally-moneyed style inspo – worlds away from the perennially beige-clad Roys!

And it was only a few days into 2024 when possibly a more realistic representation of the rich life took pop culture by the chokehold: mob wife dressing.

Discretion Be Darned Already?

If you thought the quiet luxury headlines were tiring, you’re not ready for the mob wife mania, a term now brandished around as the new key to powerful dressing that takes the ostentatious excesses of the Y2K out for a ride in the grown-up world.

And the mafia inspiration has been endless – anybody and everybody within the World Wide Web has been continually bombarded with paparazzi photos of Dua Lipa, Emily Ratajkowski, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and even Anna Wintour in oodles of fur, outré dresses, and daring animal prints, cosplaying as alleged mob wives (like they haven’t been doing that look for ages already).

Not to mention, there is a clear correlation with the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos.

Sharon Stone in Casino evokes mob wife dressing at its finest.

Elsewhere on Fashionphile, demand for polka dots has surged by 71%, specifically for pieces from the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collaboration. At the same time, quiet luxury labels from only last year, namely Bottega Veneta, Loewe, and Celine, only saw a 34% increase. Yet others have taken to loud budgeting – public proclamations of the commitment to not spend – choosing instead to save their hard-earned dollars.

Did We Get Quiet Luxury All Wrong?

Yet, amidst all this, what’s missing is a sense of leisure. After all, it’s not every day that we’d like to feel like a mob wife hardened from a life of organized crime. Nor do we want yet another capsule wardrobe shoved down our throats. 

We really want to feel at ease in what we wear, as effortless as Katie Holmes in the Khaite cashmere bra and cardigan, hailing a New York cab.  To feel as luxuriously nonchalant as Carolyn-Bessette Kennedy in a crisp, white shirt, going about her life. To feel like Jane Birkin’s Birkin – all glam and no glitter.

And that’s where the appeal of stealth wealth lies. It’s not about ruining the quietness and the luxury of a neutral piece by participating in dupe culture but disengaging from this economy of attention altogether. It’s about the privilege of watching The Row’s runway show untethered to your phone screen.

That’s a style of dressing that can’t be dismissively declared “over” and ruthlessly discarded to the sidelines. That’s true luxury.

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