- Words Matilda Carnall
Panniers, bloomers, and brooches - oh, my! Fashion seems to have taken to the history books as a new wave of opulence hits the red carpets, runways and 'For You' page.
Amongst the many weird and wonderful spectacles throughout the recent fashion weeks, one that was difficult to miss was the return of the uber-impractical pannier. Originally designed in the 16th century, panniers were fashioned to extend the width of the hips, while leaving the front and back flat. Think Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton. The historical bit of kit made its way onto the runways of some major design houses, including Loewe and Dior, as well as of a handful of independent designers, like Matty Bovan and Del Core.
And while it’s unlikely we’ll see an appearance of the pannier in street fashion (at least until the London Underground barriers get a touch wider), a craving for the royal has made itself readily apparent.
Something we have started seeing sneaking into the wardrobes of the everyman is Victorian-style bloomers. Although the jury’s still out on whether they’re here to stay or not, well-known TikTok creators are leading the charge by flaunting their 19th-century reform dress in ‘Get Ready With Me’ videos and trend predictions. Playing on a mix of styles, content creators have paired the bloomer with pieces including retro leather jackets, cowboy boots, and slogan-ed baby tees.
The sudden spike in bloomers could be accredited to the latest fad of ‘balletcore’, which is exactly what it sounds like: a clothing trend that references ballet. It tends to involve copious amounts of lace detailing, hyper-feminine silhouettes, and more pastels than a newborn’s nursery. The trend began on TikTok, which has come to prove itself as somewhat of a breeding ground for sartorial subgenres, and its old-money, vintage aesthetic is the perfect starting point for a rise in regalia.
Regal chic hasn’t missed menswear, either, although you may have to squint to spot it. Stylists seem to have rediscovered the brooch, with practically more of the jewels on the red carpet than black ties this year. Paul Mescal, whose character Connell in Normal People inspired the return of chain, made his second jewellery-based statement with a vintage Cartier brooch he wore to the Baftas. Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan was blinged out in not one, but two diamond brooches from Tiffany & Co.
The magpies among us may have spotted the jewel off the red carpet, too. Wales Bonner’s Autumn ‘23 show back in January included pearl and Ghanaian bead brooches against a backdrop of opulent chandeliers and regal wallpaper. While Gucci, in their AW23 show, reimagined the gem with a modern spin. A cobalt blue vest in their collection featured strings of pearls that fell from the shoulder to a silver brooch on the chest.
Over the years, numerous designers have referenced historical dress, most notably Alexander McQueen and the late Vivienne Westwood. Westwood was known to merge contrasting aesthetics, and her 1993 Anglomania show was no exception with wedding gowns made in traditional Scottish tartan, capes, and corsetry galore.
Designers such as John Galliano and Christian Lacroix have also toyed with fusing the contemporary with antique designs. And, as their masterful archive continues to inspire young designers and dominate mood boards everywhere, it’s unlikely that references to fashion’s past are going anywhere any time soon.