Film and television dominated the conversation—both online and in person—with staggering force this year. A new hit seemed to arrive each month followed by a fresh barrage of memes and in-jokes: Inventing Anna, Euphoria, The Dropout, Severance, etc. Yet some of the most passionate pop culture discourse was hardly about plot lines or performances: It was about the clothes.
2022 was a banner year for costume designers. Instagram accounts dedicated to series, like @Closetofeuphoria, accrued thousands of followers. Wardrobes went viral. Carmy’s crisp, Carhartt-tinged uniform in FX’s The Bear made a lot of menswear enthusiasts say, “Yes, chef!” And I can think of several other examples: Lydia Tár’s suits; Wednesday Addams’s TikTok-beloved modern goth garb; the custom Prada looks featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
This past Halloween alone I saw people donning the shapeless gray suits worn by Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, Jupe’s razzle-dazzle cowboy suit from Nope, and campy homages to a movie that has not even come out: Greta Grewig’s upcoming Barbie, due out next summer. We saw characters and tried to become them.
And then there were the characters most of us didn’t want to be like. The Gen Z assistant Portia—played by Haley Lu Richardson on the latest season of The White Lotus—and her wardrobe of slapdash-trendy fashion served as a cautionary tale (for some) of algorithm-informed shopping gone awry. The character’s decisive looks, which included a wool bolero at a beach party, sparked spirited debates online and even within the Vogue office. But according to the show’s costume designer, Alex Bovaird, the reactions were kind of the point. In an interview with The New York Times, Bovaird said of all the costume design chatter: “It does seem to be really rubbing people the wrong way, but maybe that’s just the Twittersphere. I like the comments that get that she’s a character.” Perhaps people love to talk about fashion through television and film so much because the stakes feel so much lower. You can’t hurt the feelings of someone who doesn’t exist.