Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
“Quiet luxury” and the safest of minimalism have had fashion in a chokehold for several seasons now, but it feels like we might finally be breaking free. This New York Fashion Week, all manner of stridently pretty motifs recalled the mid-2000s heyday of similarly demure styles. But instead of twee Peter Pan collars, there were more outré expressions of femininity: trailing ribbons, delicate lace, and a palette of sorbet hues. Call it the Barbie bump, or the rise of Sofia Coppola-core, but all things unapologetically saccharine are trending. And while “cute” might have previously been fashion’s pejorative way of dismissing unimaginative design, it’s now something that designers are striving for. Why spend your money on something that doesn’t charm you?
Of course, no one has been working this terrain harder than Sandy Liang, who recently drove the Baggu girlies wild with her sold-out collab featuring cutesy takes on your everyday tote. She took this season as permission to go even further, splicing together uniform dressing, Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, and The Little Mermaid for a Tumblr girl-meets-undersea result that included supersized ribbons, mother-of-pearl buttons, and shell embellishments. (The beauty look for the show even featured barnacles made from rhinestones, in a true commitment to the bit.)
The ultimate gamine, Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, was Joseph Altuzarra’s muse this season. If you’re going to be shadowed by Satan worshippers, you could do worse than to do so in the designer’s flared car coats and tulle babydoll dresses, which drew inspiration from the film’s midcentury costumes.
Two labels more typically known for their uptown flair dipped into this youthful vein, too. At Carolina Herrera, gowns and lacy sets came in macaron shades, while Tory Burch’s ode to “effortless dressing” included what the brand is dubbing a “micro-mini goddess dress,” a curving Space Age wonder in petal pink. (Further proof of the brand’s cool-girl glow up.)
At Batsheva, Michelle Zauner, a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast, sported a ’50s sock hop-themed look, while Bottoms director Emma Seligman moonlit as a model in frothy pink tulle. Rodarte also tapped its stable of celebrity friends, via another viral lookbook that saw Quinta Brunson and Ayo Edebiri wearing its dreamy creations.
The Italian idea of villeggiatura, or an extended vacation at a single location, inspired Sarah Staudinger this season for Staud. The designer looked to the optimistic runway shows of the mid-’90s (and channeled them with her own lineup of supermodels, including Grace Elizabeth and Hari Nef). Her billowing satin skirts in bright pastels were a sportier take on the sweet trend.
The best thing about this aesthetic is that it can stretch to accommodate many approaches. Collina Strada’s take was appropriately grunge-inflected, with trailing lace and the soft pastel prints her label is known for (designer Hillary Taymour created the pieces using generative AI to pull from her past collections), while Christian Siriano went full glamourpuss with a ribbon-wrapped gown.
ELLE Fashion Features Director
Véronique Hyland is ELLE’s Fashion Features Director and the author of the book Dress Code, which was selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year. Her writing has previously appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, W, New York magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and Condé Nast Traveler.