G lossy, understated refinement has been dethroned seemingly overnight as the fashion world embraces the lavish allure of maximalism.
Ignited by a viral TikTok trend lovingly dubbed the “mob wife aesthetic,” which pays cheeky tribute to the look of Carmela Soprano, Connie Corleone and Marisa Tomei’s Mona Lisa Vito, this sartorial shift champions a more-is-more philosophy, marking a distinct departure from minimalism and so-called stealth wealth imagery that informed everyone’s wardrobe over the last couple years. And as the mob wife’s sudden reign dominates the presses – from Vogue to the New York Times – the look has been embraced by trendsetting celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Emily Ratajkowski and Dua Lipa as a welcome counter to both studied minimalism and the high-brow couture of runway fashion.
The trend heralds an earnest embrace of luxury with nothing to hide – where a vibrant Hermes Birkin in an unexpected poppy red and Chanel’s quilted lambskin sphere miniaudiere are not just collectible accessories but powerful symbols of plenty. Vintage furs, animal-print clothing and chunky jewelry are reemerging as signifiers of quality craftsmanship and energy, both unmistakable nods to distinct fashion house codes.
Although TikTok’s mob wife embodies a certain kind of Goodfellas chic – exotic leather bags, gold watches, diamond tennis necklaces, prints that pop – the broader resurgence of maximalism is deeply rooted in the history of fashion. The glamor of the late 1970s to the early 1990s, for example, developed as women attained increasing sexual freedoms and power in the workplace, dressing more and more fearlessly as they succeeded at the office and acquired wealth.
Styles regularly draw inspiration from the past, but today’s Gen Z and millennials are drawn to this lavish look for less obvious reasons. According to fashion critic Rian Phin, the digital era has led to an intermingling of distinct subcultures, where traditional signifiers are often reinterpreted, shedding their original context. That means that trends can return even if trendsetters aren’t entirely conscious of a style’s origins.
After years of athleisure and working from home, people long for an opportunity to get dressed up again – and to go bold.
So why is maximalism back now? Lucy Bishop, Handbags and Fashion Specialist at Sotheby’s, says that younger generations seem to be nostalgic for a time before social media, when it just so happens that many such looks were in vogue. And after years of athleisure and working from home, people long for an opportunity to get dressed up again – and to go bold.
Furs, especially, are back in full force. “Everybody’s grandmother had a mink fur coat,” Bishop says. “Nobody’s been wearing them for decades because they were very much out of fashion. But now, everyone can afford a great, authentic, vintage fur coat.”
Embracing eye-catching and vibrant accessories is essential to embodying the grandeur. Large clip-on earrings, made popular during the 1980s by fashion icons such as Princess Diana, are an accessible way to get the maximalist look. Bishop recommends a pair of acrylic and gold CC emblem Chanel earrings for a decidedly chic adornment.
Vivian Chen, Assistant Vice President of Sotheby’s Jewelry Department, welcomes the departure from the subdued trends of previous seasons. “We are happy to see people embracing the glamorous side of jewelry, because that is our department’s bread and butter,” she says.
Chen points to a Cartier gold, black-lacquer onyx and emerald Panthere bangle bracelet, which perfectly complements the penchant for fur coats and animal prints. Those favoring an “all black everything” look aren’t out of luck: the Van Cleef & Arpels gold, onyx and diamond bangle bracelet is “an impeccable day-to-night choice.” Alternatively, she says, the vivid Roberto Legnazzi gold, coral, hematite, diamond and topaz collar necklace encapsulates the loud theme with its wide, gold band and striking color contrasts.
For the less daring, integrating just one lively accessory can instantly elevate and invigorate an outfit. A single statement piece can serve as a transformative element in any ensemble, and when nothing quite fits, Sotheby’s specialists can help. “We can source particular styles, especially if they’re from named fashion houses,” explains Chen.
As we revisit the lavish style elements of the past, maximalism emerges as a testament to personal expression and collective celebration, marking a vibrant departure from the quiet and subdued years that preceded it. This trend is not just about the revival of “loud luxury” – it’s a daring embrace of individuality where layering metals, mixing prints and donning what you admire are now the norm.
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Lead photo by Jeremy Moeller / Getty Images. Promo photo by Christian Vierig / Getty Images.