When I’m taking in a new collection during Fashion Week, I typically look for trending styles that I can wear to a business meeting, coffee shop, or formal event. It’s been a minute since I’ve leaned into the nightlife aesthetic, especially since my post-pandemic lifestyle in New York City went from “the city that never sleeps” to “the girl that goes to bed by 10:30 p.m.” However, I think I’m entering a new era of Bachelorette parties, lavish birthday celebrations, and swanky venues. After spending the last weekend in Miami (staying up way past my bedtime), I’ve decided that it’s time to re-open and re-style my “going-out top” drawer. Since I’m only just re-emerging on the nightlife scene, I’ve enlisted the help of fashion designer Christian Cowan to identify this season’s nightlife fashion trends. If you’ve been out on the town this whole time, it’s nice to see you again! If you’ve swapped your crop tops for sweatpants, join me in getting back out there with these going-out outfit ideas.
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Not to sound ancient (I’m 27), but back in my day a fashionable going-out look consisted of a pair of ripped black jeans, a black bodysuit, and black booties. If there’s anything that needs to be put to bed, it’s that outfit combination. The new nightlife fashion trends of 2023 are so much more fun and encourage creativity when it comes to styling.
To craft a modern, fashionable going-out outfit, the key is leaning into the sexy side of your personal style. If you find yourself gravitating towards a blazer as your go-to on a daily basis, incorporate that into your nightlife look by pairing it with a bra top and a matching mini skirt. If you feel the most confident in a pair of high-waisted jeans, then rock them with a silk halterneck blouse. When in doubt, add sequins and feathers.
If there’s one designer who has captured New York City’s elevated, colorful, and freeing nightlife aesthetic, it’s Christian Cowan. I had the pleasure of speaking with Cowan about his newest collection, which will debut this season in Paris, and his take on the current state of nightlife fashion.
“I love seeing less and less and less of a difference between the stuff that the girls and the guys are wearing. There’s less of a gender difference. I think it’s just way more freeing and fun,” Cowan explains. “I’ve also noticed that’s not necessary just confined to the queer community. I’m seeing like, straight guys really pushing themselves wearing more cool outfits to go to the club in Brooklyn and that makes me happy. Because fashion should be freedom. And it shouldn’t just be for one community, it should be for everyone.”
Genderless fashion was a major theme during New York Fashion Week, with designers like Palomo Spain, Tanner Fletcher, Eckhaus Latta, Luar, and Dion Lee removing the limitations of gendered clothing from their collections. From micro-mini skirts to bra tops and leather shorts, any of the nightlife fashion trends depicted below can be worn by anyone.
Christian Cowan’s upcoming show in Paris will follow suit. “In general, we try to make garments with no one particularly in mind. I’m not looking at my list of dresses and being like, ‘I just need female-identifying models’. It’s nice to just reflect on my life and what the people in my life stand for in my own work,” Cowan says.
In addition to genderless fashion, many of the specific nightlife fashion trends (like micro-minis and head-to-toe leather) pull inspiration from the ‘80s and ‘90s. This provides an opportunity to dig through your parent’s closet and shop vintage. Before you run to the mall to find a going-out look, head to your local vintage or thrift store with a specific item in mind or search for that sparkly dress you’ve been dreaming of on sites like Depop and Poshmark.
Christian Cowan is also leaning into a more sustainable design approach this season by collaborating with Core Hydration. For his Paris debut, Cowan created pieces by repurposing used Core Hydration water bottles.
“In the past, we’ve always made sure to get our sequin fabrics from places that use recycled plastics. But it’s so cool to literally transform used Core Hydration bottles into sequined fabrics in the office. We did it in a way that didn’t involve a laser cutter so there’s no wasted energy,” Cowan explains.
“I find it really inspirational to take something that was literally used products and then turn it into a couture gown that a celebrity could wear on a red carpet, but not in like a lame way where you can tell it was recycled. I don’t love something when you can really tell what it was made out of. I can’t wait to show them on the runway,” Cowan says.
The full Christian Cowan Spring/Summer ‘24 collection has yet to be released, but he did show an early preview of one of the standout recycled Core Hydration pieces last week in New York City. It features a delicate sequined bra top, matching barely-there bottoms, and knee-high feather boots. How’s that for an elevated going-out look?
Keep reading for six nightlife trends to inspire your new and improved going-out looks.
A Sequin Base
The base of your outfit doesn’t have to be basic. If you want to wear a simple top like a ribbed tank, button-down, or cropped T-shirt, pair it with something that stands out. A sequin skirt or trousers is perfect for adding a little pizzazz to your party look. For a happy hour look, take notes from Michael Kors’ Spring/Summer ’24 collection and pair a sparkly mini skirt with a crisp button-down. Or, for something more formal, opt for a high-low maxi and a killer pair of boots as shown on LAPOINTE’s runway.
A Structured Bra Top
If you’re thinking that these bra tops look like something you already have in your underwear drawer, then that’s great news—you can wear those out! The key to styling something small, like a bra top, is to create balance in your outfit. Notice how each of the examples above is paired with a long skirt. That contrast makes the outfit dynamic and appropriate for a night out. Playing with texture can also help elevate the look. For its Spring/Summer ’24 collection, Altuzarra opted for a silky look while Dion Lee leaned into the denim-on-denim trend.
A Statement Tank
If a “going-out top” is your go-to, there’s a way to keep the look you know and love while elevating your entire aesthetic. Swap your stretchy black lace-up bodysuit for something more formal. Sheer material, embroidery, feathers, and draping are elements to consider when shopping for an updated “going-out top.” Palomo Spain nailed the elevated look during New York Fashion Week and paired the beautiful tanks with tailored trousers.
A Sexy Suit Set
Not all suits are meant for the office and designers like Christian Siriano proved that with their Spring/Summer ’24 collections. A suit set comprised of a blazer and mini skirt is just what you need to reimagine a corporate vibe for a club. To get the look, pair a blazer (it can be one you actually wear to work) with a mini skirt, heels, and have fun with the accessories. I love the way the chain belt looks in the look from Michael Kors’ Spring/Summer ’24 collection.
A Sheer Thing
The sheer trend has been going strong for over a year now, and I am happy to see that designers plan on keeping it around. Pick out a black underwear set and layer something see-through on top. This trend may feel daunting at first, but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s really fun to wear out. You can work with a sheer lace, mesh, or sparkly fabric to get the look.
A Leather Look
Leather is a great option for a going-out look when the weather gets a little colder at night. You probably already have a leather jacket that you throw on with a pair of jeans, so take the look a step further by pairing it with a leather skirt, dress, shorts, or tall leather boots. You really can’t overdo this look.
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