What Does It Mean to Go Big With Fashion?

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What Does It Mean to Go Big With Fashion?getty images

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Everything is bigger in fashion right now. Blazers have ballooned into giant hulking forms with supersized shoulders and even bigger lapels. Bags are large enough to fit your whole life inside. Beyond all that, wardrobe essentials like T-shirts, dresses, and even belts have reached peak oversize saturation. You only have to look at the Fall 2024 runways to feel it. Take, for instance, Vaquera, with its colossal furry trapper hat, bigger than the model who wore it. Or Alexander McQueen’s tire-size turtleneck sweater collars. Most of Moschino’s Fall 2024 collection relied on taking the basics and making them mammoth.

Spring 2024 also ushered in mega forms, with big blazers at Marni, Proenza Schouler, and Issey Miyake, and Giambattista Valli’s couture show and Comme des Garçons taking the big dress to entirely new, massively bulbous proportions. This is not fashion for the faint of heart, and these are not clothes concerned with the traditional idea of flattering the body. Welcome to the new era of oversize. Somehow, some way, a cadre of fashion lovers slipped away from bodycon for the better. Taking up space is the definite goal here, and it has to do with themes of comfort and boldness.

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Comme des Garçons Fall 2024launchmetrics.com/spotlight

Perhaps the transparent drama of it all is one of the many reasons why oversize shapes are so ubiquitous right now. In an oversaturated world, where we’re bombarded with millions of images a day, both on social media and in real life, it takes a lot to stand out. By simply enlarging the usual, it becomes extraordinary. On the Oscars red carpet in March, some of the best looks had elements of oversize in them: Carey Mulligan in a black Balenciaga gown, which bloomed with a fanlike spray of white tulle at the hem. Ariana Grande in a pink cloud of custom Giambattista Valli Couture like cotton candy. Da’Vine Joy Randolph in a chunky feathered baby-blue Louis Vuitton gown. Or Sandra Hüller in a black Schiaparelli look, with off-the-shoulder sleeves so large they resembled wings.

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Marie Adam-Leenaerdt Fall 2024launchmetrics.com/spotlight

Rising designer Marie Adam-Leenaerdt—who worked under Demna, the maestro of big silhouettes, at Balenciaga—opened Fall 2024 Paris Fashion Week with a collection full of jumbo round-shouldered coats and bags so big, the models could probably fit inside them. She uses oversize silhouettes not just as a statement, but as a way to integrate versatility into her garments; underneath all that bulk are inner belts, ties, and slits integrated into the pieces, so you can take the volume to the next level and turn it into a completely new shape that suits you. “With XXL blazers, I like the fact that you can structure them depending on the buttons you use to close them,” Adam-Leenaerdt says. Likewise, on her oversize skirts, there’s buttoning on the inside, allowing you to wear the piece as a skirt, resting on the waist, or as a dress, thanks to the slits on the sides, which serve as openings for the arms. “I like the fact that it disrupts typologies. You recognize it’s a skirt by the codes, the waistband, the material. But depending on how you wear the garment, you don’t know if it’s a skirt or a dress.”

And yet, everything oversize is not just happening on the runway. The favorable jeans of choice have been baggy for the past few years. It’s been this way for so long that only recently have there been whispers of the trend cycle moving back to the mid-2000s, and tight little skinny jeans coming back into fashion for the early adopters. Elsewhere, oversize shapes that distort the body and reimagine form and silhouette have become the norm via high-volume gowns from Simone Rocha, Cecilie Bahnsen, and Selkie, or opulent tulle explosions of dresses from Molly Goddard, Selezza, and Susan Fang.

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Simone Rocha Fall 2024launchmetrics.com/spotlight

Red carpets and runways aside, it’s impossible to walk a city block in New York and not see someone wearing something intentionally oversize. Fashion’s biggest fans and followers are taking things a step further, playing with historical layering devices like panniers and bustles to make their clothes look even bigger.

Fashion collector Yulia Fomenko has built a following for promoting that exact concept—wearing big pieces that subvert the form. She tells me she recently wore a dress with a 15-foot train, “for absolutely no reason.” For the Easter parade in New York City, she wore a pink tulle skirt so wide, she had to turn sideways to go through narrow doorways. “I love how powerful big pieces make you feel,” she says. “I just get giddy when I put on a tulle skirt with a Kiki boot, and I become a seven-foot-tall, five-foot-wide focal point.” Fomenko collaborates with the stylist Fausti and documents her everyday outfits, which she builds bigger using her countless hoop skirts, panniers, bustles, lobster tails, hip cushions, and shoulder pads.

new york, new york april 24 dua lipa is seen on april 24, 2024 in new york city photo by gothamgc images
Dua Lipa April 2024Gotham

“With an oversized piece, there’s obviously more room to tell or hide something,” says Fomenko, who also takes current cultural moments that involve big clothes and replicates them for real life. Think: Poor Things–style puffed-up sleeves or Disney princess–esque billowing gowns. “I also love playing with the idea of dismissing dressing norms,” she says. “I think I have always been drawn to big, voluminous pieces, but until recently, it always felt like I needed an event to go to—an opera, a wedding, or a gala of some kind to justify wearing something like that. But then I asked myself: Why? Why can’t I just wear it because I want to and I feel like it? And this was the moment of insight, the banality that clicked into my head. I do not need to have a reason to live my fantasy and to wear volume, I do not need a reason to take up space, I do not need permission from society to get big.”

People also crave comfort—why wouldn’t they? During the pandemic, there was a seismic shift toward putting away high heels and tight, stiff jeans. Perhaps that’s part of the reason jeans, T-shirts, polos, hoodies, and other everyday items have gotten the gigantic treatment: It just makes the typical wardrobe staples kind of magical. And it demands attention.

The everyday-to-the-extreme pipeline is a concept well-loved by another fashion collector, Gisela Castillo, who is often seen doing regular things like shopping sample sales in voluminous Molly Goddard confections, or taking neighborhood walks in baggy ripped jeans paired with huge blazers. “What I love most about [wearing] oversized pieces is that it goes hand in hand with the ‘comfort is king’ philosophy and the idea that you can get form and function simultaneously,” Castillo says. One of her favorite pieces in her wardrobe is a Balenciaga Spring 2022 raw-hem oversize black tuxedo blazer. “I still have a few grail pieces from when the brothers designed together at Vetements. I credit them for putting me on to the oversized craze back in 2015.” She also regularly wears massive Vaquera babydoll dresses and Comme des Garçons tulle. “One thing I’d like to note is that after decades of wearing constricting bras, cinching girdles, and body shapers, I now revel in the liberating feeling that I can do without these and move about my day freely and fashionably, all thanks to the oversized movement, pun intended.”

For some designers, oversize pieces are simply about presence. “I love oversized silhouettes because they give off a sense of power and gravitas through scale, particularly in tailoring,” says Jack Miner of Interior. “Oftentimes, they also allow for designing garments that conceal and reveal in equal measure—like our Bruno sweater, which has a luxe amount of weighty cashmere through the body, but then a delightfully plunging neckline.” For others, the appeal is deeply rooted in fantasy and the ability to transform. Why wear a normal pair of jeans when you can wear an extraordinary version?

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