In the not too distant past, the silhouette to beat was no silhouette at all. For many years fashion’s preference was slouchy and sloth-like — from ballooning wide leg pants to enveloping raglan coats. A-listers such as Justin Bieber, Bella Hadid and Zoe Kravitz helped keep the oversized fit firmly in vogue, whether it was Bieber’s two-sizes-too-big Balenciaga suit at the 2022 Grammys or the billowing wool overcoats Kravtiz is often seen wearing out in New York. But while the boxy cut remains, this year a counter trend has emerged.
Suddenly, it seems there is no body part more important than the waist. Almost overnight, eliminating this crucial curve through straight-cut clothes has become sacrilegious. Enter the built-in belt: designed to cinch and snatch the midriff of any garment it’s embedded within.
Yesterday, Emily Ratajkowski — who has been a pioneer of the style for a number of years — was seen walking her dog in a tightly belted puffer jacket. She paired her coat, unnaturally contorted into an hourglass shape, with black yoga pants and chunky gold hoops. Harper’s Bazaar cited the cinching trend as “a styling trick we should all be adopting.”
On Monday, Jennifer Lawrence went viral for belting her black wool Dior coat at the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas light switch-on. Or rather, Lawrence went viral for the belt springing off her body mid-speech. Never one to be thrown through a loop, the “Hunger Games” actor persisted after a quick acknowledgement: “I’m so sorry, that was so loud, my belt popped off!”
For those concerned about a repeat of Lawrence’s wardrobe malfunction, there is now an expansive offering of sewn-in cinching devices: on Proenza Schouler’s Fall-Winter 2023 runway, Chloe Sevigny strutted in a white ‘70s collared shirt and black blazer dramatically tied at the waist with a leather rope. Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen has reimagined the denim jacket with a V-shaped corset structure and gathered hip inserts. While every retailer from French Connection to The Frankie Shop are selling crisp white shirts with waist darts or fabric ties.
For the more casual punters, independent London designer Dilara Findikoglu has just released T-shirts with integrated waspies — a head-spinning hybrid of cotton jersey up top and traditional boning on the bottom. Even fast fashion got the memo — more than 1,300 people have left reviews for a bodice-style zip-up hoodie on Cider.com. “Cute and comfy and snatches your waist,” wrote one reviewer. “It gives the perfect shape to your body and looks spectacular.”
The sculpted hourglass shape has symbolized a particularly exaggerated version of femininity that has fascinated humanity for centuries — and while the look is fraught with ideas of disempowerment and female oppression, fashion has been slowly but surely reviving waist-centric designs over the last few years. From the Gen Z-approved range of corsets designed by LA-based label Miaou to the resurgence of low-rise jeans, showing off one’s middle has become top priority. Now, perhaps the final frontier is making sure we can wear our waists, á la Ratajkowski, even during a winter dog walk.