The Renaissance trend's not exactly getting old, but...

This was the first sign of the trend I saw early last summer, it's too pretty not to love. Source: ig @nodress_online_shop

The Death of Venus? 

I could declare the Renaissance trend dead, but the pair of cherubs I got tattooed on my forearm in December would look at me in shame. In any case, this trend is far too pretty for me to ever hate, no matter how much it clogs up my Instagram explore page. The runway is understandably no stranger to Baroque, Renaissance or Rococo influences; we’ve had countless Marie Antoinette references, corseted dresses with billowing sleeves and ruffled collars. What better inspiration for the opulence and extravagance of couture than the filthy rich aristocratic peacocks of centuries past? The religious influence has long been part of many a fashion designer’s repertoire, but it is the current obsession with wearing Renaissance-style paintings that I am here to discuss.

Outfits from Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring 2007 couture runway showing us the romance of religious art.

I know it’s no longer unique, but most easy, affordable fashion isn’t and most of us – myself included – buy into that regardless.

I can’t deny that a cherub or Birth of Venus turtleneck still evoke a positive response in me due to the beauty and celestial air of the original source material (e.g. the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Botticelli’s paintings). But I'm not as in love with the trend as I was. When the pattern is profited off by fast-fashion brands and slapped onto something as mundane as leggings or cycling shorts it loses its ethereal nature. But let’s not dwell too long on its commodification and therefore perhaps its inevitable tarnishing. Let’s explore instead how we even got here.

Sateen proving me wrong by showing that some people can look good in those leggings. Source: ig @sateenmusic

I'm not mad at this either because she's clearly going for the trash/fash look, which I also rather enjoy. Source: ig @floguan

It’s not difficult to draw connections. It was the Met Gala.

Yay, I get to talk about the Met Gala. 2018’s theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Although as usual many put in minimal effort, I knew I could count on Rihanna and Solange. Lana Del Rey had worn her own halo at the 2018 Grammys in January, and she graced us with another in May, as did Solange, SZA and Lily Collins. And although this was all fuel for the Renaissance’s renaissance, the most obvious inspiration comes from Ariana Grande. Her Vera Wang dress displayed Michelangelo’s fresco, “The Last Judgement”, and I’m not saying this is the exact moment that birthed the trend, but the first Renaissance-y mesh turtleneck I saw was last May. 

The dress that launched this trend, courtesy of Ariana Grande and Vera Wang.

I knew the fashion icon wouldn't disappoint, but I love that she appointed herself fashion's pope. Although I think that position is taken by Anna Wintour, she's definitely a strong contender for fashion's Jesus.

I love that Solange followed the theme perfectly without taking it too literally. And I have to laugh at that bottle of wine.

Lana looking celestial in Gucci at the Grammys.

The Fiorucci cherubs may also have something to do with it.

After experiencing success in the 70s and 80s, the Italian brand went quiet as it faded from relevance. It relaunched in 2015 and, due to the same nostalgia that has us wearing chunky trainers and tiny glasses, the brand made its way back to popular consciousness. The signature Fiorucci cherubs have been donned by personal style favourites of mine Chloe Sevigny and Kali Uchis, as well as queens of Instagram trends Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. So, it’s not difficult to understand why the cherubs are such a popular motif on $20 dresses.

 Kali Uchis wearing Fiorucci which is interesting, sure, but look how cute the whole outfit is.

A Dazed article called her the woman that launched a thousand trends. 

Now, for the Vivienne Westwood corsets.

They’re not exactly the version we see on fast fashion sites, but the Westwood corsets are the time-less, forever stylish and ethereal (albeit way more expensive) predecessor. See: FKA Twigs at Sundance this January, wearing one from the 1990 Portrait collection. If anyone has a clothes budget bigger than my student loan, get one of these in your life.

 FKA Twigs in the hailed Westwood corset, with artwork by 18th century artist Francois Boucher.

Final thoughts

Having whined about how I’m upset because “it’s gone too mainstream, man”, I still acknowledge the trend’s inherent beauty. Am I sad it’s been reduced from a fashion moment to an easy way to get garments to sell? A little bit, yeah, but I also believe that good styling means all is forgiven. So, would I still wear it? Yes. I mean, I’m wearing the two little curly-haired kissing cherubs on my arm only for the rest of my life. Although, we’ll see how we feel in a few months when our eyeballs have been completely saturated by angelic faces and Renaissance scenes.

You can find this one on MotelRocks for £30. Not bad considering you'd be dropping a couple grand on a Westwood.

Written by Anastasia Vartanian


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