Most Januarys are broadly similar. The lunchtime wait in line at M&S to exchange that dodgy Christmas gift cardigan, the treadmills jammed with runners trying to remember how to work the controls, the Dry January martyrs making a massive song and dance about every Diet Coke in the pub.
But this particular January feels tangibly different. Seldom has a new year begun with a zeitgeist united in such bloody-minded optimism. The social media mood on New Year’s Day was a curious mix of blitz spirit (“We can do this!”) and VE Day demob-fever (“We did it!”). The afterburn of 2016 is being felt in our collective determination to bring a better year into being through sheer force of will. Last year had more than its fair share of obscure buzzwords – from Kondo to post-truth to hygge – but the first of this year is one that everyone can rally around. Optimism is so hot right now.
This is big picture stuff, but style is part of it, because on an individual level even big picture stuff gets expressed in small ways. Profound statements are posted on Instagram, and liked by your immediate family. And what you wear to face 2017 is a statement, too. In Susie Boyt’s book My Judy Garland Life, she writes that one of the lessons she learned from her heroine is that “Glamour is a moral stance.” Dressing to cheer and brighten the world in 2017 – whether by red lipstick or a Choose Life T-shirt – is a generous act. And so it is that the look of 2017 has a different slant to what went before. More cheerful, more colourful, more outward looking. With the benefit of hindsight, the athleisure trend that dominated the first half of 2016 seems to signify not simply the wholesome, healthsome vibe it represented at the time, but something about self-obsession and a brazenness about celebrating the shallows of humanity, which played out on a meta scale later in the year.
The across-the-board embrace of optimism chic as we begin the new year is also fashion’s way of getting back on to the front foot. From Christopher Bailey backing the remain cause to Anna Wintour campaigning for Hillary Clinton, the industry was at its most overtly political in decades last year, and ended on the losing side. But instead of retreating into default black – being jaded and aloof, and taking refuge in style as classic tropes rather than engaging with fashion in the here and now – fashion has come out on the doorstep for 2017 in glorious technicolour. So: here’s what to wear, now that positive thinking is the new black. Accessorise with a cost-effective lunchbox of leftovers and that shiny new gym card.
Don’t think we need spell out the symbolism here. The item that encapsulates the new optimism best of all is the Gucci rainbow sweater, which became a modern classic after it appeared on the Gucci runway, and shortly thereafter on Alexa Chung, in 2015. If you have the funds to buy this sweater, do it. Gap’s Happy Stripe is a cheap and cheerful alternative at a fraction of the price, now sold out online, although you could – optimistically! – try your luck on a sale rail.
A La La Land dress
The first iconic style image of 2017 is Emma Stone dancing with Ryan Gosling in a yellow dress, in the poster for Oscar-buzz movie La La Land. Mary Zophres, the film’s costume designer, has said that she wanted the brightly coloured dresses of the film to “evoke some kind of emotion that lands in the subconscious or conscious”. The dress is not a high-fashion yellow, but the yellow of canaries and squeezy mustard and those light-up hexagons on Blockbusters, and this is exactly what makes it jolly.
The second series of Stranger Things won’t arrive till later this year, but the look will be everywhere long before that. The fashion obsession with the show that saw the cast hanging out at Louis Vuitton HQ at Paris fashion week has fuelled a fuzzy nostalgia for 1980s dressing as remembered through Spielberg-tinted glasses. Think: varsity jackets over check shirts, backpacks with baseball caps and oversized denim jackets over floral dresses, as seen at the Topshop Unique show.
The February issue of British Vogue, out this week, praises the return of the kitten heel. After almost a decade in the long grass, the mini-heel is back as a serious fashion option this year. The most prized options will be those with the Dior-branded ribbon slingbacks, or Manolo Blahnik’s collaboration with Vetements in jewel-coloured satin, but the options will be endless. The surprisingly impressive boost a kitten heel gives to your silhouette, combined with walkability, will put a spring in your step. And the name is perfect for a new year of cheer: goodbye killer heels, hello kitten heels.
The hot shoulder
The ubiquity of the off-the-shoulder trend in 2016 belied the fact that those clothes were more challenging to wear than they looked. A top that relies on your upper arms being pinned to your sides makes it tricky to drive, or cook, or dance. This year, the lady-shoulder will be a focal point once more, but this time padded, pointed, ruffled or possibly all three. Shown at its finest on the Balenciaga catwalk, this is a look that is about women taking up more room, rather than being encouraged to take up as little as possible. In a Trump world, a woman in a power shoulder takes on a newly subversive quality.
The splashy sunflowers on the Dolce & Gabbana SS17 catwalk are set to make these the most fashionable of flowers. Having been overlooked in favour of more elegant blooms in recent years, the flower that turns en masse to face the sun channels the chipper positivity of the season.
The colour ‘kale’
What’s in a name? Everything. What was once “army green” has been rebranded for a harmonious, vegan-friendly year with the name of Beyoncé and Gwyneth’s favourite superfood. With Pantone pushing green as the shade of the season for its associations of rebirth and renewal, the case for a new winter parka just got stronger.
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