“Is not the most erotic portion of the body where the garment gapes?” posited French theorist Roland Barthes. One can only imagine how Roland would react to the acres of flesh on show this past September, as dictated by the dominant spring/summer 2022 fashion trend. To put it in terms that Cardi B would appreciate, when it comes to the new season, fashion is feeling all “macaroni in a pot”. Short, sheer and second-skin takes on sexy are back.
It’s been a while. Sure, we’ve had underwear-as-outerwear renditions in recent seasons, with the odd pair of stripper heels making an unsolicited appearance. But, after a hot-vax summer during which young people threw their insecurities to the wind, embracing a daring vein of body positivity that had previously seemed like well-merchandised marketing spiel, designers found new ways to interpret sex.
Frequently, the results were see-through. Young guns Nensi Dojaka and Supriya Lele have made this hedonistic approach their calling card, and their sheer, body-wrapping designs made headlines in London. Occasionally, in Paris, things got X-rated. Ludovic de Saint Sernin, the young designer with a small but devoted following, showed a collection made up of tiny strips of leather braided together. It was sponsored by Pornhub; a collaboration with the porn site is due in early 2022.
Read more: Autumn/Winter 2021 Fashion Trends
The big boys were feeling sexy, too. Donatella Versace can always be relied upon to inject some wiggle into fashion’s walk, and for spring she embraced thigh-slits, midriffs, chainmail and latex. Ditto Gucci, whose transparent lace mini dresses, latex bustiers, fishnets-and-suspender-belts and sex-toy accessories explored the “nuances of sensuality” in a blockbuster show in LA. “Seduction, Stripped Down” was the title of Prada’s collection and, true to form, it poked fun at conventional interpretations of allure, exploring corsetry in itchy schoolmarmish wool and offsetting micro hemlines with demure kitten-heels. “We thought of words like elegant – but this feels so old-fashioned,” Prada said in the show notes. Sexy it is.
It should be noted that fashion is finally wising up to the fact that sexy comes in all shapes, skin tones and sizes. About time! Models Precious Lee, Alva Claire, Paloma Elsesser and Yumi Nu were among the most in-demand models for spring, bringing some much-needed body diversity to the runways. Meanwhile Indigenous model Quannah Chasinghorse made a splash in her debut season, walking for everyone from Chanel to Prabal Gurung and Gucci.
A sense of loosening up permeated the collections, even when sex (or size) wasn’t on the brain. At Chanel, the models even smiled, twirling for the cameras like ’90s supers and showing off micro hemlines. Across the board, colour comes in juicy shots – unless it’s wiped completely, in favour of head-to-toe white. Trains and capes, ripe for making an entrance (or, more accurately, an exit) proliferate with an urgency not seen since the mullet hems of the 2010s. The Y2K revival continues apace. And say hello to the biker jacket, that once ubiquitous model-off-duty staple that suddenly feels right again.
On that note, you may well have heard that Covid killed fashion trends once and for all. And you would be partly right: spring/summer 2022 was a chaotic, creative mix of idiosyncratic takes on what the post-pandemic world wants right now. Nowhere was this frenetic energy more evident than at Louis Vuitton, where Nicolas Ghesquière imagined “the figure of a vampire who travels through the ages, adapting to dress codes of the era.” Think 18th-century pannier dresses with their hems chopped to reveal red satin superhero-style boots; cape-tuxedo hybrids paired with indigo jeans; gold-braid embellished waistcoats with short cargo skirts and floor-sweeping Morticia Addams capes.
But there is a consensus on certain big ideas. Trends are dead, long live trends. Here, the 10 biggest spring/summer 2022 fashion trends you need to know about.