Fashion

The Case for Dressing Like Your Grandmother

The nostalgic trend is all about repurposing what you already have.

Growing up, I always found a sense of serenity in my grandmother’s vanity dresser. Sitting on her bed, I relished examining the antique wooden triptych mirror, which sat adorned with hanging pendants and delicate silver chains. Her shelf was cluttered with colourful trinkets and tiny boxes that spilled open to reveal little treasures gathered over time. To me, it was the picture of personal style carefully cultivated through the decades. This is the ethos of grandmother fashion, which is set to be a defining trend in 2023.

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Look no further than Miu Miu. To close out Paris Fashion Week, the Italian luxury brand enlisted stars like Mia Goth, Emma Corrin and Zara Wade to champion grandmotherly style. The now-viral runway presentation was peppered with messily tucked-in cardigans, glasses, and cozy knitwear. As they walked, models carried big purses that looked stuffed to the brim with doodads of all sorts. Hard candy, anyone?

Designer Miuccia Prada is known for using her shows to champion a specific aesthetic, not just clothes. Last year, the brand’s seminal micro mini was the final catalyst to the zeitgeist’s (somewhat fraught) revival of Y2K styles. But this season, a decidedly more demure oeuvre is set to reverberate through pop culture: the grandmother.

On TikTok, #grandmacore has over 145 million views at the time of publishing, with top videos discussing the beauty of grandmotherly slow living. Why? Times are tough, and many young people are yearning for a more simple, nostalgic lifestyle. Think: doing puzzles in your spare time; having a deep appreciation for good-quality socks; bird watching. All in all, it’s about taking a little extra care and finding loveliness in the day-to-day. And that extends to getting dressed.

Grandma core outfits are often made up of chunky sweaters, billowing nightgowns, and patchwork patterns, while home decor in the aesthetic comprises tchotchke-covered shelves, intricate watercolour paintings, and floral duvets. These visuals coincide with Gen Z’s ongoing love affair with thrifting and the rise in vintage home decor, as predicated by Pinterest. And this old-is-new-again ethos has been dominating fashion for months.

Rosettes are everywhere. Brooches have become a coveted accessory. Mismatched layering dominated street style at fashion month. Now, grandma core is even infiltrating viral fashion moments. On February 2, Emma Chamberlain was trending after opting for a “grandma aesthetic” at Spotify’s pre-Grammy performance party. Layering a collared button-up under a lumpy knit vest and accessorizing with a thin brown belt, the sensible getup seemed out of place for a flashy Hollywood event. But it won’t be for long.

A month later, the Instagram platform @boldberlin went viral after sharing a candid photo of two passing strangers — a young man and an (impeccably accessorized) older woman — wearing the same plaid coat. Both looked similarly cozy and stylish, proving that grandma core works on anyone.

With notes of cottage-core and coquette visuals, the nostalgic trend channels the warm feeling of visiting a grandparent’s home. Like “coastal grandmother” that came before it, today’s grandma fashion prioritizes comfort. But while the former’s breezy textiles and cream colour palette implied a moneyed background, the new era of grandma core is made of mismatched affordability. Sure, we can’t all buy Miu Miu’s maternal uniform, but thrift stores (and closets) everywhere are brimming with its components: cardigans, knee-length skirts, and kitten heels.

In an age of ever-changing micro-trends, dressing like a grandmother is a playful way to push back on expectations of women’s fashion. Instead of cycling through clothing or accessories to fit a fad, it encourages scavenging in your own collection or acquiring something second-hand. There’s also an element of non-conformism in adopting styles that have long been written off as unhip. Ultimately, it’s about bonding with your wardrobe, and treating each garment like a lifelong friend instead of a quick fling. Trends come and go, but grandmother fashion endures.

For inspiration this season, I look to my grandmother. Still today, her vast jewelry collection — from a sliver gardenia pendant to a battery-operated flashing Christmas brooch — is an indication of her elegant aura and playful personality. Her floral-pattern ensembles are always accessorized with intentionality, and reliably emit a sense of wisdom. That’s something I’d like to strive for. As TikTok user @mary.orton so eloquently declared, “Why wait until you’re 85 to dress like it?”

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