The Year in Fashion – 2018

Fashion in 2018 was more about politics than style. Every fashion headline seemed to be about somebody making a statement or offending someone by their sartorial gaff. Nobody knows this better than Melania Trump whose controversial olive green Zara jacket with “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” scrawled on the back was the worst fashion choice any First Lady has ever made. She donned the borrowed jacket on a hot, humid day in Washington D.C. to board a plane to fly to Texas to visit children separated from their families at the U.S. border. Whether the jacket was aimed at how she felt about the purpose of her trip or something else doesn’t matter, it was a huge fashion faux pas.  

Even without a smarmy quip on her jacket, Melania got into trouble again when she dressed like the great white hunter for a safari tour in Africa. I gave her a pass this time since I do think the public and media are hyper critical of her. The former fashion model is the second trophy wife of Donald Trump, we shouldn’t expect Michelle, Nancy, or Jackie First Lady qualities from her.

Speaking of Trump, the name is now permanently politicized. This was evident when Ivanka shut her clothing brand down this year. Although she hadn’t been involved with the company since her father took office, as boycotts of Trump-associated brands were organized, retailers including the Hudson Bay Company opted to drop her line. The move only affected 18 American jobs!

Fashion was also politics in the world of entertainment when there was a ‘blackout’ at the Golden Globe awards. In the wake of #Metoo, attendees donned black evening gowns and ‘Time’s Up’ pins to turn the awards show into a political platform about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

In the world of sports, Nike caught some flak when they made the new face of their ‘Just Do It’ campaign Colin Kaepernick – the San Francisco 49er quarterback who started the ‘Take a Knee’ protest during the American anthem to protest racism. Although there was some pushback from the right wing, Nike has reported 6 billion dollars in profits since the campaign launched.

Also in sports, Serena Williams caused a fuss when she appeared at the French Open wearing a black Nike catsuit which was not approved by the French Tennis Federation rulebook. Williams insisted it was for her health as the body suit was a better choice for her to avoid blood clots (a medical condition she experienced while pregnant last year.) In protest, Williams donned a tutu the following day. The French Tennis Association revised the rules after the tournament to allow mid-thigh length compression shorts and leggings, with or without a skirt or dress, on the court at next year’s Open.

Serena Willams in black catsuit at French Open 2018

The entire fashion industry is turning anti-fur. London Fashion Week confirmed it was now fur free, and designers and manufacturers including: Chanel, Burberry, Maison Margiela, Furla, DKNY, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Gucci, Armani, Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Yoox, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Coach have either already gone fur free, or will be fur free starting next year. The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles also banned the sale of fur this year.

Victoria’s Secret fashion shows have been attracting criticism for years about the lack of body diversity. A greater push for sizing that is inclusive of real body shapes is underway in the industry from companies like Rihanna’s new lingerie line Savage X.

Gender identity is also a growing issue that has entered the public consciousness. In an attempt to neutralize any nurturing of gender roles by making pink and blue onesies, the Israeli children’s clothier NuNuNu has made Celine Dion the face of their goth-inspired skull-emblazoned baby and children’s line of fashions that look like they were designed by the Addams family.

Political correctness bit Dolce & Gabbana this year when they created promotional advertisements for a fashion show in Shanghai. What started off as a cute visual joke showing Italian food being eaten with chopsticks, ended up as an advertising campaign that offended the entire Chinese nation. Everything just got worse as leaked emails and accusations of computer hacking ended up costing Dolce & Gabbana 400 million euros in lost revenues.

Away from the scandals and politics of fashion, there were some actual trends worthy of noting. Without doubt, the most influential celebrity in fashion this year was Meghan Markle. Trench coats and bateau necklines became major trends thanks to the Duchess of Sussex. For women, there were some bright colourful prints in collage-like and vintage Versace patterns, more trousers, longer hemlines and softer feminine ruffles and materials. Many fashion houses reissued past styles, while many smaller designers took to upcycling — a trend that continues to grow. 

As the Hipster look waned, summer styles for younger men like Justin Bieber and Jonah Hill this year took on the ‘scumbro’ look of velour track pants, busy print shirts, or Grateful Dead-style tie-dye coloured athleisure. For more mature looks, dressing got a bit more old fashioned – 1960s ivy league style turtleneck sweaters, corduroy jackets, and tailored suits, worn with classic shoe styles, or heavy soled combat boots for an edgier chic. For both sexes there were plain, classic runner styles from Vans, or overly designed busy sneakers by Nike and Adidas. Puffer jackets were also big for both sexes. 

The fashion world lost Hubert Givenchy – one of the last masters of mid-century couture; American bag designers Judith Leiber and Kate Spade; American textile artist, illustrator and designer Michael Vollbracht, as well as paper dress manufacturing pioneer Ronald Bard. Glamour Magazine is also ending its 80 year run, joining Teen Vogue which ended last year. Seventeen will no longer be published regularly in 2019, and Brides and W magazine are both up for sale – fashion publications are in trouble as circulation dwindles…

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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