Young fans are drawn to the preppy suit worn at White House by Olivia Rodrigo and cast of Gossip Girl.
The Chanel suit, an outfit typically associated with ladies who lunch at restaurants, has an unlikely new set of fans – Generation Z.
This month, Olivia Rodrigo, a 18-year-old singer of Driver’s Licence, Good 4 U, chose a pink-and-black vintage Chanel for a White House visit with Joe Biden, the US president. Lyst, a global fashion search platform, reported that vintage Chanel searches rose 200% after the appearance.
Simone Biles, who was featured on the cover for WSJ magazine, wore Chanel suits as well as the Gossip Girl cast. Fans call Jennie, from Blackpink, “Human Chanel”, because she often wears the luxury label.
Rodrigo chose the suit as a nod towards First Lady style, Jackie Kennedy Onassis. She was the most well-known wearer of the suit in the 60s. But the revival is all about the 90s. Chanel’s spring/summer 1995 collection is the suit worn by the singer.
The suit’s new Gen Z followers are more likely to refer to a young Helena Christensen in a Chanel suit with bikini top and Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Cher Horowitz in Clueless 1995. The Chanel archives Instagram account @chanel_archives is a popular source of Chanel catwalk photos from this era. It has high-profile users like Ariana Grande, Tavi Gevinson, and many others.
Chanel is a luxury brand, and it’s expensive. Farfetch sells vintage suits starting at PS2,000. For as low as PS25, those without rock-star finances can get the look with Chanel-like pieces via Depop, Rodrigo’s resale site.
Viviana Attard is Depop’s global curation leader. She studies trends and identifies this style as part the rise in preppy looks. “Rodrigo visually expressed a vibe which’s been gaining more attention lately – there’s been an increase in searches and listings for the preppy look that was recently brought back into fashion by the Gossip Girl reboot.”
Morgane Le Caer (content editor at Lyst) argues that the many associations that the Chanel suit can have – such as the fact that it can signify preppy, first ladies and the 60s – is what appeals to people. She says that Gen Z style is “… about creating a very individual world or mood through the juxtapositions of visual elements.”
Ryan McMahon runs @chanel_archives and says that he loves the “kitsch” collections Karl Lagerfeld created for Chanel in 1990-1997.
“I believe we are living in a generation that is obsessed with nostalgia. Everyone seems to be obsessed about looking back at fashion and remembering when it was less serious.” He says Chanel in the 1990s is an excellent example of this.
“Hopefully, people are finding ways to style the Chanel suit in fun and fresh ways that can be youthful. A skirt suit isn’t always assumed to look young.”
Attard and Le Caer both believe that vintage’s sustainability factor is crucial. Rodrigo also represents her generation. Attard says that she is an avid vintage and secondhand collector and makes conscious fashion choices to help the environment. It’s not surprising that she chose vintage clothing for such an important and high-profile occasion as visiting the White House.