FFor the Christmas party in the office, Christina wanted to dress up again and bought a sequined skirt. “After almost three years of the pandemic and working from home two days a week, I felt like dressing up,” she says. “The whole thing, with glitter, make-up and heels.” The 48-year-old copywriter wasn’t the only one who came up with this idea: “So many of my colleagues wore sequins, lurex, chic black dresses and satin blouses. There was such a relaxed atmosphere. It was the most glamorous Christmas party I have ever experienced.”
Many Germans are currently in the same situation as Christina and her colleagues. After jogging pants couldn’t be soft and sweatshirts couldn’t be big enough during the pandemic, many now find the couch potato look at least as tough as chewing gum. Sequins are suddenly booming. They sparkle on dresses, skirts, tops and pants in a big way. That glamor is making its mark could already be seen during the fashion weeks in Milan, Paris and London last spring. Sequins, that much was already certain back then, had to become an autumn trend.
Sequins are ubiquitous in fashion
With the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, they shimmer in the fashion color purple. Dolce & Gabbana from Milan focus on silver. Prada has sequin ankle boots in grass green. At Jean Paul Gaultier sequin denim jackets. Stella McCartney goes straight for multicolour metallics.
But sequins are not only conspicuous in designer brands. It also glitters and shines in the shop windows in smaller shopping streets with medium-priced products. The fast fashion candidates – Zara, Shein, H&M – who offer glitz even in minimalist times, know anyway that the need is great now: sequins as far as the eye can see.
Sequins as a sign of longing for glamour?
“In the run-up to the event, we already focused heavily on the trend involving glitter, luster and sequins,” says Simone Heift, who, as Purchasing Manager of the KaDeWe Group, is responsible for the product range in the department stores KaDeWe in Berlin, Oberpollinger in Munich and Alsterhaus in Hamburg. “However, I was surprised that this glamor trend was taking off so strongly.” The jewelry business is also very successful at the moment. “You can say that it’s getting more dressed up and chic again overall.”
Is that an example of how fashion can serve as a social seismograph? Does this trend reflect people’s need for hedonism, pleasure and sensuality? The pandemic and the consequences of the war in Ukraine are leaving their mark. “For a long time now, we have had a very tight cap when it comes to joy and light-heartedness,” says psychologist Birgit Langebartels from the Rheingold market research institute in Cologne. “You can also say: We are in a psychological energy crisis.” Langebartels also speaks of the “ghost of the indefinite”, which unfolds a high potential for fear. That, of all things, encourages consumption? “Nobody knows what’s still to come and how long the Ukraine war will drag on,” she says. “Making oneself beautiful or dressing nicely has a lot to do with rituals. Clothing then becomes a uniform that provides support and security.”
“Clothing is an offer of transformation”
The psychologist is not surprised that everything that glitters is currently very popular in fashion. “Clothing is always an offer for transformation, with which you can live out different facets. A sequined dress can make me feel like everything is fine and I’m the queen of the night for a moment.”
Nothing says glamor and evening wear like sequins. The small, mostly round, very thin plates made of metal or coated plastic are usually used for festive fashion. The term “paillette” comes from the French word “paille” and means litter. Originally, sequins were made from flat-rolled wire rings and were therefore usually available in gold or silver. Thanks to the machine production from plastic film, a technique that was developed by a Swiss company in the 1960s, the plates have since been able to be produced at an affordable price and in all possible colors.
However, the ecological costs for this are not without costs: the production speaks for itself. Sequins are plastic and therefore not biodegradable. When washing, microplastics are also released and get into the groundwater. The British online and mail order retailer Boden therefore declared sequins a thing of the past in December 2020, when rows of Christmas parties were canceled. Lurex threads, which do not leave such a large ecological footprint, were a no less festive alternative, it was said at the time.
More than a year later, Boden is still alone. There are enough parties for that now – and sequins. Is this now the much-vaunted revival of the 1920s? The dance on the volcano? “Of course we are facing enormous challenges and upheavals,” says Rheingold psychologist Birgit Langebartels. “But in the 1920s one war had just ended and another was imminent. The circumstances were much more dramatic back then.” For the market researcher, a lot has to do with the fact that most of us don’t even know about crises and therefore have difficulties living with them. But in every crisis there is an opportunity. “We can learn to deal with a crisis and the danger it entails. Corona has shown that,” says Langebartels. “Fashion can play its part. By dressing how I feel or want to feel, it can help me get into the shape I want to be.” And that’s at least where the sequin can come in handy.