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Dressing for FOGO: Fear of Going Out

Natasha Young

Céline, Calvin Klein, and others are making things to cozy up to while the world is burning.

For Spring 2018, fashion has gone soft: cushioned, padded, insulated—reinforcing the body against the elements, or prepping for the revolution.

Models at Calvin Klein carried quilts, a validating look for any Linuses out there who rely on their comfort blankets to get by in Trump's America. "It's about American horror and American beauty. Fashion tries to hide the horror and embrace only beauty," said designer Raf Simons in the show notes. For Céline's FW17 collection, Phoebe Philo sent models down the catwalk with fuzzy blankets slung over their arms, printed in large text with advertisements for steak and kidney pies–combining comfort food with literal comfort. Rick Owens sent lumpy, frumpy clothing down the runway at Paris Fashion Week, accessorizing the models with fanny packs that looked like pillows from Sharper Image (or, as Cathy Horyn put it, reverse bustles). Thom Browne, in a nod to the Michelin Man, made thick-ribbed sweater-dresses with sculptural hoods that rose like cushiony mandalas over the models' heads, taking shoulder pads to a whole new level. And, of course, there was the Balenciaga x Crocs collab, the ultimate compromise between high fashion and comfort.

Like Lynchian funhouse mirrors to our collective consciousness, the brands we love (and the one-percenters behind the conglomerates that own them) survive at times like this, when fashion is far from topping anyone's hierarchy of needs, by reflecting us back at us. What the Spring 2018 collections reflect about us right now is that we are in desperate need of comfort, reassurance, and ample padding. Exaggeratedly ugly reinterpretations of practical pieces rendered comically impractical to both comfort and amuse us–truly, a post-ironic anti-fashion statement.

In New York, the surrealistic trend of wearable comfort blankets extended beyond womenswear to menswear with newcomer BODE, an artisanal ready-to-wear collection designed by archivist Emily Adams Bode. The designer repurposes vintage quilts, mattress covers, tapestries, and upholstery into simple, almost humble silhouettes; the garments don't simply suggest the comforts of a bed, but ache with nostalgia, too.

But while these designers call on domestic accessories to bring cozy kitsch, this look stand apart from the reigning aesthetic of the interior design world, a refined sterility of minimalism. Blankets and pillows and shawls take trifling bodily matters out of the equation as much as possible--a quilt is one-size-fits-all-- both sensually and aesthetically. We are firmly post-FOMO, instead enduring a constant state of plain fear. You might even say we're now in the age of FOGO: fear of going out. Even those who don't literally fear for their lives may fear peer disapproval for not virtue-signalling enough on social media: are you tweeting the right messages about grave injustices? Instagramming the right images about natural disasters?

Besides the terror of leaving the house, the ubiquity of cameras and social media has made staying in cool. There's no place more exclusive than home. Fitting, then, that Gucci is now producing a home collection; even Supreme's recent collaboration with Hysteric Glamour included a set of bedsheets. Home is also a refuge, the final place in the world over which an individual can feel in control–where one can exist as unmonitored, or as closely monitored, as they please. The privacy of the home, after all, is historically the last bastion of freedom–to organize, to dissent, to strategize–under a fascist regime before it's gone full-surveillance state.

High fashion clothing has a history of delivering its criticism with nuance, but nuance can be too slippery in the globalized Internet world. What do we make of Versace's Fall 2017 "White 'Power' Beanie," $285 on ssense.com? This obsession with softness has a strangely portentous overtone. It seems to be intended not for warming weather, but for a nuclear winter.