It all started like any other TikTok trend, with someone — in this case a self-described “Mob Wife Aesthetic CEO” user, Sarah Arcuri, also known as The Sweet Paisana — uploading a video to the platform with a phrase destined to become a hashtag: “Mob Wife in, Clean Girl out.” The algorithms spotted potential and amplified the message: soon, hundreds, thousands, millions of short clips began celebrating the death of the quiet luxury that has reigned in fashion over the last year — lots of beige, no logos, straight hair parted in the middle, understated elegance, minimalist accessories, and classic garments — and the birth of the movie look of mafia molls — huge fur coats, exotic bouffant, chunky jewelry, animal prints, red nails and painted. The references went from Carolyn Bessette Kennedy in the 1990s or Sofia Richie in 2023 to Sharon Stone in Casino, Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas, or Edie Falco in The Sopranos. The more refined version could be Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elvira Hancock in Scarface, with her gorgeous satin garments and fitted blazers. Both trends have one thing in common: portraying money. The “Clean Girl” dress soberly to emulate wealth, while the “Mob Wife” opts for a rather noisier expression of exhibiting her status.
A kind of frequency illusion (like the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which makes you see something everywhere after having talked about it) seems to have been set in motion collectively because the recent appearances of Rihanna in Paris and Taylor Russell at the Loewe fashion show resonate with the mob wife look. The outfits of models such as Kendall Jenner, wearing a brushed sheepskin coat by Phoebe Philo in Aspen, or Hailey Bieber with a black version of the “look” are also reminiscent of mob wife. Singer Dua Lipa tried out the trend at the end of the year and left a photo for the catalog of the perfect mobster’s wife as she exited the Greenwich Hotel in New York in a lace jumpsuit and oversized faux fur coat, while Jennifer Lawrence arrived at the 2024 Golden Globes after-party in a stunning fur-trimmed printed coat.
The traction of #mobwifeaesthetics is a fact: as Data, But Make it Fashion (an Instagram profile created by a computer engineer named Madé Lapuerta, who analyzes fashion industry trends using proprietary data analysis software) pointed out in January, while the mob wife aesthetic is gaining popularity on average 4% per day, the clean girl esthetic is declining by about 16% daily.
Recent runway shows have also seen marked the appeal of this new paradigm of womanhood. Both Chanel (in its Metiérs d’Art 2024 show) and Saint Laurent (with its spring/summer 2024 collection) featured animal print and fur-lined coats. The esthetic is not new: Azzedine Alaïa’s fall/winter 1997 collection glorifies it, as does Roberto Cavalli’s fall/winter 2000 collection. John Galliano’s early 2000s designs for Dior are reminiscent of this type of bling-bling, worn in recent years by celebrities such as Emily Ratajkowski, and the Courrèges vinyl skirt worn by Sharon Stone in Casino was relaunched in 2020.
The final seal of approval came from Francis Ford Coppola. The director of The Godfather wrote on Instagram that word had reached him that the mob wife look is back, and said that his wife, Eleanor, provided the inspiration for Diane Keaton’s style in the film, and that his sister Talia Shire was the muse for creating the “sultry, delightful Italian princess” Connie Corleone.
Many see in this new esthetic a tiredness and rejection of the previous one: the perfection of dressing in beige, leading an extra healthy lifestyle and investing a lot of money in basic garments has ended up being overwhelming, so in contrast a less thought-out and less perfect, more street, look is being sought. The vibe it conveys is one of power and opulence, and there is nothing muted about it: it even heralds the return of high heels.
The trend, however, hasn’t won everyone over. A real former mob wife (who cites a connection to Jimmy Hoffa), described her former life in the mafia environment as dangerous and frightening on TikTok. She also points to a certain cultural appropriation, as this esthetic is inspired by Italian-American women in New Jersey and New York between the 1970s and 1990s.
Then there is the issue of sustainability. While the “Clean Girl” opted for quality materials and timeless garments with the aim of wearing them for many years, the mafia wife’s esthetic demands a lot of faux leather, a lot of costume jewelry and, above all, a lot of fur coats. The fashion industry has largely abandoned the use of natural animal skins and many synthetic furs are made from polyester and plastic materials that can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade, according to Vogue Business. However, the esthetic has already made its way to fast fashion giant Shein, which sells clothes under the same name. The counterpart is at Depop, the British online second-hand platform, which has seen searches for faux fur coats jump 13% in the month of January alone.
Time will tell whether it is credible that everyday women who embraced all expressions of quiet luxury in recent years will now switch to dressing like mobster’s wives, or whether the latter will be relegated to digital nostalgia for a life we never lived.
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