The Biggest 2023 Viral Moments in Fashion

Graphic by Danielle Campbell

Much can be said about this year’s head-turning fashion. Let us discuss.

Say what you will about the past 12 months, but at least they weren’t boring. We had trend-setting events, à la Beyoncé’s Renaissance phenomenon. There were quieter cultural resets, like Selena Gomez staring off longingly in this blanket. Questionable fads arose (ICYMI, pants are now optional) and the zeitgeist was filled with eyebrow-raising designs (towel skirt, anyone?). All in all, 2023 was a pretty weird period for viral moments in fashion — but it was monumental nonetheless.

Below, we have documented the biggest happenings of the year, in hopes that future historians will look upon them and ponder, “what the heck happened in 2023?” Buckle up.

Barbie became real

I’m a Barbie girl. You’re a Barbie girl. We’re all Barbie girls. Or at least, that was an overarching sentiment for the better part of the year, when everyone was transported to Mattel’s plastic universe. Surrounding the release of Greta Gerwig’s live-action adaptation, Margot Robbie brought the make-believe land to life by embodying the titular toy.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic

We had 1959 swimsuit Barbie. We had 1984 ‘Day to Night’ Barbie. We had ‘60s-inspired haute couture Schiaparelli Barbie! It was a meaningful fashion fête for those of us who never grew out of loving dolls.

AI gave the Pope a puffer jacket

In the words of TikTok, try explaining the above image to a Victorian child. You simply couldn’t. Serving as a snapshot of how advanced (and uncanny) technology has become, the internet nearly imploded in March when a photo began circulating of Pope Francis in an extremely oversized puffer jacket.

Doctored by artificial intelligence, the life-like details and precise composition made it difficult to differentiate between real and fake. After all, the past year has seen fashion get inflated to new sizes — so why can’t the Pope take part? Real or not, you can’t deny that he looks effortlessly cool in a trend that is notoriously tough to pull off. #Swag.

Breastplates were big

NFL: FEB 12 Super Bowl LVII - Eagles vs Chiefs
(Photo by Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

These days, clothes are emulating breasts, and we have Rihanna to thank. At the Superbowl, the world-famous multi-hyphenate revealed she was expecting baby #2 in a Loewe armour-like bandeau. Ever since, the breastplate — in all its bold symbolism — has been a fixture of 2023 viral moments in celebrity style, sported by stars like Ellie Goulding, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lopez.

Lupita Nyong'o breastplate 2023 viral moments
Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage

With a hardened shell and an inherently feminine silhouette, it’s imbued with bodily agency. If you squint, it looks just like a regular going-out top. If you look closely, it mimics one of the most sensitive parts of the human body. Breastplates are contentious, unique, and seeping with intrigue — and that’s what makes them so fitting for 2023.

The Margiela Tabi heist haunted us all

In August of this year, a new threat was unveiled for fashion girlies and Tinder users alike. One morning, New York City resident Alexis Dougé realized her Margiela Mary-Jane Tabis — the famed footwear featuring a cleft-toe design — had been stolen from her apartment by Josh, her dating app one-night-stand. Le gasp! What’s worse? It seemed to have been a premeditated hit job, with Josh later gifting the snatched-up boots to his girlfriend. (?!)

Naturally, this sent shock-waves through the very niche corners of the internet, before becoming one of the most memorable 2023 viral moments, restoring justice and allowing Dougé to recover the shoes. The Tabi Swiper, as he’s now known, will live on as a reminder that all’s fair in love and war — except taking hoof-like chaussures.

@fashionmagazine Let’s talk about #Tabis ☝️ #margielatabis #tabishoes #tabiswiper #martinmargiela #fashionhistory #fashiontiktok #trendanalysis ♬ original sound – FASHION

Mschf’s Big Red Boots broke the internet

Mschf Big Red Boots
(Photo by Sean Drakes/Getty Images)

Once the Mschf Big Red boots infiltrated fashion in February, nobody could hide. True to their name, these stompers are gigantic in size and incessantly vibrant in colour, making them visually unavoidable. As far as 2023 viral moments go, they may be the loudest yet. Of course, the cartoonish release prompted many questions, like “What?” and “Why?” and “Is this a joke?” It certainly was not. They retailed for $350 USD and sold out in minutes.

Gwyneth Paltrow served in court

(Photo by Jeff Swinger-Pool/Getty Images)

Gwyneth Paltrow is an expert at looking like the most put-together person at any given moment. The Goop CEO is no stranger to controversy, and yet, her style is always that of someone with unwavering inner peace. Case in point: during her highly publicized Utah skiing lawsuit trial earlier this year, she made sure that justice was served in the style department.

gwyneth paltrow court outfits
Photography by Getty Images

Going to court is famously a stressful experience, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from Paltrow’s wealthy wardrobe, a rotation of buttery soft knits, oversized blazers and polished separates. Not only did it set off a new obsession with “courtcore,” but it added a layer of context to this year’s lavish lore of quiet luxury. After all, it really is a privilege to look this good all the time.

Taylor Swift invented football

taylor swift football player
Photography by Getty Images

Just kidding! (Sort of.) Thing is, for those of us who see sports as more of a distant concept than a day-to-day practice, Swift’s sudden interest was a turning point. After going public with her NFL-star boyfriend Travis Kelce, the singer has been sporting a series of sporty gal get-ups to watch her beau perform (err, play).

Seeing her crack open a cold one and enjoy football became a welcome entry point to game day — and the fashion that comes with it. Vintage sweater from Toronto-based boutique Ellie Mae? Swishy retro zip-ups? Nineties-era Chiefs-branded merch? Who knew sports could be so stylish?

Fashion pests prevailed

Fashion is famously a tough industry to break into. That is, unless you’re a bug. That’s right, two of this year’s biggest sartorial soirées were infiltrated by insects. First, there was the Met Gala, where a cockroach walked the red carpet to onlookers’ fearful delight.

Next, we had the beg bug infestation of Paris Fashion Week, where industry heavy-hitters were joined by a crop of critters. Does it make your skin crawl? Slightly. But is it also kinda funny? Of course. Perhaps it serves as a metaphor for breaking down barriers; a message that anyone (or thing) can weasel its way to the top of the fashion heap.

Hailey & Justin Bieber confidently clashed

Justin and Hailey Bieber viral moments 2023
Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images

What better way to wield the power of being a celebrity than by confusing the world with your clothes? This seems to be the motto of one of the most famous couples du jour. The Biebers are known for having polar opposite street styles, but in the summer, they took this reputation to new heights.

While promoting a new launch for Rhode, Hailey Bieber donned a bright red mini dress alongside Justin, who opted for an Adam Sandler-esque sweatsuit. Was he snubbing her big event? Was he staying lowkey to let her shine? Was this simply his way of declaring his love of loungewear? We may never know — but we’ll always have the memes.

Runway crashers reigned supreme

RUnways crashers viral moments 2023
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

To close out the 2023 runway season, we were treated to a series of catwalk kerfuffles. There were crashers at big brands in nearly every prominent fashion city during the Spring 2024 shows: Coach in New York; Burberry in London; Gucci in Milan; and Hermès in Paris. Such chaotic disruptions at a time when fashion is at its most exclusive? Quelle horreure!

Animal-inspired fashion took off

Schiaparelli lion head dress 2023 viral moments
Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

There was an animalistic air to 2023 viral style moments. The year was off to a wild start when Schiaparelli debuted models with life-like heads on their ensembles designs at Paris Couture Week. Even though they were hand-crafted creations made of materials like foam and resin, some accused the brand of glorifying trophy hunting.

The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" Doja Cat viral moments 2023

Mere months later, Doja Cat embodied a feline for the Met Gala. And to close off the year, Rita Ora leaned into dinosaur drama with a prosthetic spine at the Fashion Awards. Whether it’s glorifying using animals as accessories or ushering in a humane future away from fur, pet-inspired fashion is here — and it’s likely continuing into 2024. Brace for the cheetah print.

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