Puffed up ideas
I don’t think I’ve ever met a puffer coat that I did like. Looking like the Michelin man? No thank you. Feeling like I’m wearing a sleeping bag all day. Non-merci. Literally hearing my arms swish swish swish with every step. No gracias. I thought I’d left the noisy Mr Plod-esque monstrosities back in high school where I doggedly refused to buy into the Kathmandu craze, rendering me a frozen albeit proud member of the resistance. But alas, they have resurfaced on the Milan catwalk as puffer gowns, part of Moncler’s Genius design series by Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli.
It was only last Friday that a friend and I were lusting over Moncler parkas while sipping on happy hour cocktails. The memory is somewhat tainted now that my Instagram feed is bursting at the goose down seams with avant garde puffer gowns.
A quick search for ‘Moncler puffer’ reveals that ready-to-wear puffers are big and I don’t just mean in size. They’re everywhere. And I get it - Moncler is a brand known for their down jackets - this isn’t anything new. But people are loving them. While for me, puffer jackets have always been lazy and, well, ugly. The kind of ugly over garment you fling on to put the rubbish out, nip to the corner shop, or take the dog for a quick walk - not an item of fashion, surely. But it turns out this ‘ugly fashion’ currently is fashion.
The Balenciaga trainers and crocs, the Versace velcro shoe, the Y/Project Uggs collaboration (!!), and where I think ugly fashion all began in the 90s - those blasted Birkenstocks. And now the puffer. It’s all just so ugly. The trend is sweeping the runways with lesser evils like high-waisted shorts, socks and sandals (both Prada), boiler suits (Dries van Noten), and slouchy hoodies (across the board) which I take no issue with - I would live in clothes so comfortable if I could. And maybe that’s the point - ugly fashion is disregarding the traditional governing fashion rules of having to look beautifully perfect all the time in favour of something more… real. Something more functional, durable, sustainable. Ugly fashion has seen the catwalk take cues from street style, bringing haute couture to the everyday wardrobe.
Ugly fashion can make you feel like you’re stepping off the runway when really you’re stepping out of Primark in a plastic puffer. It’s unpretentious and shatters the expectation that women are supposed to look a certain way. It values comfort over rigidity; reality over expectation. In many ways it’s the perfect fashion trend for this era of women choosing to be noticed on their own terms and redefining the notion of attractiveness.
Despite my disdain for the puffer, there is something comforting about being wrapped up in an extra thick, warm, fluffy layer. Hailey Baldwin, Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, even HRH Kate Middleton, have been seen swaddled (or swallowed) in quilted insulation. It provides protection against the scrutiny of the world and leaves a lot to the imagination. Overexposure is currently the word but perhaps ugly fashion gives permission to hide away from the expectation to be ‘beautiful’ all the time. While I may not like it or wear it, there is no doubt that ugly fashion is its own kind of beautiful.