Send in the Clowncore: High Fashion’s Latest Trend Is Looking Like a Clown

Send in the Clowncore: High Fashion’s Latest Trend Is Looking Like a Clown

The year is 2023. Presidents are getting indicted. Kanye West renounced his Nazism because of a Jonah Hill movie. And telling someone “you’re dressed like an absolute clown” is now a compliment.

According to the fashion magazine Elle, this spring's hottest trend is “Clowncore,” a haute couture fashion movement that is exactly what it honking sounds like. Clowns aren’t just entertainers at children’s birthday parties anymore — the French mime, the American Bozo, even the ancient Egyptian buffoon from the earliest gasps of civilization in 2400 B.C. are being honored on the runways of Paris, New York and Tokyo, according to Elle. Dior, Armani and Chanel are already juggling a number of circus-themed pieces in their most recent lines, drawing inspiration from jesters throughout history. 

It’s only a matter of time until celebrities start showing up to red-carpet events wrapped in purple polka-dotted parachute pants and full white-painted faces with a round red nose. Los Angeles limousine companies better prepare for the coming clown wave by stocking up on luxury unicycles and tiny, three-foot-long town cars.

As Elle acknowledged, the trend was popularized, at least in part, by actual modern-day comedians. The article quotes TikTok comedian Kelley Heyer, who says that the pandemic pushed her to explore at-home expressions of comedy, leading her down the path of clowncore posting. Heyer says that, the deeper she dove into clowncore, the more her fashion choices became the comedic performance. “Isn’t every outfit we wear some form of a costume anyways?” Heyer pondered, presumably as she filled a pie pan with whipped cream.

Saturday Night Live star Sarah Squirm is somewhat of a clowncore icon for her flamboyant attire and outlandish attitude toward self-expression. It’s hard to imagine luxury brands like Armani drawing inspiration from Squirm’s checkered suits and mangy mullet haircut, which makes it remarkable that we don’t have to. It’s happening right now.

The self-serious fashionistas of high society have some big shoes to fill if they think they can appropriate comedy fashion for their red-carpet outfits and Met Gala getups. They might be able to get away with spending five figures on patterned jumpsuits with poofy collars, but can they take a pie to the face on the cover of Vogue? Will Gwyneth Paltrow take the stand at her next ski trial carrying a rubber chicken handbag? When will we see a runway model make balloon animals on the catwalk?

The whims and fascinations of the fashion world are typically inscrutable to everyone not deeply entrenched in high society, and the clowncore movement is no exception. To the layman, huge fashion brands filling runways with Ringling brothers looks like a practical joke that only the organizers are in on, which, honestly, might be the case — it is April Fool’s weekend, perhaps the other giant red shoe is about to fall.

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