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Side boob, shag bands and celibacy: Fashion and lifestyle trends that will dominate 2023

A 2023 moodboard, from ballet flats and nuns to side boob and Barbie dolls (iStock/Getty Images/Mattel)
A 2023 moodboard, from ballet flats and nuns to side boob and Barbie dolls (iStock/Getty Images/Mattel)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 2022’s word of the year was “goblin mode”. Voted for by more than 318,000 members of the public, the winning expression was deemed to accurately reflect the mood of the last 12 months. It describes the lazy, chaotic state that we were apparently in this year. You probably know the type. Rotting in bed at 4am. Trawling through Reddit. Heading to the kitchen in nothing but a muscle vest to grab a fistful of peanut butter and a Peperami. We all stopped caring what we looked like and had no limits to our greedy, unkempt tendencies.

“Goblin mode” is just one in a series of TikTok-induced trends that apparently defined this past year. Others include “flop era” (when everything in your life seems to be going downhill), “feral club rat” (an intentionally messy person who parties most nights), and “rockstar girlfriend” (the act of emulating the soft-grunge aesthetic of Noughties icons like Alexa Chung).

But even as a card-carrying member of Gen Z, all this TikTok jargon makes me want to lie down. The internet’s obsession with incessantly classifying micro trends was, ironically, a micro trend itself – dubbed “namecore” by The Face’s Olive Pometsey in July. I can’t resist it, either. I’m currently writing this piece while bundled up in unnecessary layers of obnoxiously fluffy knitwear, ignoring texts and sipping from an offensively hot drink. Essentially, I’m in my “cosy girl winter” era. Others may currently be in their “frazzled Englishwoman” era, wherein they mimic the wardrobe of a lonely, scarf-wearing thirty-something woman like Bridget Jones.

Put lightly, 2022 meant sensory overload, “namecore” feeling like a continuous onslaught of trend whiplash. Fashion gave us cowboy boots, Seventies nostalgia and dopamine dressing (think the sartorial eyesore that was Haley Lu Richardson’s Portia in The White Lotus). In beauty, we saw bleached eyebrows, graphic eyeliner and the more extreme plastic surgery trend, buccal fat removal. polyamory, trad wives and the decline of apps defined 2022 in dating. So there’s obviously a lot to unpack.

As the short-term nature of these trends might suggest, we can’t get used to them – we have a whole new set of wacky trends around the corner, anyway. Ahead of the new year, I spoke to trend forecasters, stylists and relationship experts about what we can expect from 2023.

‘Goblin mode’ will be dumped for the ‘soft life’

We relished in our own nihilism in 2022. While our slobbish lifestyles reflected the chaos unfolding around us (three prime ministers, rising inflation, a cost of living crisis), we’re going to reject such feral aimlessness in 2023. Goblin mode served as the antithesis to perfectionism, celebrating the art of being absolutely unhinged, but a new mode of calm and comfort will soon be welcomed. Enter “soft life”, otherwise known as a lifestyle free of stress. Though it might sound completely unattainable on paper, it’s really about being “soft” with your actions and intentions. Meal prep will become cool. Staying in on a Friday night will be perceived as a triumph. Organising your cupboards with labelled Tupperware won’t be sad or excessive, but the height of glamour.

Shag bands will make a comeback

Shag bands – the luminous, multicoloured rubber bracelets that sent parents into a moral panic in 2009 – will reappear on our wrists in 2023. Hundreds of micro fashion trends pass us by each year, but wearing bright colours that make us feel happy is something that’s here to stay, according to fashion stylist Rachel Parisa. “Consumers are leaning more towards dopamine dressing, [or] the art of dressing to boost your mood,” she says. Think neon jumpers the shade of Stabilo highlighters. “Funky jewellery will be seen a lot in the new year, [and] layering and mismatching outfits,” she explains. “DIY, beaded and reworked pieces will certainly be seen more.”

Single people will finally say ‘enough is enough’ to ill-defined romances and declare themselves happy and unbothered (iStock)
Single people will finally say ‘enough is enough’ to ill-defined romances and declare themselves happy and unbothered (iStock)

The situationship will be killed off; unbothered dating habits will flourish

Ever since the pandemic, the dating scene has been dominated by comfort-blanket romantic entanglements in which no one wants to put much of a label on things – a situationship, if you will. Finally, 2023 might put an end to all this. Next year, single people will finally say “enough is enough” to ill-defined romances and declare themselves happy and unbothered. Telling people that you’re “focusing on yourself right now” will no longer be presumed as lazy, but rather a revolutionary act.

According to Jessica Alderson, relationship expert and co-founder of dating app So Syncd, people will be putting themselves first next year. “This will lead to a shift away from traditional notions of ‘settling down’ at an early age,” she says. “Instead, people will prioritise less conventional relationship arrangements.” Essentially, people will begin to think more carefully about what they actually want from love.

Crocs are out, and ballet pumps are in

Last year, in an unforeseeable turn of events, the croc – or everyone’s mum’s favourite gardening shoe – became cool. What’s not to love? They had a bit of a design revamp and people realised they offer cloud-walking comfort. And yet, their time is up. Enter the next comfy shoe for 2023: the ballet pump.

Maison Margiela Tabi shoes and Miu Miu ballet flats were everywhere in 2022, and will continue to go strong next year. Call it “ballet core”, or delicate, elegant clothing and athleisure-inspired accessories. It’s only a matter of days before Zara drops its own Miu Miu rendition of the ballet flat. But how do you actually style these shoes?

“Ballet pumps are a perfect way to make your jeans feel more feminine,” says Parisa. “Or in the colder months styled with knee-high or chunky socks over tights and skirts.” Easy!

Intentional celibacy is here

As we begin to enjoy the calamity of the soft life, we’ll become pickier about who we sleep with. According to Alderson, the number of people choosing not to have sex is on the rise. “We are seeing increasing numbers of people choose to be intentional about their celibacy in order to further develop self-love, respect, and autonomy, as well as to gain a better understanding of the type of relationships they want,” she explains.

In short, it’s about taking control of our romantic lives. “It’s a way of ensuring that people are entering relationships for the right reasons and not just as a knee-jerk reaction,” continues Alderson. “Sexual health comes into play here, too. The younger generation is increasingly aware of the importance of protecting their physical and mental health.”

Men will shamelessly embrace the manicure

Alright, hear me out. Men won’t be getting three-inch long acrylics but they will be buffing their nailbeds and priming their cuticles in 2023. According to Matt Parry, trend expert and co-founder of The Future Collective, men’s beauty and wellness will be on the rise in 2023. “We’re seeing a trend in men choosing to spend their money on beauty experiences,” he says. “We can also see from data that men are taking more care of themselves. It’s more than buying a new moisturiser, it’s rooted in skincare routines, nailcare and wellness.” Rejoice! Manicures will become socially acceptable among men.

A manicure? More like a MAN-icure if 2023 has anything to say about it! (iStock)
A manicure? More like a MAN-icure if 2023 has anything to say about it! (iStock)

The side boob will sidle on back

Every few years, the fashion industry – rather peculiarly – deems a different segment of the breast sexy again. If you cast your mind back to 2016, the underboob had its moment in the sun. In more recent years, that trend has been overshadowed by frontal cleavage, with Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid proving the timelessness of a plunging neckline. Next year, the beloved side boob is about to be laid bare again.

Parisa thinks 2023’s boob obsession is a result of people now rejecting the buttock sculpting surgery “look” known as the “Brazilian butt lift”. Try and catch up: boobs are now in, bums are out – never shall the two be aligned in equal admiration, apparently. Parisa tells me that breasts were already being more accentuated on catwalks in 2022. “We’ve seen lots of body-printed clothing, golden nipple corsets and denim cone bra jackets by Schiaparelli,” she says. She predicts an “exaggerated modern twist” on the side boob trend next year with lace, laser cutting and tulle fabrics all accentuating the look.

Trendy gym wear will be replaced with retro Eighties Barbie fits

In July 2023, we will all be Barbie girls living in a Barbie world when the eponymous movie starring Margot Robbie – and Ryan Gosling as Ken! – arrives in cinemas. We know from the film’s first trailer – and those viral set photos – that the dolls will be seen working out in hot pink lycra leggings and multicoloured leotards and headbands. Think Jane Fonda workout video attire. It’s only inevitable that people will recreate these looks in the gym, too.

Jeggings will make a feisty comeback

I spent the ages of eight to 10 with jeggings superglued to my legs. If you had jeggings – or leggings that look like skin-tight denim jeans – you were that girl. In 2023, they’ll experience a revival. Tights, leggings and legwarmers made a return this year as part of the “ballet core” trend. Parisa predicts that jeggings will be the next iteration of it. She thinks jeggings will end up being layered with leg warmers and oversized belts. “A comfortable jean actually does sound very appealing.”