From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (2023)

2018 was, yet again, a tumultuous year. So much so, that sometimes it felt like we wouldn’t make it through. But anyway, fashion. Fashion has often been considered the most superficial aspect of art, culture, and identity, and yet, on every single day of the year (or most of them), every single one of us woke up and put something on. For our year-end retrospective, the editors compiled a list of 12 of 2018’s particularly memorable garments—who wore what, why, and what does it tell us about how we lived then, and where things might be heading.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (1)

THE SHOE CARDI B THREW AT NICKI MINAJ

Last year Cardi B was rapping about bloody shoes, but this year it became a reality. In a not-so-Cinderella story, Cardi left the Plaza in New York minus one of her sky-high red platforms, after throwing it at Nicki Minaj at September’s Harper's Bazaar Icon party. The moment was the pinnacle of the longstanding beef between the two rappers, and of the larger issue of women in the industry being forced to contend for the very little space they are afforded. Lil Kim. Azealia Banks. Remy Ma. Lady Leshurr. It's old news that male-dominated spaces, especially in media and entertainment, endlessly enable mediocre male talent while simultaneously opening and closing one door at a time for their female counterparts. But if there's any takeaway here—because who's really to blame?—perhaps it is that attempting to navigate this unequal terrain without wearing shoes only creates another obstacle. Here's hoping red bottoms remain on the ground in 2019.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (2)

MELANIA TRUMP’S “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” JACKET

In June of 2018, Melania Trump took a trip to the Mexico-US border to an immigrant children’s shelter in Texas. She did this wearing a military green Zara jacket that had the phrase “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” in faux-graffiti script written (presumably by whichever disproportionately compensated worker assembled it) across the back. At first Melania claimed there was no message behind her choice, afterwards changing her tune to say it was a rebellious shot at the Fake News Media. It’s impossible to know for sure what happened here, but it would certainly be the first time Melania had accidentally put on anything inexpensive. In another fashion first for the FLOTUS, Melania wore a repeat outfit to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, opting for a Dolce & Gabbana dress amidst the brands worldwide cancellation. It seems she just really doesn’t care!

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (3)

RUTH E. CARTER’s BLACK PANTHER COSTUME DESIGN

Ruth E. Carter did the costume design for pretty much all of Spike Lee’s movies, from School Daze and Do The Right Thing to Malcolm X, but also for classics like What’s Love Got to Do With It, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Shaft, Selma, Roots, and Black Panther, so really most years could be the Ruth E. Carter Year, but 2018 is the year we are reviewing now. Black Panther was one of the most important contributions to the superhero franchise behemoth potentially ever, and the costume design inspired a Wakanda-aspirational, Afrofuturistic wave of fashion statements this year, seen everywhere from the red carpet to the pages of GQ to the court of the NBA 2018 Dunk Contest.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (4)

BATSHEVA DRESSES

On Etsy, the average price for a vintage Laura Ashley dress falls somewhere between 100 and 200 dollars, rarely more. There's something for everyone (that is, everyone who wants the somewhat bashful style of Romantic English design or prairie florals, "tiny-fern" prints, square collars, pinwale corduroy, or the appeal of soft flannel and puffed sleeves). Now, fast forward 150 years and swap the beloved Welsh designer for Batsheva Hay, the Upper West Side designer with a cult following. Think Little House on the Prairie, as envisioned in 2018. More It-girl than Ingalls Wilder, encouraging the New York Times to coin the term U.P.G., as in "Urban Prairie Girl." Suddenly, Instagram was awash in…fancy aprons. Stiff moiré. Calico, calico, calico. Ruffles paired with sneakers. The ironic modesty of high collars worn to after parties and patchwork on the red carpet. Inspired by Cindy Sherman, Courtney Love, (Laura Ashley, too, of course), and Hay's Modern Jewish Orthodox life, the Batsheva dress has its celebrity list of devotees. Lena Dunham, Hailey Gates, and Gillian Jacobs, to name a few. Hay also landed a CFDA finalist nod, a New Yorker profile, and countless other "it-dress" trend pieces, all amounting to one big question: what's next? How does one follow-up the one-trick prairie dress?

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (5)

TIE-DYE GRATEFUL DEAD T-SHIRT

This year’s reigning champ of graphics was, hands down, the tie-dye Grateful Dead tee. In 2018 Deadheads saw their tribe grow exponentially due to the proliferation of their beloved merch. Attribute it to perpetual nostalgia or the longing for simpler times, but this combination of tie-dye and alt cool-guy really fixated the zeitgeist. Even Walmart can’t keep them in stock. GQ, ever the bastion of hype menswear, were ready to pounce when tie-dye started trending, declaring, “If there’s no tie-dye in your closet, you’re doing summer wrong.” Indie brand Online Ceramics took off this year with their school-of-The-Dead aesthetic, newly minted style icon Jonah Hill sported the rare Lithuania basketball graphic sponsored by the band and designed by artist Greg Speirs, and Virgil Abloh adopted for tie-dye tees as a wardrobe and red carpet staple. Are the legions of new Jerry-the-Bear-adorned people actually fans of the music? We’re unconvinced, but lifelong Deadheads don’t seem to be concerned. Iteration is the cornerstone of this merch, and everyone’s invited to spend a little time on the mountain.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (6)

DESIGNER BIKE SHORTS

The first drip from what would become the Great 2018 Bike Shorts Flood came from Naomi Campbell in that white, hyper-80s skirted blazer look for Off-White’s SS18 Princess Diana homage. This trend wave would take almost another full season to crest, but 2018 was incontestably the year the Kardashians, along with the Jenners, and the Hadids, and the Emily Ratajowskis, and the Hailey Biebers (née Baldwins), and the Lily Rose Depps brought the trend to maximum visibility. And then bike shorts found their way back onto the runways in September, enduring at Fendi, Chanel, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Marine Serre, and Martine Rose—so while the aerobic trend may not stop here, 2018 was the year it got truly physical.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (7)

PYER MOSS “STOP CALLING 911 ON THE CULTURE” T-SHIRT

If there is any remaining doubt as to what Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond meant by this design, refer to actress Niecy Nash’s superb satire for the New York Times. According to the article, as of October there have been 39 documented instances of someone calling 911 on black people for no legitimate reason. That’s in 2018 alone. The fashion industry is situated in a peculiar position when it comes to “calling 911 on the culture.” It’s a business where clothing labels like FUBU, Timberland, and Polo—made popular in fashion by communities of color—have become trendy, oftentimes used to fabricate a sense of style without any understanding of the culture behind them. This year, fashion exploited the words “urban” and “streetwear” to meaninglessness. This comes at a time when the word “ghetto” is still commonly used as a blanket term for anything deemed of less-than-desirable quality, without the acknowledgement that it’s a derogatory and heavily racialized term. Models of color continue to face discrimination and a lack of support and visibility. The list goes on, and the hypocrisy here is vast. Jean-Raymond won the coveted CFDA award in November, and we look forward to more work that reminds people—in case they forgot—that fashion is, and always will be, political.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (8)

GRAILED 47K RAF BOMBER

Earlier this year, consignment boutique Stadium Goods received an investment of an undisclosed amount from LVMH Luxury Ventures. In October, L.A. Lakers' Kyle Kuzma signed with GOAT, a sneaker reselling platform, which will provide Kuzma with novel (but old, basically) shoes on and off the court. 2018 seems fit to be the biggest year for reselling culture. While it's obvious that used or deadstock items hold a certain degree of caché, rarely before have they transcended new goods, especially in a sphere in which the condition of the item is integral to its intended function, like in sports. 2018 then, is the year of novelty. The year to have and wear the items that few—or nobody—else has. If you weren't already convinced, see this Raf Simons Riot Riot Riot Camo Bomber that sold for 47k on Grailed. Being unique comes with a steep price-tag.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (9)

SERENA WILLIAMS FRENCH OPEN CATSUIT

History has a way of repeating itself, which is to say that decrepit institutions have a way of forever regurgitating bigoted attitudes. This year Serena Williams got scolded for the black Nike catsuit she wore at the French Open, a suit she said helped with her blood clotting condition and also made her feel like a Wakanda superhero. Lest we forget, Serena has always been stirring the elders with her in-game outfits, and was similarly shamed for a Puma short-suit in 2002 (which she looked incredible in, accessorized with bubblegum pink sweatbands). She has had so many major looks throughout her career, there should be, if there isn’t already, a Serena Williams Style Champion coffee table book. So while the The French Open is historically a more fashion-friendly tournament than All-White Wimbledon, many took Serena’s banned catsuit—and the career-spanning scrutiny of the Williams sisters’ style choices—as an indication of its continued discomfort with color.

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (10)

SAVAGE X FENTY

Amid a year like 2018, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to bring a new human into the world than in the presence of Rihanna. Model Slick Woods shared an Instagram post merely hours after giving birth, in which she wrote, "I CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT WHENEVER THE FUCK I WANT AND SO CAN YOU." The image captured Woods wearing the latest Savage X Fenty lingerie collection (she went into labour while walking the show in a cupless bodysuit made of straps), sporting a full face of Fenty Beauty makeup, and was accompanied by a shout-out to the entire "Fenty family." Like every year for over the last decade, 2018 was all about Rih, on every front, breaking boundaries and setting her own rules with every project she launched—good riddance, Victoria's Secret. Her tireless work ethic and zero fucks mentality have shaped her into a businesswoman for the ages. Now how about that next album?

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (11)

WHATEVER JONAH HILL WORE

Hype chooses unlikely heroes. As legend suggests, (and as this article speculates) Jonah Hill’s street-style legacy all started when he appeared on SNL in a Palace t-shirt in 2015, kickstarting what would be a near-universal obsession with the actor-cum-director’s sartorial persuasions. While Hill has made a gradual foray into the realm of fashion over the past couple years, 2018 is the year that this trajectory ascended to near-pinnacle. Starring in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Netflix dark-comedy series, Maniac, and the release of his positively-received directorial debut, Mid 90s—a film featuring the paradigm of elusive style mavericks, aka skaters—probably helped, too. But is Jonah a trendsetter, or trend barometer? If you were wondering what was hype in 2018, peruse Jonah’s fit pics, or even the Instagram account devoted to them. From Acne Studios, to Online Ceramics, to (lots and lots of) Prada, to this Wacko Maria bowling shirt, Hill’s garments of 2018 were both the chicken and the egg. Whether pioneer or follower, it’s nevertheless safe to say, this year was a strike for Jonah Hill—hype, hype, hooray!

From Grateful Dead Tie-Dye to Serena Williams’ Banned Catsuit: Our 2018 Garment Retrospective (12)

THE RIMOWA SUITCASE

The Rimowa suitcase is perhaps the most perfect exemplar of “The Year of the Grifter,” with nothing more Catch Me if You Can than appearing everywhere with your suitcase following behind you like an FBI tail, forever toting all your earthly possessions in a status-signalling roller. After the year’s collaborations with Supreme and Off-White, every little conspicuous consumer needed a wheelie suitcase to give off a creative-director-on-the-go impression. However feigned, exposés on Anna Delvey, the frizzy-haired darling of Grifter season, mentioned the scammer’s ever-present, ever-packed Rimowa.

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