Forget About Coastal Grandmas — Why Zany Nanas Have Superior Style
For one, it’s way more fun.
This March, the style world was briefly rocked by Lex Nicoleta, a TikTok fixture with Kourtney’s Kardashian’s expert contour and Khloe’s endearing vocal fry who declared Coastal Grandmother — the worship of crisp poplin shirts, oversized straw hats, and cognac leather clogs — to be the epitome of Summer 2022. But much like actual coastal grandmas (like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Keaton in Because I Said So, and Diane Keaton in Book Club), the trend itself has retired, or at least gotten tired. In its place comes a more joyous archetype built on the wacky geriatric style of 80-somethings whose lust for life explodes in piles of ceramic jewelry, bright coral lipstick, and flamingo-print caftans. Whether you call it Boca Raton Bubby, Santa Fe Granny, or New Orleans Nanna, it’s a new take on senior, zany granny chic that’s more inclusive, less monochrome, and already selling out.
“I’m amazed at the impact that using older people as models — like 60+ — has on our sales,” says Rachel Antonoff, whose kooky prints (fruit salads, cocktail shrimp, and deli cookies included) are a hit in Hollywood and beyond. “I started shooting my clothes on my mom and dad during lockdown, out of necessity!” she laughs. “There was nobody else I could use! But every time I put them on my Instagram, it blew up the way a typical young model just didn’t. We saw so much more engagement, and so many more sales.” Antonoff went on to enlist Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Essman (67) for her Summer 2022 campaign. “Not only is she the nicest, greatest, most wonderful person to have on a photo shoot, but every item she wore flew off our site. People want to dress like the beloved elders in their lives, or the ones they wish were in their lives. It brings us all joy, you know?”
That joy is tempered with Twitter pushback, directed not at Coastal Grandmas themselves but the idea that only privileged women should be part of the ancestral style canon. “Coastal Grandma is not a culture,” Vanity Fair’s Delia Cai declared earlier this month. “It’s an income bracket.” It’s also an ethnographic that falls squarely into the traditional rom-com industrial complex: Candice Bergen, Goldie Hawn, and Meryl Streep are all thin, white, gorgeous, and able to afford flood insurance on their properties in Maine or Marin County. In that way, Coastal Grandma might be the trend equivalent of a “Nepotism Baby”— fabulous, absolutely, and worth a piece of the spotlight. But it’s not always attainable, and rarely reflects the mosaic of our current world.
“My grandmother Veronica is from Guyana,” says designer Marrisa Wilson, whose high-contrast summer hats and sweeping coral and red skirts have cut through the khaki palette of Coastal Grandma season. “She was a tiny woman in a family of very tall people… and I guess she made up for that with her style. You couldn’t miss her!” Wilson is exploring some Guyanese prints in her next collection, and is currently dissecting some vintage blazers from the ‘80s that once belonged to her mother. “The power shoulder situation is amazing,” she laughs. “I feel like some women have the impulse to not take up space, but these ‘80s shoulders refuse to apologize for that… The same thing with bright color. We look to our mothers and grandmothers, hopefully, as symbols of familiarity and comfort… The world feels out of control right now, and reaching for bright and comforting colors, or things that remind us of women we love, they help us find refuge in what's going on.”
“There’s also an element of f*** it, isn’t there?” explains Antonoff. “You know, in my teens and early 20s, I’m sorry to say that I dressed a lot for guys. I had tiny tank tops and lace bras peeking out. I wanted to look like Jennifer Love Hewitt, not because I loved it, which would be different. But because I thought it would make me ‘hot.’ And the older I get, the more I’m honestly like, screw this. I want to dress the way I want. Men are not part of the equation here. Ironically, that usually makes women more hot,” she laughs. “But even so, who cares? I have one life. I want to wear what makes me feel amazing, whether it’s kitschy or elegant or both. And who is the number one example of that? Bad-ass grandmas.”
Of course, there’s a fine line between delighting in a kooky reference and going full Deborah-Vance-in-Hacks cosplay. But unlike other trends, everyone has one built-in advantage when it comes to Boca Raton Bubby: Unless you are 80 years old, you will likely not resemble a grandma. (And if you are 80 years old, congratulations, you are flawless, enjoy.) There’s also the principle of balance to consider: If you’re going for a wild print, keep it in a geometric shape like an A-line skirt or a simple, crisp tank dress. Track jackets and dresses are ideal for the ‘80s Atlantic City vibes that are somewhat coastal… but also made in velour. Vintage chunky jewelry and beaded sandals are an easy way to convert your Coastal Grandma linen tunic into a staging ground for eccentric wins. You can also go hard on vintage bed jackets, kimonos, and embroidered wraps for maximum print exposure with minimal effort. Add a scarf in your hair and some bedazzled sunglasses, and voila: You’re a style icon for the ancestors, and for the ages, too.
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