Trailing Fabric Is the Microtrend You Didn’t See Coming

Cue gust of wind.

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Gilda Ambrosio and Giorgia Tordini street style with trailing fabric
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Blame it on being cooped up for so long, but the latest micro trends feel like a blatant reaction to years of social distancing. Halter tops, ultra-mini skirts, catsuits, and basically anything else in the ballpark of social butterfly feels especially relevant at the moment. The latest addition to this mix of celebratory design details? Trailing fabric. “Trains and tails add drama! I love seeing something traditionally considered formal reimagined for daily life,” Chloe King tells TZR. The luxury retail veteran notes that although this look is often associated with bridalwear, it also translates to everyday life. “I believe that clothes should be fun to wear, and trailing fabric comes alive when you move, completely in tune with your environment. A Dries Van Noten top with trailing organza wings will drape completely differently standing still at a cocktail party than in a gusty NYC street.”

And while these types of tops and dresses with fluid fabric trailing close behind currently sit in the microtrend category, signs from the spring/summer 2022 runways hint at the potential for more to come. “I loved all the capes at the Louis Vuitton show, particularly the polka dot chiffon layered over a utilitarian boiler suit,” King notes. “Prada is the tail of the season, tailored but still cheeky. I also just got a Puppets & Puppets floral top with XXXXL sleeves that look just as charming scrunched as trailing out of a coat sleeve.” Stylist Neelo Noory echoes this layering trick idea. “I love the look of an extra-long sleeve pooling out of a boxy blazer,” she says. “It’s a nice contrast between whimsical and sensible.”

Christian Vierig/Getty Images Entertainment
Christian Vierig/Getty Images Entertainment

Trains and tails, like practically all other trends, are part of the cycle and have emerged in the past — and will inevitably show up in the future. “My first caped crush was Phoebe Philo’s looped Celine dress in pink jersey, which was a supremely thrilling find on the RealReal,” King shares. “I am drawn to clothes that have a sense of humor, and was thrilled to see that same silly [extra-long] sleeve in crisp cotton in The Row’s fall/winter 2022 show. Next on my list!”

In terms of practicality, wearing these pieces means leaning into the dramatic, playful element and not worrying which direction your fabric blows in. “If wearing something a little ‘off’ or unexpected, I try to keep the rest of the look easy — of course I'll still mix a print or two, but let that one garment do the talking,” King adds. "And best to suspend practicality with a trailing tail or sleeve. The whole point is [to have] a little fun! Embrace the theatrics and plan a trip to the dry cleaner.”

The Row Winter 2022
Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2022 | Peter White/Getty Images Entertainment

Once the weather warms up, Noory suggests trains and tails crafted in lightweight, airy fabrics. “Sheer textures like chiffon and organza play nicely with elongated silhouettes like this,” she says. “Plus, they catch in the wind a bit easier, which is the whole point of this look!” Ahead, discover and shop the trend to give your wardrobe a boost of energy.

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Statement Mini

As King mentioned, Prada is the “tail of the season” and this statement mini dress was a street style fixture during the recent fall/winter 2022 fashion month in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. The piece is innately festive and even if you don’t opt for a train à la Prada, other takes on the trend — like waterfall sleeves and panels — accomplish the dramatic effect just as nicely.

A Formal Affair

Trains are intrinsically linked with wedding dresses, but they can also serve as an unexpected element for a non-bridal formal occasion. Whether you’re attending an upcoming gala or elegant soirée of sorts, a gown with this dramatic finish can make a splashy impact. Favorites for the season include Balenciaga’s ruched LBD and Carolina Herrera’s tonal pink column dress with a train overskirt.

Windblown Blouse

Dresses and gowns aside, if you’re searching for an easy way to test out this trend, a festive blouse that would respond well to a gust of wind is your best route. Wear on its own or layer with a spring jacket to find new ways to let your trains and tails add depth. And if you’re somewhere warm, follow Noory’s previous advice and invest in a piece crafted in a lighter, more breathable fabric.

In the Layers

Christian Vierig/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Another styling approach to the trailing fabric trend is to layer it into an existing look. A smart way to achieve this is to choose a trailing top or dress in a contrasting fabric or color to your other layers, so it’s easier to spot the windblown piece. You can also follow King’s direction and pick an extra-long sleeve to layer under a blazer or cardigan for a stylish peek-a-boo moment.

Vacation Upgrade

Vacation style is all about stepping away from the ordinary, and what better trend to achieve this than with a dramatic trail for poolside sips and snacks? This summer, slip into a beach cover-up from Cult Gaia with cascading sleeves and asymmetrical length for movement, or pack a simple linen-blend mini from Significant Other featuring a long waist tie that adds a subtle amount of wind-induced drama.

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