Our current times have come to be defined by sartorial showmanship — clothing that emphatically demands to be seen and, by default, for the wearer to be appreciated. And, as fashion writer and consultant Kristen Bateman explains, there are two ways to achieve this attention-garnering effect. You can strip yourself bare in a “super tight, super exposed body-conscious look,” inviting the world to take a gander at what was stowed away indoors for far too long. Or, you can lean into 2022’s volume trend, shrouding yourself to oblivion in tulle, poplin, taffeta, or what have you. “Both are empowering in their own ways after coming out of a time where we’ve been constrained in so many different ways,” Bateman describes. However, it’s the latter aspect — of hyper-proportioned forms and cupcake-like silhouettes — that has piqued her personal interest.
Bateman, a bonafide maximalist, links this season’s prevalence of volume to a collective appreciation for any and all things bold. “People are expressing themselves more than ever and feel free to wear what they want. And wearing big, oversized pieces means you create a certain aura and presence,” she says, equating dramatically large pieces to wearable performance art.
Trend forecaster Jessica Richards echoes Bateman, saying, “we’re seeing a theme of ‘turning up the volume’ as we re-enter the world with a desire to be seen and to dress with presence.” She invites you to think of puffy sleeves, roomy silhouettes, wide-leg pants, and ball skirts. Even the peplum (yes, the cinched-waist style that the 2010s-era, Forever 21-shopping you loved oh-so-much) has reared its ruffled head this year.
Bateman adds, too, that since large pieces naturally create distance, they can also become a means of protective self-empowerment. “[Voluminous fashion] can be a shield in a way. I have a Molly Goddard shrug that people literally can’t get close to me in — and I love it,” she says.
“To take up space is very important to me in my work,” chimes in Yashana Malhotra, a fashion designer known for her massively oversized and intricately crafted gowns. But the creator says her penchant for volume doesn’t concern her environment or surrounding audience; instead, it’s more of a metaphysical intention. “I’ve been on trains at rush hour wearing them, and I’ve been in fields that touch nothing but the ground for miles. [Voluminous fashion] is a general thought for the wearer to know that they fill up a space more than their body, in all spaces they stand, whether seen or not,” describes Malhotra, who shares her capacious creations to a 60k following on TikTok under the account, @outofyourgaze.
“Moving into fall 2022 — even into spring 2023 — our desire for dressing with presence won’t wane,” predicts Richards, explaining that the volume trend also won’t be fading away anytime soon. “Consider that we’re only really taking mental baby steps forward into this new normal right now,” she explains. “The mindset here is: Anything could happen to us at any time — so what are we waiting for?” In other words, slip into that puffy babydoll frock or jumbo-sized trousers and let the world know that you — yes, you! — demand to be seen.
Ahead, the fashion insiders elaborate on the many facets of 2022’s operatic volume trend. You’ll find an edit of statement pieces to shop, too.
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The Female Rebellion
“I believe [voluminous fashion] is a rebellion in that it [takes] a stance on quite literally not fitting in,” says Malhotra. “I often think [women] have been conditioned to be afraid of volume, as if it’s something that doesn’t appease others. [Clothing] that specifically goes against that notion” — i.e. that subverts the idea that women and femme-identify folks should be made smaller, inconspicuous, or even invisible — “is a big f*ck you,” describes the creative.
Bateman concurs with Malhotra, saying that “[the volume trend] is a way of dressing for the female gaze” where the wearer attracts attention on their terms. “I've always gravitated to more oversized pieces — I don't like to show a lot of skin but I love taking up space as a woman and asserting my presence,” the fashion consultant says. “We, as women, need to do more of it whenever we can — especially in times like these.”
“What’s so great about the volume trend this time around is that it is unapologetic in how over-the-top it is; we’re seeing volume over volume plus added maximalist accessorizing,” says Richards. “This season is not shy!”
The trend analyst shouts out XXL totes and handbags, macro-sized jewelry, and over-the-top accessorizing. As for her personal favorite? She's a fan of "shoes that go ‘clonk.'" Richards explains: "This is a season of wildly exaggerated footbeds and very vertiginous platforms, all stomping around and grounding us. All those super-high heights, alongside every other trend of volume, are loudly announcing our re-arrival.”
“As a creator, I look to and at the body by following its curves, folds, and seams and where they begin and end,” says Malhotra. “My interest lies, though, in creating an entirely new silhouette — sort of like a mould that doesn’t fit, but still belongs to the body which it was cast from,” she explains.
In fact, Malhotra makes a conscious effort for her work to be so oversized, the fabric barely grazes the wearer’s skin. “There’s so much space in between the inside of the dress and the body for me to explore — the key being they don’t touch, only communicate with each other when an arm is lifted or a neck pushes through the hole at the top,” explains the designer. “In doing so, the expansion in volume becomes the outcome, letting the body rest and not be confined by what it wears.”
For a more wearable approach to volume that exaggerates one’s form, try a puff-sleeve blouse paired with straight-leg jeans to balance out the fantasy. Or, if you dare, go full tilt with a figure-shrouding gown or a pronounced and robust collar.
Beyond Tulles & Taffetas
Instead of designing with specific shapes in mind, Malhotra allows her materials — namely silk, wool, and upholstery — to take the lead. “I have a spontaneous way of creating — it’s always finding the fabric and seeing what it wants to do without force,” she explains of her uniquely stiff yet airy pieces. “[The textiles] respond to a certain silhouette that they can hold, which, in turn, keeps my silhouettes changing as a reaction.”
Richards says Malhotra’s technique and usage of fabrics beyond traditional tulles and taffetas will be prevalent in future seasons. “As time moves forward, we’ll see more intricate fabrics — like brocades or high-shine metallics — and unexpected denim,” she predicts. “We traded 2020’s sweatpants for denim but maintained a casual sense for seasons past. And now we’re seeing the market explode with wild, fashion-forward explorations of volume, like Julia Fox’s infamous Schiaparelli jacket at the Paris Fall/Winter 2022/2023 couture shows,” Richards cites. She invites you to consider wide-leg, denim cargo trousers or a puff-sleeved jean jacket for more consumer-friendly silhouettes.
Eveningwear For Errand-Running
“In future seasons, we’ll continue to see voluminous silhouettes, but it will also evolve to take on new elements of fanciness and frivolity that we may not see in the current iteration,” offers Richards. “Certain silhouettes considered ‘evening’ or ‘occasion’ won’t be relegated to nighttime. And in this desire to dress with presence, what we may have saved as something special will be designated as a new staple; We won’t think it’s eccentric to pull out a ball skirt during the day,” she explains.
Sherri McMullen of It-girl retailer McMullen concurs with Richard, specifically shouting out full ball gown skirts “as alternatives to a dramatic gown and that offer versatility to your wardrobe.” As for styling, McMullen recommends pairing a full-size skirt “with a halter top, a shrunken cardigan, or a button-down blouse in a contrasting print that feels modern.”
Swaddled In Plush Materials
“[2022’s volume trend] also relates to the inflatable trend we’re seeing across home decor,” says Bateman, referencing the growing interest in rounded curve forms and cloud-like seating. Pivoting back to fashion, the fashion writer says, “people crave comfort and feeling covered up in bigger pieces — whether a super-wide skirt or padded bag — feels nice.” It’s visible within the high-fashion space, too: Look at Gigi Hadid’s avant-garde Versace puffer coat worn to the 2022 Met Gala, which swaddled the supermodel in blown-up rows of silk.
As for shopping the comfort-centric niche, Bateman invites you to consider a maxi or midi dress with a billowing silhouette, a pillow-like handbag that’s soft to the touch, or plushy sandals.