The Wearing Versus Styling Solve? Clothes That Style Themselves

Wardrobe staples arrived on fashion month's runways with built-in perspective.

A model walks the runway at milan fashion week wearing a folded cable knit sweater to illustrate a story about wearing versus styling
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The great minds of fashion have tried to solve a closet conundrum for months: What's the formula that differentiates wearing clothes from styling them?

On TikTok, thousands of videos tagged #wearingvsstyling attempt to answer the question with fifteen-second, jump-cut hacks. French tuck a top or sweater. Add a belt or the "wrong shoe," then slide on sunglasses. If you're feeling adventurous, tie a sweater over a coat. This, the sound accompanying the videos goes, is "you, but better."

If creative directors and legacy house designers entered the chat, their answers would sound slightly different. Instead of tweaking a standard shirt or sweater in its final form, create pointedly layered, folded, and pinned clothes from the start. Call it trompe-l'œil effort: pieces that do the hard work for you, arriving with a carefully styled perspective already built in. 

A model at Fendi wears a sweater half tied over her black dress in a guide to self styled clothes

Kim Jones' Fendi displayed bolero-turtleneck layers that artfully wrapped around one shoulder—like they'd gotten snagged in the washing machine and never came untwisted.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's an evolution of a microtrend slowly simmering in fashion for a few seasons. From Fendi to Bottega Veneta to Dries Van Noten, designers punctuated their fall 2024 collections with gestural, pre-styled pieces, like sweaters with extra sleeves and attachments that artfully drape to knits constructed with lived-in folds and darts. Tory Burch was an early adopter, designing sweaters for her fall 2023 collection with perfectly pushed-up sleeves, the look achieved with hidden elastics scrunching the fabric in the cuffs. A season later, Fendi has released several knits and minis with extra asymmetric sleeves—designed to mimic a put-together coordinating cardigan look tied over a dress or a top.

Models at Tory Burch, Fendi, and Dries Van Noten wearing twisted and prestyled garments

Pre-styled pieces are an evolving idea. Tory Burch (left) was an early adopter with pre-scrunched sleeves for fall 2023. Fendi (center) picked up the thread with tied-off sweater dresses and tops in spring 2024. This season, Dries Van Noten (right) warped the trend with one-sleeved sweatshirts that look like they were pulled on through the wrong opening.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To an untrained eye, these pieces look like they were lovingly layered and adjusted by the person wearing them—not the design team behind the scenes. Ready-to-shop, spring 2024's pre-styled pieces range from ballet flats pre-lined with varsity striped socks at Tibi to sweatshirts constructed to look like they're halfway pulled on at Dries Van Noten.

A model at Bottega Veneta wears a curled sweater

A year after showing trompe-l'œil layered turtlenecks, Bottega Veneta's fall 2024 runway included sweaters with sculpted, scarf-like collars connected to their sleeves.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The range of designer interpretations has only grown with the unveiling of the fall 2024 collections. In London, J.W. Anderson showed low-key crewnecks with draping knits looped at the waist. In Milan, Gucci, riffing on a layered sweater Dua Lipa had worn, designed two knit sets with a fitted button-up cardigan sewn into a slouchy, coordinating sweater draped atop. Prada's hat-centric collection also included sliced-neck turtlenecks, creating the illusion of a perfectly layered polo collar. And in a more avant-garde approach to layering in Paris, Rick Owens swaddled models in sweaters with bulbous, criss-crossing, sleeve-like tubes knotted across the front.

Models at JW Anderson, Gucci, and Prada wearing prestyled garments to illustrate the concept of wearing vs styling

From left: JW Anderson, Gucci, and Prada tied, stacked, and sliced knits for a pre-styled look.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

All these pre-styled pieces arrive at a moment when the pursuit of personal style has become fashion's form of soul searching—but finding it is more challenging than ever. Social media algorithms push fickle style agendas, from the "girlhood aesthetic" to "mob wife style" to color trends that become outdated in the blink of an eye.

Clothing already twisted, tucked, and folded has a sense of delight and originality. It can also do the heavy lifting and layering for people uninterested in spending their days studying styling hacks on their phones. But even a newfangled piece might not satisfy the wearing vs. style debate on its own; conquering personal style is all a matter of perspective.

A model wears a gucci sweater layered with a second sweater to illustrate self styling garments

After Dua Lipa layered two Gucci sweaters, the house immortalized her styling trick in a set of fraternal twin cardigans: one clingy with three-quarter buttons, the other oversize and attached just below the shoulders for a slouching-off-the-shoulders effect.

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.