Somewhere in between Lana Del Rey casting hexes on President Trump and Khloe Kardashian hawking zodiac sweatshirts on Instagram, pop culture reached peak witch.
In anticipation of 2017, multipletrend forecasting firms predicted that mystical trends — those tapping into fantasy, witchcraft and New Age spirituality — would define the year in fashion. That’s certainly been true on the runway, with dramatic capes and black lace seen time and again in the couture shows in Paris earlier this month; and among the gang of young female celebrities who worship at the altar of witchy icon Stevie Nicks.
But supernatural style isn’t one singular aesthetic. As the female-run media site The Establishment notes, there are many archetypes of the modern witch, including “goth witches in black maxi dresses and capes, Wiccan girls in flowy boho looks with handfuls of rings and jarred herbs, sea witches with mermaid hair and tattered shipwreck looks, prairie witches in calico dresses magicking tumbleweeds across the dirt, (and) pink-haired mall witches in anime buns and belly shirts.”
All of which is to say — witchy style isn’t one singular aesthetic. But Ruby Warrington, author of Material Girl, Mystical World: The Now Age Guide to a High-Vibe Life, identified the important role social media plays in defining and spreading the trend.
“Crystals are particularly popular, as they’re so Instagram-friendly, as are the new breed of highly aesthetic evolved tarot decks,” she told USA TODAY. “I also think the neo-feminist slogan t-shirt trend plays into this, (like) the ‘Up With Witches‘ and ‘Patriarchy R.I.P.‘ tees from Modern Women Projects, ‘The Future is Female‘ by Otherwild, and word artist Amber Ibarreche‘s ‘I Only (Expletive) With Goddesses.'”
Nicks has long been witchy fashion’s high priestess, her paranormal obsessions extending from her music to her gauzy gowns, black lace, piles of jewelry and dramatic hats. The ’90s cult horror movie The Craft is another touchpoint, with its teen witches cloaked in a grunge-inspired wardrobes of studded chokers, black lipstick, dark florals and evil-schoolgirl uniforms.
But Warrington identified a new generation of fashion icons embodying what she calls the “Now Age,” a modern update of ’70s New Age aesthetics.
“Florence Welch is the first who comes to mind, often as dressed by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, whose recent catwalk collections have all featured super witchy motifs,” she said. “Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters is a total witch, and one of the women behind WAFT — Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism — an activist group whose first fundraiser was a witch and wizard-themed fancy dress party. Grimes, Willow Smith, FKA Twigs…there are so many diverse women channeling the spirit of the Now Age with their look.”
Other vaguely-witchy celebs include the Haim sisters, who own matching moon-shaped pendants gifted to them by Nicks, and Lorde, who’s joked that she’s “basically a witch” wearing black lipstick, floor-length cloaks and head-to-toe lace onstage. And then there’s Del Rey, who recently admitted to casting spells against Trump, hinting at the political underpinnings of the trend.
Beyond a fashion statement, there’s a reason why witchcraft’s current moment is happening during a tumultuous time in American politics. When the trend forecasting group J. Walter Thompson named “unreality” as the fashion trend to watch in 2017, they wrote that the mystical aesthetic particularly appeals to “millennials struggling to make sense of their place in the world.” Similarly, the forecasters K Hole identified how young people feel like they “need magic” more than ever, craving “a way to create change through processes that you can’t entirely understand.”
And for women who feel their rights are being threatened by the current administration, channeling the supernatural can seem particularly empowering. “Now Age practices such as witchcraft, astrology, and the tarot are tools for helping us stay connected to an authentic sense of self, and to our own intuition. Vital and empowering in this era of ‘alternative facts,'” Warrington said, pointing out that witchcraft and New Age practices are both “rooted in community.”
And in a world that feels out of control, wearing healing crystals around your neck or sporting a witchy-feminist t-shirt can provide a certain kind of comfort. But in a pop culture climate of wannabe witches, Warrington stressed the importance of making the trend your own.
“Dressing a certain way can help signal your Now Age sensibilities to others, while choosing a crystal or other talisman to wear can be a personal reminder of your intentions,” she said. “But once you begin to awaken your inner witch, it also becomes clear that blindly following trends or copying what some celebrity is wearing is just another way of suppressing our own authentic self-expression.”