Not long ago, TikTok was obsessed with the idea of living in a Nancy Meyers movie, owning Le Creuset cookware, and dressing like a “coastal grandmother.” There was also the short-lived romcom-core trend, which invited women to embody Y2K movie heroines via ruffled dresses and espadrilles. And last year, it was all about attaining “quiet luxury” and “clean girl” aesthetics, which dominated the viral fashion and beauty trends with their minimalist and restrained approach.
Less than a month into 2024, the revolving door of TikTok-influenced trends has brewed a new aesthetic: the mob wife. “Clean girl is out, mob wife era is in,” declared Kayla Trivieri, a New York-based creator, said in a recent video that unleashed the current boom. “We’re wearing fur coats all winter.” The hashtag #mobwife has grown to over 100 million views in the last few weeks, with creators sharing their rendition of this archetype. “I call it ‘mob wife energy,’” says creator and author Sarah Arcuri, who describes herself on her social media accounts as “Mob Wife Aesthetic CEO.” “It’s more of an attitude.”
@ktrivz manifesting a 24 carat diamond tennis necklace to match my mob wife energy #greenscreen ♬ original sound – kayla trivieri
Mafia culture has long served as fashion inspiration, thanks mostly to pop culture depictions of Italian-American families in The Sopranos, Goodfellas, and The Godfather and more. While the men are surely influential (Tony Soprano’s pinky rings live in my mind rent free), it’s the women — often portrayed as housewives or mistresses — who are remembered for their opulent fashion. Clad with fur coats and layered gold jewelry, the mob-woman look exemplifies a unique type of aspirational wealth and ostentatious glamour, a stark contrast to the quieter trends we’ve seen in the past few years.
For women like Arcuri, the style has been a recurring reference throughout their whole lives. The 29-year-old creator has been sharing “mob wife” style videos since 2022, including tutorials on how to dress the part and historical deep dives on mafia culture, and says that the moniker was never intentional but rather a way for her to describe her personal style. “Clean girl was just not for me, it never felt like me,” she says, referring to the trend, which entailed minimal makeup and fashion. “I’m just going to embrace my style.” Arcuri says the character of Ginger in the 1995 film Casino is a constant reference for her outfits, which she also describes as “‘80s bold glamour.” She also points to The Sopranos‘ Carmela Soprano as a “daytime” inspiration.
Trivieri, who grew up in Toronto in an Italian family, remembers seeing women, especially older ladies, using this style when she was a kid. “It was just part of Italian culture,” she says. Now, living in New York City, she’s become the poster creator for the “mob wife” trend boom. Her video, which was first published on January 6, has since amassed over one million views and has been shared over 12,000 times. Trivieri says that she decided to coin the “aesthetic” after seeing photos of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber dressed in fur coats in the last few months, which she took as a sign that, after years of “clean girl” and “quiet luxury,” people were ready to jump back into glamour mode, a shift that’s also exhibited through the return of the “Indie Sleaze” trend from the 2010s. “Everything in fashion comes full circle,” she says. “A lot of us are ready to go out.” While TV and film references are cited on most “mob wife era” TikTok videos, Trivieri says the style makes her think of an ad campaign drafted by the Italian brand Attico and Sant Ambreous in 2022, which featured elder Italian women wearing cow-print and fur coats and oversized sunglasses. “People think of the show Mob Wives, but for me it makes me think of old Italian ladies, which is nice because we don’t really highlight older ladies in fashion so much,” she says.
But the pop culture references are what comes to mind for the majority of people. And The Sopranos is a constant. Even before the “mob wife era” trend kicked off on TikTok, The Sopranos had been reignited on the internet, thanks largely to pandemic-era rewatches and the podcast Talking Sopranos, hosted by Michael Imperioli and Steven Schirripa. Now, as the show turned 25 years old in January 2024, costume designer Juliet Polcsa can’t quite understand why the show’s style is still so relevant more than two decades after its release. But she says it may have something to do with the show not being a “strict mob story.” “It was about family, you can see yourself in that,” she says. “Once you’re there, you become a fan, and like any fan you want to emulate.”
Polcsa also says that the style’s success may have been prompted by the fact that she, alongside the show’s creator David Chase, was intent in portraying reality and not stereotypes. Back then, she got to see it all herself on research trips to Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood, as well as at malls in the northern New Jersey area. She recalls finding a store in Paramus, New Jersey, called Caché, where she said to herself “this is it.” “It had assurance to it and it was fun,” she says.
Both Trivieri and Arcuri are approaching the “mob wife” trend with a similar perspective. “Trends are just supposed to be fun,” says Trivieri. “We lose sight of those things in overanalyzing trends.” While the phenomenon is taking off on TikTok, it’s also received a lot of criticism, especially for its depiction of Italian-American culture and for potentially glorifying organized crime. Not to mention the consistent depictions of violence, misogyny, and LGBTQ+ discrimination played out in most mob pop culture portrayals. Arcuri, who wrote a book, titled in The Owner & The Wife, set in the ‘80s heyday of the New York mob families, says that she understands why it’s hitting a nerve for people. “I’m not a fan of when people are trying to play a ‘mob wife’ and making a joke out of it,” she says. “That’s not the focus, it’s more of the confidence.” Trivieri agrees. “TikTok is not the place for nuanced conversations,” she says. “No one is forcing you to participate in the trend.”
Still, for those planning to partake, Arcuri, who collects items from the ‘80s, says it’s a good trend to jump on the secondhand market. And even if they want to do without the “mob wife” term, Trivieri says “you can still take things of that style and that time [as inspiration].”
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