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After nearly 2 years in the pandemic shadows, it's time to shine

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sequins, gemstones, glitter - 'tis the season for sparkle. And while glitz pops up for the holidays every year, this time around, it's a little different. NPR's resident sparkle expert Kat Lonsdorf explains.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: At New York Fashion Week a few months ago, fashion designer Tom Ford's collection for spring 2022 was blinding in the best way. Models paraded in velvet dress coats paired with satin shirts, gold metallic lounge pants and silver sequined dusters. Tom Ford's show may have been the extreme, but many of the runways this fall were awash with shine.

JESSICA TESTA: I think what caught my eye the most is this extravagance in all forms.

LONSDORF: Jessica Testa is a fashion reporter for The New York Times. She was at those shows, and she says one thing was clear - none of the outfits were for staying at home. They were meant to be seen.

TESTA: I think when we think of sparkles, when we think of sequins, when we think of high shine, we think of fun night out kind of thing. To me, there's also some defiance to it.

LONSDORF: Defiance because after nearly two years of living in sweats in the shadow of the pandemic, people are ready to step out and catch the light.

TESTA: People know the world hasn't gone back to normal. Like, sure we're post-pandemic, but we're also not really post-pandemic. But people are trying to go back to their lives. And when the world around you is still very dark and you decide to dress to the nines, I think there's something very, like, middle finger in the air about that.

LONSDORF: I feel that deeply. This time last year, I practically lived in a black zip-up onesie. But anyone who knows me knows my closet is stuffed with sparkle. And in the last few months, I found myself reaching for sequins again. Apparently, I'm not the only one.

SHILLA KIM-PARKER: We're absolutely seeing folks having a lot of fun with what they're wearing, sequins, things that are shiny and bright, even chainmail.

LONSDORF: That's Shilla Kim-Parker, CEO and co-founder of Thrilling, a massive online marketplace for vintage clothing, an eternal source of glitz. Kim-Parker says the colors gold, silver and red represent nearly a third of Thrilling's sales right now. That's a 10 times increase from last year. Statement jewelry is up fivefold. And '80s clothing, with all its bold colors and over-the-top glam, is flying off the virtual shelves. Kim-Parker is leaning into the shine herself.

KIM-PARKER: I just bought some vintage rhinestone brooches. Even if I'm wearing a secondhand sweatshirt, I want to bedazzle it in some way, even if it's just for my little Zoom window.

KATE BELLMAN: So we actually have been tracking this for quite some time.

LONSDORF: Kate Bellman is the managing fashion editor for fashion giant Nordstrom, where there's a whole team working to predict trends.

BELLMAN: What I think is actually really cool about what we're seeing in terms of the glam and the glitz and the sparkle and the sequins, they really saw coming in terms of the historical context coming from the Roaring '20s.

LONSDORF: You know, after the 1918 flu pandemic and the First World War. It was a lot of death. And then finally people were ready to step out again, to be seen. But Bellman says what's special about this time around, people are not saving the shine for parties, especially since parties are getting canceled again.

BELLMAN: I've seen people in sequins tops at the grocery store. I've seen people in sparkle shoes in public transportation and just wearing it sort of in this versatile way, which I as a fashion person find so exciting and inspiring.

LONSDORF: Jessica Testa from The New York Times says it's easy to write off this trend as simple, sparkly fun, but that glosses over a big part of it.

TESTA: There's some real emotion behind it. There's some irony. There's some real, like, persistence.

LONSDORF: So dust off those sequins, bust out that bedazzler, persist and shine. Kat Lonsdorf, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIAMONDS")

RIHANNA: (Singing) So shine bright tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.