Since 2021, there have been persistent whispers of the bandage dress’s imminent revival. The ultra-online spent an ungodly amount of time thinking about them, while TikTok creators urged viewers to snap them up in thrift stores because they were sure the ultra-tight banded tubes would come back in 2023. But they never did — at least not in real life.
Originally created in the ‘80s by the “king of cling” Azzedine Alaïa, the dress that vacuum-packs your body has become better associated with Alaïa protégé Hervé L. Leroux, the brains behind Hervé Léger. In the mid-aughts, Léger’s signature silhouette was worn by every major celebrity (think Rihanna, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan) before falling out of fashion. But after the house’s new creative director, Michelle Ochs, joined the company in 2023, we’ve seen small pockets of a resurgence that largely remains an online phenomenon. Melissa Lefere-Cobb, SVP and division head of Hervé Léger, says the label saw a 74% increase in media impressions last year. Gal Gadot, Olivia Palermo, and Lily James have all posted modernized versions as early as 2021, and there’s been a recent X (Twitter) discourse about considering pre-owned Léger as wedding attire.
The conversations around the bandage dress that have been “floating around the annals of high-fashion Twitter” could stem from a collective dissatisfaction with the current state of clubwear, says Savannah Eden Bradley, a trend forecaster and editor-in-chief at HALOSCOPE. “Over the past, say, 10 years clubwear has been risqué but not sexy,” she says. “A lot of the offerings that exist don’t have a lot of mystery to them and instead have really weak construction — a few swaths of fabric held together by a string.” (Bradley says she’s only spotted one recent example in the wild: a nude Léger worn with gladiator sandals at The Grove.) But given the price point of the dresses, which run from $590 to $1,090, picking one up for a party isn’t nearly as accessible as expressing your admiration online for Léger’s brand of “sexy elegance” that Bradley says “for millennials probably feels trite, but for young people, really feels like a new idea.”
And although Gen Z are known thrifters who might very well come across second-hand bandage dresses, wearing them out to the clubs is a different matter. Young people are going out and drinking less. They’re “less interested” in clubbing following the pandemic — so much so that some Berlin clubs are paying 18- to 23-year-olds to party. And Gen-Z TikTok creators venturing into the world of nightlife are reporting that it’s far from the Jersey Shore experience they’d hoped for, ripe with “sleazy dance music” that’s good enough to get partygoers off their phones. “I feel ripped off to a certain extent,” one creator said in a viral TikTok video. “What happened to having fun?”
But while Gen Z are seeking (and not finding) a sense of camaraderie at the club, they’re dressing to stand out from the crowd, says Aly Reinert, a 30-year-old artist and founder of Hot Girls Coat Check in New York. “Back then, everyone wore the same things,” she says of clubbing in her early 20s. “You had to wear tiny, tight little skirts and the biggest heels you could find,” she says. Now, through her business, Reinert says she no longer sees that uniformity as partygoers turn up in outfits meant to convey their personal style — although she does notice lots of pants with a corset or butterfly top.
But the rare tight dresses Reinert says she does spot out in the wild are now being styled to fit the “mob wife” aesthetic, buried under a fur coat with tights, so perhaps the latest social-media mania could be enough to move a few more bandage dresses off nostalgic mood boards and into the mix IRL. But they won’t be worn as they once were because “you’re not just putting on one thing and getting out the door,” she says. Or perhaps you’re not getting out the door at all — maybe you’re just tweeting about a bandage dress from your bed with nowhere to wear it.