The fashion world has been excited over the recent trend of “stealth wealth” fashions in girls' boutique clothing, with styles that walk a precarious tightrope between looking extravagant without looking ostentatious.
The concept of “stealth wealth”, as popularised recently by the TV show Succession, is not entirely new, and has its roots in centuries-long debates about the nature of luxury. Should extravagance be showy or should it be subtle but noticeable enough for people in the know?
For many people, the idea of luxury is about grand displays, such as elaborate dresses, shimmering jewellery, big designer logos and taking part in popular trends that are associated with wealth and taste. Luxury is an elaborate costume by this logic.
However, the ideology behind stealth wealth is that you do not need to necessarily show off to look luxurious, instead relying on more timeless styles which hide their logos but not necessarily their price tags.
These can include big blazers and outer coats, monochromatic dresses in cashmere, more subtle and meaningful jewellery, and handbags that exude an elegance that is heavily implied but never stated.
A lot of the stealth wealth aesthetic is often summed up with the aphorism that whilst money shouts, wealth simply whispers, and the reason for this links into debates about inherited wealth and the nouveau riche.
Stealth wealth is linked to the idea of “vieux riche” or old money, something that Succession explores a lot, with interlocking and interlinking codes of etiquette, fashion and style that epitomise a more “true” style than people who have recently become rich and want to show off.
That is not to say that the trend has not come under scrutiny, with some fashion critics describing the idea that rich people wear a discreet uniform look as “absolute nonsense” and that wealthy looks are more about choice than any particular style.