Leopard layers and a load of gold: Say hello to the ‘mob wife’ trend

January 24, 2024

As The Sopranos celebrates its 25th anniversary, a new audience has embraced its style via TikTok. Out are the cutesy “tomato girls” with their full skirts and raffia basket bags. Gone are the gentle linen-clad “coastal grandmothers”.

In their place comes a woman with a whole lot more bada bing, reports The Guardian. Dubbed the “mob wife aesthetic”, the look involves massive fur coats, glossy leather, clashing animal prints, coiffed hair, and stacks of gold jewelry.

To celebrate the big anniversary, HBO has launched an official Sopranos TikTok account featuring condensed 25 second recaps of all 86 episodes. This has led to a whole new generation—many who weren’t even born when the show first aired—discovering it, with many homing in on the female characters’ gaudy style.

On the secondhand shopping platform Depop, searches for leopard print are up 213% and gold hoop earrings up 70%, as Gen Z and Alpha try to emulate Carmela Soprano and Adriana La Cerva.

This week, film director Francis Ford Coppola even got involved. On Instagram, he posted a still of his sister Talia Shire dripping in diamonds as Connie Corleone and Diane Keaton in pearls as Kay in The Godfather with the caption “I hear the ‘mob wife aesthetic’ is making a comeback…”

It’s not just fictional characters that are being referenced. The daughter of the convicted killer and boss of the Gambino crime family John Gotti, Victoria Gotti – who is said to base her flashy clothes and long tousled blonde hair on the Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace—is being hailed as style leader. Images of Renee Graziano, the daughter of Anthony Graziano, the former Bonanno family consigliere whose stars in the reality TV show Mob Wives, also pops up on numerous mood boards.

Last week, Nunzia Giuliano, daughter of the 80s mafia boss Carmine Giuliano, even tapped into the trend by launching a perfume named after her father. Dubbed ‘O Liò’, an abbreviation of his nickname ‘O Lione’, the first batch sold out within days. “By buying this fragrance you are showing respect to my father because you received respect from him,” Giuliano shared in a video to her 15k followers.

How to get the look

  1. The fake fur coat

While real mob wives pass down floor-sweeping furs as family heirlooms, the younger TikTok generation prefer fake. While these are cruelty free, they are made from petroleum-derived fabrics which contain microplastics, so choose a simple version that won’t date. Better still, scour pre-existing fake furs at your local charity shop or online.

  1. The sunglasses

Oversized frames with a flashy designer logo are key here. Sunglasses, Gucci

  1. The jewelry

Channel Carmela Soprano with chunky gold hoops and layers of chain necklaces. But leave the cornicello, a traditional Italian talisman, to the Sicilians. Gold hoops, Astrid & Miyu

The luxe tracksuit

Swap your beige track pants for what insiders call a “Bensonhurst tuxedo.” See Juicy Couture’s embellished versions.

While TikTokers embracing the aesthetic get dressed up to capture content over chequered tablecloths and steaming bowls of vongole at their local trattoria, it’s funerals, weddings and the courtroom where real mob wives flaunt their style. Clare Longrigg, author of Mafia Women, describes it as a “hutzpah” [or “chutzpah,” derived from the Hebrew word, “ huspah”], meaning “audacity.”

“There is so much performance involved in being a mafia wife,” says Longrigg, who points out how clothing is used as a signifier of power. “You can’t show any weakness. It’s brash and it’s bold and it’s all part of keeping up a front.”

Juliet Polcsa, the costume designer for The Sopranos, describes the renewed interest in Carmela Soprano’s style as “flattering but baffling”. To hone Carmela’s look, Polcsa spent time observing shoppers at malls in New Jersey rather than real mob wives. Polcsa describes Carmela as a “nouveau riche suburban housewife.”

“She didn’t have the sophistication of someone wealthy, but she had money. It was 1999 and fashion had a specific theme. Matchy-matchy outfits, jewelery, nails and hair were very important,” she said.

The Italian-American author Sarah Arcuri, who has earned the moniker “Mob Wife Aesthetic CEO” on TikTok thanks to her wardrobe and makeup tutorials, says the glamorous style is something she has grown up with. Based in New Jersey, her family originally hail from Sicily, with Arcuri explaining how her mother and grandmother instilled in her from a young age the importance of looking “put together”.

“It’s flattering that people want to dress like us now. But I think some people are confusing it with a costume. It’s not. A the end of the day “Mob wife aesthetic” is just another word for 80s glam,” she said.

Research contact: @guardian