Stylists reveal what actually goes into those celebrated couple moments.
It's been hard to open any form of social media this year without getting blasted with the latest couple du jour. J.Lo and Ben Affleck sharing a steamy moment in Venice. Kourtney Kardashian's engagement to Travis Barker. Hailey and Justin Bieber strutting about Paris as if they own the place. After nearly two years of enforced isolation, our attentions (and timelines) were ripe for the snatching. And upon deeper inspection of these moments, we can't help but notice the one element the couple themselves has control over in this equation: their clothing.
Aside from what these lovebirds were doing and where they were going, we want to know what they were wearing. While the unlikely pair of downtown cool girl Zoë Kravitz and Channing Tatum was meandering down Prince Street, the internet was having a field day with their fashion. Her in a red t-shirt and denim shorts, him a white tank and short-sleeve button-down. Later, her in a strappy blue Araks dress, him in Balenciaga-style oversized tee and denim combo. The more you watched, the more you wondered, is his style actually getting better?
That idea of sartorial glow-up is not mere happenstance. "Of course couples' styles rub off on each other; it's impossible not to be influenced by the people you spend time with," explains Machine Gun Kelly's stylist Adam Ballheim. His client is often seen with fellow actress Megan Fox and both evoke a similar rebellious punk spirit characteristic of the early 2000's in their style choices. "Sometimes it's very overt—I've been with Kells and Megan when he's taken off a necklace so that Megan can wear it—but usually it's more subtle and nuanced than that. Couples start to speak the same style language, have the same visual references, and that all influences their taste and what they wear."
"I think we are all influenced by our surroundings," reiterates Dani Michelle, stylist to Kourtney Kardashian, "whether it's our friends, parents, or partners. We all look to those we love and admire for inspiration, so I think couples dressing alike is only natural." Photographer Johnny Cirillio, of street style account @watchingnewyork, often documents sartorial coordination within groups of both friends and lovers on the streets of New York. The wearers might all dress in similar silhouettes or simply embody the same energy. Between the media and our own inclinations, we often notice the couples within the celebrity sphere more so than any other fashionable relationship.
Aside from this shared sense of inspiration, it oftentimes goes beyond the passing of style ideas between counterparts—the stylists get involved. "It's super important to know when a client is attending an event on their own or in a couple," says Maeve Reilly, stylist to Megan Fox and previously Hailey Bieber. She then notes the importance of connecting with the other stylist ahead of mutually attended events. "You always want them to tell a story on the carpet so it is important that the looks are thought out previously. We sometimes have multiple looks lined up so we can coordinate with what their partner is wearing to make sure it's cohesive."
"Both Kells and Megan have such busy crazy schedules, usually they're not fitting at the same time," adds Ballheim. "If Megan fits first, Maeve will share the options with me and vica versa. There's a discussion between the four of us about what can work together and what doesn't work." Though this sort of sartorial cohesion celebrates the idea of the unit, retaining some sense of individuality is also important—a tricky balancing act to attempt. "While it's always great to coordinate, you don't want each of their individual styles to get lost," explains Reilly. "It's important that couples look cohesive, but still stay true to their style and feel confident in what they're wearing."
Though this sort of sartorial cohesion celebrates the idea of the unit, retaining some sense of individuality is also important—a tricky balancing act to attempt. "While it's always great to coordinate, you don't want each of their individual styles to get lost," explains Reilly. "It's important that couples look cohesive, but still stay true to their style and feel confident in what they're wearing."
Ballheim posits that a lot of this is to do with the devolving stigma surrounding men's experimentation with fashion. "I feel like there's always been an element of appreciating couple style, but in recent years Hollywood and the fashion industry has really started to pay more attention to men's style. Men have started to be more fun and adventurous on the red carpet—praise be!" the stylist explains. Many instances of couple style from prior decades, particularly in the case of formalwear, depict the man's ensemble serving as a sort of backdrop for the woman's—something that's no longer encouraged. "There's more risk and more reward when the dude isn't always showing up in a classic black suit." Obviously, this is considering the idea of 'the couple' through a hetronormative lens, but this destigmatization ups the ante all around.
"I think coordination has always been around, but I do think there is a spotlight on couples fashion as of late," Reilly continues. This obsession with couples is not completely new. Nostalgic celebrity fan accounts like @velvetcoke catalogue retro images of Brad and Jennifer, Justin and Britney, Ben and Jen—the prequel—but there seems to be a newfound focus placed even on resurfacing these images in tandem with the modern versions. "We all had a break from fashion during the pandemic so I think people are more excited now than ever before to have fun with fashion not only on their own, but with their partners!"
To coordinate your style choices, no matter how subtle, signifies to your audience that you are a unit. It highlights connections between people whether that's shared interests, commonalities, or romantic inclinations. "This is my Hail Mary but it feels like people are dressing in groups more than before," Cirillo tells Coveteur via email. "Feels like they want to be seen as a duo, trio or quad squad and we're all here for it." This simple act is one way to evoke some sense of belonging simply through the clothes we wear.
Continue scrolling to discover the best couples' style moments of 2021.