Shooting through the sky, they bring good luck. In a tarot card reading they mean hope, spirituality, renewal, inspiration and serenity. On Tinder, a blue one is a “super like” (you swiped up, instead of just right, to show that this potential match is your favourite that day). On Snapchat, a large gold one means popularity (someone has replayed your snap in the past 24 hours), while a cluster stands for friendship (you are in a group chat). A marble and brass one on Hollywood Boulevard stands for celebrity; on Uber, the same symbol relates to your manners on late-night journeys home, with particular reference to whether you can hold your drink or are likely to be sick. A red one is communism, but on the US flag a white one stands for one of the 50 states. (More of which later.)
Stars mean many things, and there have never been more of them to look at. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, in a year when we are all in the gutter, more and more of us are looking at the stars. Star-and-moon printed dresses and separates by Rixo, the London brand founded by Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, are this party season’s most-wanted on Net-a-Porter – grab the Georgia midi-skirt, with thigh-high split and moon-and-star print, for £205 before it sells out – along with the star-print dresses by Harley Viera-Newton’s label HVN. Earlier this year, Dior’s fairytale star-motif “l’étoile” sweater, teamed with a star-print tulle skirt, was one of the most high-profile images of the spring catwalk season, alongside Balenciaga’s more hard-edged all-over monochrome star print.
Stars exploded on the high street in September with the Marks & Spencer Constellation dress, which sold out almost instantly; when it was restocked at the end of October, it sold at a rate of one every 90 seconds. Right now, the search platform Lyst reports searches for the keyword “star” up 17% year on year; over the past six months, searches for “star jewellery” have increased by 39%. Topshop has no fewer than 50 star-print pieces right now, from a one-shoulder body and a glitter slip dress to a star-studded denim skirt. You can probably guess the motif of the Monse dress that actor Daisy Ridley wore to the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, at the weekend.
At fashion week, the significance of stars depends on which side of the Atlantic you are standing. In Europe they are wrapped up in the trend for astronomy and tarot imagery that seems to be a hybrid of the moody winter-floral trend that has been around for the past few years and our emoji-driven obsession with meaningful symbols. The superstitious side of Christian Dior, who had his tarot cards read before each catwalk show, and once wrote that “chance always comes to the aid of those who really want something” has been revived by the house’s first female couturier, Maria Grazia Chiuri, who used images from Motherpeace’s feminist tarot cards in her Cruise 2018 collection and installed tarot card readers at the party she threw during January’s haute couture shows. That party started a trend: at the glamorous bash to celebrate Clare Waight Keller’s first show for Givenchy in Paris two months ago, there was an hour-long queue of models and editors for the tarot-reading room.
Fashion’s new-found love of tarot reflects a wider revival. Sales of tarot cards were up 30% year on year in 2016: in a year when geopolitics has felt more unpredictable than at any point in recent history, we are falling back on the centuries-old system that peasants once used to navigate through life. In 2017, tarot readers are the new experts.
Star-themed pieces have always accounted for about 5% of sales at jewellers Astley Clarke, but that figure is rising and the symbol has been given a more scientific slant with the arrival of creative director Dominic Jones, who explained: “When I was spending time getting to know the brand, there was a recurring theme of astrology and space. My reaction was to create a collection that had a more scientific point of view, looking to astronomy and our solar system.” An agate pendant of Saturn and its rings, and black pearl ear jackets of Pluto and its moons, have been added to the ever-popular diamond pave star stud earrings.
In the New York fashion galaxy, stars have a more political charge. In the homeware department of the Calvin Klein flagship store on Madison Avenue, revamped this year by artist Sterling Ruby in the image of designer Raf Simons, prairie quilts with star motifs lie on top of all-white duvet covers on which are imprinted a pencil-trace of the US flag, which nods to the all-white versions of the national flag that were Jasper Johns’ unsettling commentary on 1950s America. Stars can sometimes be a cheery, all-American thumbs-up of a motif – see the colourful star-embroidered ankle boots on Tommy Hilfiger’s catwalk back in the innocent days of spring 2015 – but when a brand as iconically American as Calvin Klein opens one fashion show with David Bowie’s This Is Not America and spatters its second catwalk with a blood-stain print, in a year when the country is fractured as never before, the star begins to feel controversial.
The star has been in the headlines all year – including the times when it wasn’t there. This summer’s modern Hollywood icon Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, wore a contemporary, less cheerleader-esque costume than the cartoon original, which jettisoned both the stars and the red-white-and-blue colour scheme. Goddesses, it seems, don’t need stars any more. But the rest of us sure do.