I’ve heard of shabby chic and heroin chic, but Magnolia Pearl, a wildly expensive clothing line that has recently blown the internet’s mind, seems to have cornered the market on “consumption chic.” If you have thousands of dollars to spare but want to cosplay as though you’ve got nary a sixpence to your name, then Magnolia Pearl is the brand for you. The Fredericksburg-based line sells dresses, hats, jackets, pants, and shoes, all perfect for accessorizing with a dainty white handkerchief in which to ominously cough secret little droplets of blood. Magnolia Pearl was started in 2002, the year after Mugatu’s failed attempt to launch the fashion line Derelicte and around when the Olsen Twins were popularizing the whole “boho” thing. The brand has held on long enough to become fashionable again; its wares are now sold by the likes of Free People and Anthropologie.
Still, MP flew mostly under the radar until last week, when it went viral on TikTok after one user posted her mother’s all–Magnolia Pearl outfit of the day and citizen detectives took to Google to learn the outfit cost roughly $5,000, which is incidentally more than twice the average monthly rent in the United States. The discussion soon made its way to Twitter, where Magnolia Pearl’s “eccentric middle-aged-lady wear” found defenders. Still, even more users expressed shock and dismay over its designs and prices. “I refuse to believe this brand is real,” wrote one. Another posted photos from MP’s flagship location in Fredericksburg, declaring that “everything in there looks like they stole it off the orphan from Les Mis.” My favorite tweet, however, was this timely Easter take.
In the spirit of these reactions, here is a list of other things that come to mind when one peruses Magnolia Pearl’s look books. A little bit steampunk, a little bit English garden, bafflingly expensive, but hey—at least they look comfortable.
- The Ghost of Christmas Past from The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Rose the Hat as played by Rebecca Ferguson in that Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep
- A sponge bath–loving side character from a classic episode of The Simpsons
- Used Kleenex
- The floating plastic bag from American Beauty
- The Victorian ghost child that haunts your historic New England home, seems sweet enough until you try to exorcize it, and it has dark eyes and sharp teeth and it emits a screech so loud it hurts not just your ears but also your soul
- Salvaged “nap dresses,” remnants of a misguided pandemic trend, tossed aside when we all realized they were wildly unflattering
- A free-spirited talkative young woman with cool music taste who helps a cynical and depressed twentysomething guy realize life is worth living and even though they don’t stay together forever, it’s still a happy ending, for the guy (the girl dies from a disease, perhaps consumption)
- Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney as Janie Jimplin
- An iron’s worst nightmare