Buh-Bye, Cutouts—Hello, Negative Space: 6 Ways to Wear the Trend

To put it plainly, 2022 was the year of the cutout, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the various iterations from Jonathan Simkhai’s iconic waist cutouts to Euphoria-esque G-string pants. This year, what the cutouts reveal is just as important as the cutouts themselves—hence I dub the evolution of this trend "negative space." While cutouts imply something being taken away, the negative-space trend focuses on what fills the void. Whether it be vignettes of the human form or an interesting web of shapes created via layering techniques, this trend plays tricks on the eyes, often leaving you with more questions than answers. 

Many refer to this evolution of cutouts as subversive, drawing on the tradition of Rick Owens and others who subvert the industry’s notions of beauty to create something beautiful themselves. It feels very continuous in this tradition while also extending the field of market options to include traditionally pretty versions of the trend too, so there’s truly something for everyone.

Keep scrolling to see my favorite six ways to get in on the trend. Trust me—you’ll understand why every designer is tapping in.

1. Base Layer

Negative space trend 2022: base layer

Photo:

@hannamw

A base layer with negative space creates so much automatic interest that you can keep the rest of the outfit pretty simple. Hanna's outfit also leaves you questioning whether her top is two pieces or one—a level of sorcery that I'm into.

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The masterful gathering alone is drool-worthy.

Color-blocking gives the illusion of layers.

2. Just a Sliver

Negative space trend 2022: just a sliver

Photo:

@aka.kimbui

A sliver of skin never hurt anybody. I'm loving this trend when featured in a mostly covered-up silhouette like the number Kim is wearing. Why be boring when you can be fun?

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When you go out in this, no one will ever have seen anything like it before.

This is a jumpsuit! How mod and fresh.

I don't think I've ever seen a more interesting pair of socks.

3. Peekaboo

Negative space trend 2022: peek-a-boo

Photo:

@jaimeridge

The peekaboo style has been popping up everywhere lately, from tops to pants and even skirts. The negative space this style often creates draws attention to what's underneath, making this variation of the trend function like mini vignettes. So cool.

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The crystal details really set this off.

The tie details draw even more attention to the peekaboo spaces.

4. Layered Look

Negative space trend 2022: layered look

Photo:

@anaasaber

Brands are creating pieces intentionally meant to be layered with other interesting cuts, which is something I don't remember seeing much of since the '90s. Even better, many pieces now come layered and do all the work for you.

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The asymmetrical negative space makes this look apocalyptic.

The negative space in this top gives a more considered feel than if you just wore one top.

Wear this with jeans, and you're already ahead of the curve.

This also falls under the category of subversive basics, which will come to define the year.

5. Patterned Space

Negative space trend 2022: patterned space

Photo:

@kateemao

Whoever first discovered that the negative space could form its own pattern is an actual genius. Kate is wearing Isa Boulder's iconic design, which looks like the coolest kaleidoscope flowers I've ever seen.

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A simple rhinestone-outlined heart will also do the trick. 

6. Semi-Sheer Layers

Last, semi-sheer layers can also achieve the layered, negative-space look. This all-white outfit is anything but basic due to the way Danielle was able to layer her tops. Stick to tops and bralettes of the same shade to minimize confusion.

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The wide scoop neck leaves enough space for another layer to peek through.

Immediately yes. Kathryn Bowen is one to watch.

Layer with more mesh until it's no longer sheer.

Lace as a semi-sheer fabric is top-tier.