The Future of Fashion?


Now that economists are agreeing that we are indeed entering a recession, fashion historians should watch for new innovations to alleviate some of the increasing financial burdens (especially those caused by the housing market, decreasing food supplies, and increasing gas prices). A recent Time article pointed out that a somber mood in fashion will hit come Fall, focusing on a “dark palette and severe silhouette.” While historically, people in the U.S. have dealt with the hard facts and limitations of recessions and war-time economies, never before has the U.S. had to deal with both at the same time.

During the Great Depression as well as during World War II, shortages and limitations caused a number of developments in the fashion world in terms of materials used, production methods and trends. For example, during World War II the ‘Made Do and Mend’ policy was instituted, which one might consider the pre-cursor to the DIY movement we find ourselves in now. Additionally, rubber shortages during WWII led shoemakers to turn to other materials to make their soles (most notably wood and cork).

Perhaps though, people will turn to fashion (or other forms of ‘entertainment’) to escape their everyday doldrums, as was done with film during the Great Depression. Alexander McQueen agreed in a recent article for the Independent, saying “in times of recession, I think fashion is escapism.” Designer Narcisso Rodriquez, disagrees, noting in Time Magazine that “When times get tough, people want things that are real and lasting.”

The real question is, what will we see today’s designers producing to help their customers deal with increasing costs? The recession and war combined with the new Eco-Chic are sure to bring some interesting innovations. We have already seen the rise in popularity of the reusable canvas bag, and eco-chic fashion shows are popping up at design schools all over the U.S. Personally, I hope the innovations combine the needs of the current economy, the need for escapism, and eco-chic. Perhaps recycled DIY, belle-epoch era bicycle skirts will be the innovation of the decade. Keep an eye out for new materials being used in new ways and let me know what you see.


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  • Alaina April 30, 2008 01.19 pm

    Interesting subject, I also look forward to seeing how people respond. I caught a Fox News short (I know, I know…I never watch Fox News, but it happened to be on) and they reported that some Americans see a good side to the coming recession- it would give them an excuse to downsize and stop buying. Consumer Fatigue.

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  • sharon watts February 17, 2009 12.15 pm

    In times of economic hardship does having an ethical approach to fashion with sustainability at the core have greater relevence(fewer but better choices ) or is pricepoint at any cost more realistic ? perhaps moral responsibility is a luxury we can’t always afford .

  • Heather Vaughan February 17, 2009 12.42 pm

    Keeping in mind that this post was written well before our current economic climate, I do see your point. Although, on a very basic level – updating and remaking the clothes you already own (that may be out of style, etc) is an excellent way to save money. In the 1940s, “Make Do and Mend” was the mantra. It was both less wasteful, and an economic necessity. I don’t think making Moral decisions is a luxury. I think it is a necessity.


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