I teach fashion history. It’s not all fun and games; laughing at old hairstyles and questionable hygiene practices. Looking to the past is one of the best ways to predict the future and it’s a fact that extraordinary times like these will change the trajectory of what we wear. In which way, is a question not easily answered.
You can imagine how important trend prediction is in the fashion world because, until we are all 3d printing the day’s outfits from our home pods, creating a fashion line takes at least a year to design, source, execute, advertise and display among other things. That’s not even taking into account the fabric color trends and manufacturing that takes even longer.
Normally fashion evolves in a somewhat predictable way
That’s why we have trend forecasters hanging out in France, drinking latte’s, looking at what people are wearing, investigating other cultural progressions, and trying to predict what people will care to wear a couple of years in the future. All of that falls to hell with something as life-altering as a revolution or a huge financial depression or in this case a global pandemic.
It’s a mistake to think that Anna Wintour and other fashion elites are sitting up on Mount Olympus dictating what we’ll be wearing as in The Devil Wears Prada. The fact is if people are not ready for something it will not happen. They’ve been trying to get us into shoulder pads for at least a decade but people keep saying “Hell no. Our shoulders won’t grow.”
It seemed the dream was finally beginning to come to fruition with the big shoulders and gigot (leg-o-mutton) sleeves seen on celebrities and models alike until whamo-the pandemic hit. And all people wanted to wear was sweatpants and yoga pants. When we’re communicating by Zoom, no one wants the screen filled ⅔’s by their sleeves.
Yes, the big sleeves are still seen on influencers and celebrities but how many real-life people do you know right now who are wearing that? Target tried giving us the Prairie look that was so popular in the 70s and they got destroyed on social media.
Zeitgeist For The Win
All of this is because of what we in the biz call “zeitgeist” or the Spirit of the Times. The question is where is fashion going to go? I ask my students this all the time. Do you think we will continue to want to be as comfortable as possible? Or will people go in the opposite direction and want to dress to the nines after being cooped up for so long? I personally love the idea of overdressing in theory but none of my good stuff fits anymore after my year of living sedentarily. Maybe if Gucci and Versace make everything with an elastic waistband, I could get on board. First of all, let’s all pretend I wear Gucci and Versace. (It’s on my Vision Board)
Let’s face it, big ass sleeves just aren’t super comfortable. I remember the ones from the late 70s and early 80s. There was a massive feeling of change and forward movement at the time. Especially for women. We were moving into an era where women could be more than just secretaries and have a higher ranking in business. There was a popular saying that was “ I’m a Woman of the 80s.” Which meant I’m not like my mom and grandmother who were Women of the 50s. Still stuck in the Cult of Domesticity where women were expected to be housewives and mothers and little else unless something had gone horribly wrong, like a war.
Fashion and Feminism
It made sense for shoulder pads to be popular in the 1980s because women were moving into “a man’s world” not out of necessity, like during WWII, but because they wanted to.
Thanks to the Women’s Rights Movement of the 60s and 70s, the 80s woman could do anything a man could do. Which later would leave women completely exhausted because someone still had to take care of the home, as well.
Housewife to Girl Boss
Over time we have evolved into a paradigm of women who are CEOs yet still ultra-feminine. Thanks to Sofia Amoruso coining the term Girl Boss which morphed into Lady Boss, Boss Babe etc. there’s no need to signify power in the workplace by dressing like a man with impressive upper body strength. She can wear a flirty dress and Louboutin’s and get the damn job done.
It’s a confusing time for trend prediction. Who knows what’s going to happen? I can guarantee you this, it will be whatever we’re a match for, whatever we’re ready for. I don’t know about you but I’m just praying it involves comfortable shoes and no shoulder pads.