Economics & Fashion Trends

Economics play a pivotal role in the success or failure of fashion trends. When times are financially difficult, the public tends to gravitate towards conventionally flattering pieces. Fashion is used as a tool of self-expression; therefore, during rough times, people also seek out refuge in their garments.

Consumer products expert, Trevor Davis, told Jezebel, “Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up – as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape.” In the case of a recession or an economic decline, the fashion industry will want to produce or bring back the more creative products, with a justifiable price. Cheap thrills are profitable.

On the other hand, people want to feel safe during uneasy situations, so they will actually purchase reliable and classic pieces. Sexy cannot be afforded during an economic hardship.  When money is a subject of worry, people will sacrifice exuberance with modesty. Basics are well sold during tough times.

FIT professor, John Mincarelli told ABC News, “In rough economic times, people shop for replacement clothes.” The economy does have a direct relationship with trends, but there can be several relationships at play at the same time.

When the economy is doing well, more expensive materials (furs, leather, beading) can be seen on the runways. This signifies that people can afford to buy at higher price points and that society is ready to be different and more expressive. Flashy styles can be seen on the streets, as consumers want to show off wealth, when their financial situations are not in turmoil. One cannot morally advertise extravagant spending during an economic slump.

Jeremy Scott’s SS17 collection featured latex pieces, which are expensive and hard to maintain, can signify a sense of America’s economic security.

Photo: WWD

Trends move in cycles. The economy just so happens to be a factor in deciding when trends are brought back or discarded. The Birkenstock came back in 2014, and can still be seen on the NYC sidewalks, which tells us that we are secure enough to purchase an “pretty-ugly” shoe. Christopher Kane recently showed Crocs at his LFW show. UGG is working hard to collaborate with the right people (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Hailey Baldwin) to sell their product, once described by Justin Bieber as a deal-breaker. In a shocking move, UGG has created a collection with Teva to create one the most hideous shoes.


Economist George Taylor developed the “Hemline Theory” to describe the correlation between economics and fashion. In the 1920s, womens’ hemlines became shorter to show off their silk stockings, but after the crash, hemlines were lengthened to hide the fact that women could no longer afford expensive undergarments.



I, as a consumer, didn’t notice the correlation between the economic state and which fashion trends were being recycled. I am more in tune with how my personal economic situation has an impact on my purchases, but it turns out they are more alike then previously noted. I will buy what I need when on a tight budget, and I will buy what I want during the holidays or near my birthday.

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