To any fashion devotee, the months of September and February are filled with excitement and awe. The streets of New York, London, Milan and Paris are flooded with models, buyers and designers eager to view and share the newest trends and creations. However, this February brought something inconceivable. COVID-19 swept across the globe, abruptly canceling almost all social gatherings – including 2020 February fashion weeks. As the world turned upside down, the eyes that were once focused on the runways are now focused on the scary realities of the new pandemic. But, this is not the first time a crisis has shaped the fashion industry. In the past, fashion has been forced to reexamine and focus on producing useful pieces that are relevant for the time. Once again, the fashion industry is being called upon to play their part in coping with the challenges of our new “normal.”
From long trousers, to flapper dresses, to a crisply pleated plaid mini skirt, fashion trends have taken many twists and turns throughout the years. Dating back to the early 1900’s, World War I influenced fashion in some of the most dramatic ways. Women’s clothing became more relaxed, allowing women to have more movement. Since women were taking over men’s careers while they were away at war, clothing needed to be more fit for the factories than the home. In the 1916 Harper’s Bazaar, the drop-waist dress was first debuted. Of course, it was the one and only Chanel that was the first to bring this design to life. As women began transitioning out of the traditional house roles and started gaining independence, dresses and loose trousers were all the rave. Sadly, World War I also brought many tragedies, including over 40 million deaths. Due to this, the fashion industry focused on producing versatile clothing that could be worn in the workplace and at funerals. In opposition, the 1930’s brought back florals and pastel colors. A direct contrast from the dark color basics that were worn so often to mourn all those who lost their lives fighting overseas.
The next crisis the United States faced was the Great Depression. As individuals’ pocket money shrank, people looked for simplistic pieces that could be worn from early work mornings to a late night event. Long muted trench coats were made to go to with everything and last through multiple seasons. Moving on to World War II, we see fashion take a very creative turn. Material for stockings was no longer available due to rations, so women began drawing lines on their legs to resemble the stocking seam. Additionally, with limited fabric, skirts and dresses began shortening to above the knee. Yes, you heard that right, knees were showing. Even more recent events, like the housing crisis of 2008, affected the industry. Fast fashion sky-rocketed and allowed new trends to be easily accessible to a much wider demographic, not just exclusively coming from the couture houses.
It is hard to comprehend that we are currently living through another, not just national, but global crisis. One day, history books will write about our never before seen reality. And you may be wondering, what will be the next fashion trend post corona?
Several brands have designed masks and gowns to donate to front-line workers who lack proper medical protection. Many of these same companies are also looking into the future, and are creating products that can protect the general public too. Rag and Bone has become one of the first companies to create sweatshirts with built-in masks. Off White, as well as several other brands, has also created reusable masks for purchase. With the threat of the pandemic on our hands, the fashion industry is forced to slow-down, turn away from mass production, and begin producing innovative pieces. Companies will focus on creating clothing that is more suitable for our new daily routine. Many predict to see a rise in athleisure wear and the shift of traditional work attire transitioning to a more “comfy” fit. Fashion experts have stated that oversized turtlenecks, fashionable loungewear, high necklines, and creative masks will all be on the rise in the coming seasons.
It is obviously no surprise that fashion is largely based on consumerism. These buyers are constantly ditching their outdated goods and seeking the newest trends. Each of these consumers added to the $2.5 trillion global fashion industry. However, during something like a pandemic, very few would deem fashion as essential. But, time and time again the fashion industry has risen to the challenge of marrying form and function – producing useful and aesthetically pleasing creations in times of need. The footprint of fashion, its ability to reinvent itself, and respond in dire circumstances validates the idea that nothing can dampen the influence of fashion.