The current recession is affecting every nook and cranny of American life, even reaching the fashion industry elite. This cannot come as a surprise, given the obvious negative effects on fashion shows—profit declines leading to slashed salaries, designers cutting after-parties, and a host of other cutbacks at the most recent New York Fashion Week. The recession, however, has also started to affect this fall’s fashions more subtly by influencing its colors, fabrics, and styles.
As big name designers such as Chanel, Christian Lacroix and Louis Vuitton slowly lose popularity in these harsh times, up-and-coming designers have entered the spotlight. New York Fashion Week, hosted by Mercedes-Benz Sept. 10 – 17, highlighted Alexander Wang’s newest collection, inspired by the 1970s American high school—think letter jackets and booty shorts. The Mercedes-Benz Presents award, given to the artist who reflects the luxury brand’s dedication to elegance and quality material, went to designer Narciso Rodriguez whose collection was inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures, and mixed timeless classics with a modern edge.
Popular color choices on the runway included darkened pastels, such as warm olive, beige, dusty rose, and slate gray, which complement each other excellently in day-to-day wear. There was also a definite turn toward edgy outfits, including a mixture of classic feminized menswear, distressed 1990s-esque grunge, leather and biker jackets, and see-through clothing. Designer collections from Fendi and Hussein Chalayan emphasized the bust with lacy corsets, bandeau tops and other lingerie-like pieces. Chunky knits will definitely be popular this fall and winter, as will capes, capelets, and shawls, which can be elegant, edgy or funky depending on your personal style. Silk and charmeuse will be the fabrics to look out for, preferably draped layer upon layer in skirts and jodhpurs.
The must-have splurge of the season is the leather biker jacket. Even if you don’t think you’re as tough as the look implies, you can easily pair the jacket with feminine floral prints or a lacy silk blouse. Pinstripe blazers, trousers, vests and ruffled blouses can also add some masculine beauty to your wardrobe. Such pieces are also classics that would be useful after college as interview and office wear. To add some grunge to your look, consider buying a comfortable flannel plaid button-up, which are easy to find cheap at Goodwill or American Eagle. Distressed denim jeans and shorts, as well as tights and stockings, can also add to this look. If a new chunky knit sweater is out of your price range, try knitting your own—you can easily find patterns online. Other popular styles this fall include high-waisted skirts, shorts and pants. These styles go with the trend of tucked-in shirts, which may also explain why belts are gaining popularity. Tribal and floral prints, especially vintage-looking florals, will also be popular. Ankle boots are still in—look for ones that hit right above the ankle or scoop right under the ankle. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for 1980s-inspired, cropped over-sized tees which expose the midriff.
Even when money’s tight, it is still possible to be fashionable, especially when the industry itself is adapting to its patrons’ financial needs. Obvious changes are occurring, such as price decreases, smaller designers gaining status and designers returning to American creations over foreign ones. One could even say that the industry is growing less elite, and therefore much more welcoming to broke college students. So this season, don’t be afraid to explore thrift shops and sales racks for runway trends. Keep in mind that style really comes down to what you enjoy wearing.