How do fashion trends cycle?

Apr 15, 2012
by: aseele

Lately the topic of fashion trend cycles has intrigued me to learn more on why are certain styles that were worn previously in time are making their way back up, as a fashion statement. This came about after I went shopping and noticed all the high-waisted pants being sold at stores. A light bulb lit into my head that led me to think to myself “Hey, weren’t high-waisted pants a big phenomenon back in the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s. Why are they becoming such a trend? Who pulled them out of their closet and made them popular once again?” It brought nostalgia for my mom to see me purchasing some retro clothing; it made her reminisce on clothing my grandmother and her would wear back in the good ol’ golden days. I do I believe I’m not the only one acknowledging these fads, as I speak to others we all just agree to say we regret our parents not saving any of their vintage classics. But we do know for future references to save some of our clothing because we never know what the next fashion trends will repeat.

Fashion trends have a tendency to repeat themselves. One minute you can be dressed in the hottest look the next you can be totally out of date. Some say that it is good to stick to basic clothing, so that you're never out the loop, but I say to heck with basics because basics are boring. Fashion is art and art can express one’s self in a myriad of ways such as: emotionally, mentally, culturally, religiously, and in ways that help us to understand things in deeper meaning.
I have always pondered, how do stores all sell similar clothing at the same time? Is it one big meeting where designers discuss what each store is going to sell? Being that I didn't have a lot of background information on merchandising, I chose to do some research on the topic. As I searched for blogs and news articles on Google, I came across this one article: “Fashion 101: Where Do Fashion Trends Come From?” This article provided a lot of information and opinions on merchandising. A I read the article I learned something that is pretty obvious, “designers don't all have the same ideas at the same time,” but yet their clothing look similar. As I continued to read the article this statement answered my question “why are the clothing similar?” The clothing are similar because “they are exposed to similar influences and they are looking for inspiration at the same time.” This explains why most clothing styles are similar; designers tend to feed off identical influences in their work.

Something that I have noticed lately in the fashion industry is that clothing are becoming instyle and out of date rapidly. In an article I read called “Hot or Not? When Fashion Trends Die,” a statement that stood out for me was, “Twenty or 30 years ago it might have taken a few years to make it from red carpet to mass market, but today's manufacturers have put the fashion cycle into hyperspeed. Sometimes a hot trend makes it into lower priced retail outlets in as little as a few months.” This validates my inquiry above. You may wonder what is the fashion cycle as I once did before. It’s actually a 3-step cycle. The article I read provided me with this description:

The Fashion Cycle

  1. First, there's the emerging trend (the American Marketing Association refers to this as the "distinctiveness" part of the cycle where the trend is highly sought after. You know this as when you see that great hat/dress/shoe on the runway, red carpet or music video.
  2. Next, comes what the AMA calls the emulation phase, where everyone wants a piece of the trend. You'll see it in fashion magazines, newspapers, internet and TV during this phase.
  3. Finally, the trend becomes saturated in the market, usually at very low prices. With trendy items like a must-have designer handbag, the item becomes widely available as a knock-off.

As I looked at this topic in a deeper meaning and wanted to know what is the variable that is causing ‘the fashion cycles into hyperspeed.’After reading another article called “The life cycle of a fashion trend,” I was able to figure it out. As Denise Winterman implied, "The recycling of fashion trends has been speeded up," says [the] ‘course director for fashion at the University of Westminster’ Andrew Groves.” This is due to us and our emotions. “What kills it off is boredom, say those in the industry.” I found this statement to certainly true because I can base it on my own life. For example, once I see that a particular item is worn by many people of my age range and community I get tired and bored it. The item can be a pair of sneakers being worn by almost everyone; it then looks unoriginal and repetitive. I acquired about a costume historian and a past Keeper of the Robes at the London Victoria and Albert Museum named James Laver; he created a fashion timeline for when items were in style and out of date.

Laver’s Law
10 years before indecent
Five years before shameless
One year before daring
In fashion smart
One year after dowdy
10 years after hideous
20 years after ridiculous
30 years after amusing
50 years after quaint
70 years after charming
100 years after romantic
150 years after beautiful

When one person observes clothing they can see that fashion is repeated but in a new twist. It never comes back with the original style just the original idea. An article I’ve read that helps to validate my statement is “Cycle of Fashion Trend.” Some trends are considered as ludicrous and outdated, many other comebacks with innovative ideas.” This statement captivated me because I can see in my own life clothing worn back in the days coming back in new styles. For instance, I have seen pictures of my uncles and they’re wearing Adidas track suits. Adidas track suit are becoming a sensation; now they don’t just coming in every color, but now they have flags on the suits, rulers, and even wings on the jackets. “Basically, ‘WE’, the consumer decide which merchandise is hot by making our minds what to purchase and wear.”

Run DMC Adidas track suit

Adidas track suit now with the Mexican flag

As I read “Art and fashion: How Fashion Repeats Itself.” a quote that stood out for me was, “Some of the most cutting edge trends of the moment go back centuries to produce updated looks.” Designers reference idea in their fashion. It can be something as simple as ruffles on shirts that were “worn by upper-class men and women of the 17th and 18th centuries” to ‘accentuated sleeves’ worn in 1915. Designers use trends from all over time “from the bourgeoisie—the over-the-top decorative manner of those who could afford to spare no expense—while some have far more humble origins—the simple and accessible fashions of the day-to-day people.”

Ruffles Then

Ruffles Now

Accentuated Sleeves Then

Accentuated Sleeves Now

Now I have a total understanding of fashion trends. After reading all my articles I understand three variables that contribute to the change of trends: the people’s opinions, boredom, and money. I once read on a blog that money contributes to the change in fashion trends because “trends must change or make a comeback because if they don’t, no one would have a reason to [continue shopping]. There would be no outdated fashion and everything will go well. A fashion trend will repeat itself in about 20, 30 or even after 40 years.” I now know that something can go out of style only for a certain period of time but it will be terminated. Designers base their designs from art & past experiences. If you’re out of date now you can soon be the new trend. Just think of your grandparents, you see them wearing big glasses they might look funny, but they aren’t the joke anymore because big glasses are the new it look.



Work Cited

Isenberg Suhner Alexandra. “Fashion 101: Where Do Fashion Trends Come From?” . fashiontrendsetter. April 28, 2010. April 12, 2012

Nellis Cynthia. “Hot or Not? When Fashion Trends Die” April 12, 2012.

Winterman Denise. “The life cycle of a fashion trend” BBC News. September 22, 2009. April 12,2012.

Doshi Gaurav. “Cycle of Fashion Trend.” The Alexander Report. May 28th, 2007. April 12, 2012

curatorialintern. “Art and fashion: How Fashion Repeats Itself.”New Britain Museum of American Art. March 4, 2010. April 11, 2012.