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How and why fashion trends return

Why everything old is new again - again

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky November 21 2009

woman wearing a shirtdress

There are many reasons for fashion trends to recycle, other than the most obvious one - that designers periodically run out of new ideas. They, like writers, can experience a momentary idea block. It isn't pretty but it happens to the best of us. However, that is by no means the primary reason behind the "everything old is new again" full circle we experience from time to time.

The first important reason behind fashion recycling is the visceral need to return to what we believe was a better time. That was never truer than it is in today. Certain eras speak to the feelings we want to recapture, like romance, stability or financial acuity.

So the return of the big shoulder in women's fashion hearkens back to the 80's when it was okay to be wealthy. It was also a time when women felt no need to apologize for their intelligence and ambition. The revitalization of the shirtdress speaks to the need for some women to return attention to hearth and home. Dresses in general speak to a woman's readiness to once again embrace her femininity. The fact is that few recycled fashion trends are based on chance alone; tired of recent fashion but frightened of where the future is going, sometimes the only comfort that can be found lies within that with which we are most familiar.

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Sometimes fashion speaks to the need to redefine ourselves as human beings. Call it a rebirth of sorts. When fashion designers catch on to that need, they spin new and interesting takes on where they think women should be going. Sometimes they come up with something new and exciting, at other times they merely rework old designs. Either way, the end result is often exactly what is called for.

Fashion periodically focuses on a specific culture to provide what is known as escapist fashion. It allows those of us unfamiliar with other cultures to take a peek into that world and become a part of it through our dress. A few years back there was a heavy emphasis on oriental design. Luscious silk and satin tops and kimonos were popular because they transported women away from their normal humdrum lives. While those styles were not new at all in the Orient, they were new for much of the rest of the world and that made them a part of a fashion revolution.

Of course sometimes recycled fashion is simply a matter of fatigue. After all, how many hundreds of different looks can any designer expect to develop year after year? When it doubt, it is smart to return to what has worked well in the past. As for those of us who choose to wear these looks, we often just agree to go with the flow.

Lastly, fashion often returns to the classics simply because they are just that - classic. They are things with which we can seldom go wrong. Think about the Channel LBD (little black dress), a string of pearls, the stiletto heel, or a trench coat. Those items fit into almost any setting at any time in history and can be worn by almost anyone.

So what are some of the key items that we can expect to return in fashion now and in the near future? Some are obvious like those noted above. Others remain a little more elusive but here are some of my predictions and picks:

  • Pearls. Although they are rarely out of style, today's woman chooses choosing pearls as her go to piece of jewelry. With tough times, money is short and there is little left for the luxury of gold and gemstones. Pearls however, are always in style.
  • The brooch. A jewelry item that constantly recycles, it may soon become a classic. It can be worn alone on a jacket, dress, top, or coat. It can be paired with other jewelry items. It can be turned into a medallion necklace or add zing to a bracelet or clutch. Few jewelry pieces have that kind of versatility.
  • Button earrings. Hoops and chandeliers come and go but button earrings are always perfect. They aren't too large or too small. They don't demand attention or detract from clothing. They come in a wide variety of materials and they are relatively inexpensive. In short, they are very nearly perfect.
  • The scarf. A colorful scarf can add drama to any piece of clothing. It can accent a casual hairstyle or replace an item of jewelry. Best of all, it can be mixed and matched with almost everything in a woman's wardrobe.
  • A crisp white shirt will never go out of style. While the length or cut may alter slightly from year to year, it remains a must-have piece. It looks equally good with a suit or a pair of jeans; thereby extending a woman's wardrobe tenfold.
  • A leather blazer. Faux leather is even acceptable in this day and age as long as it is one of the good copies and not the cheap pleather of yesteryear. Like the white shirt, a leather jacket can be worn with almost anything. It can replace a suit jacket, jazz up a denim skirt; or make a dress appear more casual. Additionally, leather is durable and will last for many years.
  • The pencil skirt. Although they weren't seen much for several years, they have definitely made a strong comeback and designers are vowing not to let them get away again. Why? Because almost every woman can wear one and it can be played up or down to suit the occasion; making it not only versatile but also fun.
  • The shoe boot. Once a trend that came and went with abandon, the shoe boot is today's classic footwear item. One can be found to suit the need of virtually any woman without her having to worry about the "calf" issues. No longer granny's shoe, today's shoe boot comes in a variety of styles, colors, and fabrics, making it easy to find the perfect one for any occasion.

These just touch on a few of the "oldies but goodies" we can expect to see become fashion classics. As times change there is one thing of which we can be certain. If we hang on to that old favorite jacket or coat long enough, it will come back into style.

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