It’s been slightly over a decade when an American marketing group came out with the results of a rather interesting study. It turned out that there was a strong correlation between a fizzling economy and the height of womens’ hemlines. The shorter the hem line, the harder the times (the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression). In more robust financial times, women wore their skirts at a modest knee length, or slightly above or slightly shorter. Much of the same conclusions can be drawn if we take a glimpse into the future of American fashions as presented for this coming fall and winter.
As of July 18th, the Dow Jones industrial sector swept past 14,000 for the first time, following a rather tame inflation report that gave investors a reason – groping though it may be – to continue the Wall Street rally. The industrial sector, which is believed by many to be the stock market’s best-known indicator, rose as high as 14,021.95. In just 57 days of trading, the Dow rose from 13,000. However, it’s important to know that the broader markets closed the day on a mixed note. Are investors buying more on speculation rather than the fundamentals of the market? Will a drop in takeover deals – which drive the market – take the air out of investors’ willingness to take part in the market? And don’t forget that the very real gloom and doom of the subprime loans situation continues to cast a pall over the entire housing market – resales and new home starts. Analysts who specialize in the housing markets continue to predict a downward spiral in housing that will most likely last throughout not only the end of 2007, but continue through all of 2008; analysts are hopeful that the housing market will show signs of rebounding during 2009. The entire issue of subprime loans has been plaguing the banks and thrifts sector of the Dow for quite a few months now. Financial institutions are carrying their heaviest-ever burden of defaulted loans, bankruptcies and foreclosures, most of this burden due to bank policies on approving and giving mortgages to individuals with questionable credit ratings. It is expected that this spectre of defaulted mortgage will continue to haunt the financial sector as more and more homeowners are caught up in ARM’s which continue to come due, and which they cannot pay.
That having been said, while the media is making front page news over the Dow’s rise as of the close of business on July 17, 2007, things are still very tight in the overall economic center. The war in Iraq continues to drag on, sellers can’t find buyers for their homes, buyer who two or three years ago would have qualified for a mortgage no longer can, and Americans overall remain leery on making any sort of major purchases including boats, a second/vacation home, even automobiles. Economically, things still aren’t all that rosy in America.
So what’s on the horizon for women’s wear in the near future? The trend away from denim, especially jeans, and towards dresses continues. If anything, even during this summer, women are wearing flowing mini dresses over those dark denim jeans, pairing them with high heels. Solid colors are the hues for this fall: black, greys and browns in a wide variety of shades. The palette for the upcoming season includes colors such as olive, pumpkin, berry, coal, oatmeal, dark lime, chocolate and camel, and of course, black. Dresses continue to be ‘hot’ in a wider variety of styles, and nearly all of them with very short hemlines (mini dresses). Silk charmeuse is a very popular option, as well as smocked, empire-waisted, v-neck dresses in contrasting colors, short-sleeved scoop neck, three-quarter sleeved ponte knit, and even jumpers. The styles look, for the most part, as if Twiggy herself had just stepped into them. While most of the styles are single color, there are a number of dresses that have contrasting colors, again in darker shades. Since these are basically mini dresses in heavier-weight fabric, there’s a lot of opportunity to pair these styles over sleek, dark denim jeans and the ever-popular leggings, again in dark colors. (Solid black and solid gray are being touted as the ‘best look’.)
While the dresses themselves are basically simply cut and monochromatic, the options for shoes are both intriguing and expected. Ballet flats continue to be shown a lot on the runway, as are short boots with small heels, as well as the 3″ high heavier stilettos. These aren’t your normal stilettos; they have a rounded toe (as do this season’s ballet flats), and the high heels themselves are sturdier, with extra ‘padding’ on the outside front of the shoe. Think classic Chanel pumps, and you have the look. Even as designers such as Nine West, Franco Sarto, Jessica Simpson and Matisse are showing flats and small boots in black or gray, there is a dash of whimsy to the new styles. Some include suede contrasting-color side buttons on the ‘booties’, knotted textures, buckles in silver, gold and tweed; hardware brings more than a bit of sass to these shoes and brighten up the overall image.
Easy fitting knit tops continue to be a popular selection, especially tunics. If you’re going to add maybe one or two new items to your cold weather wardrobe, make sure that they’re tunic tops! Most of them are spandex blends, and fall to the lower hip (or even lower, in some cases.) Colors like berry, hunter green, black and flax are very popular, and can be dressed up with solid color slacks (and high heels), or down, by wearing the tops over good quality jeans. Seven by All Mankind continues to lead the way with the new darker-wash straight legged denim jeans. This is also, we are told, the year of the turtleneck. The turtlenecks are worn alone with jeans or slacks, or even cute pleated or straight skirts, with the hems tucked in. They are also being shown underneath vests and jackets as well. Mock turtleneck don’t appear to be as popular as the regular ones that fold over.
Another option to pair with tunic tops and turtlenecks are this season’s wide-legged pants. Yes, I know, many of us were praying that the wide-legged pant would never, ever make a comeback, but here they are. Buffalo Jeans is showing a very interesting selection of wide-legs, including pinstriped trousers in black or brown wool gabardine and tweeds. Here again, a higher heel or ‘bootie’ boot looks best paired with a wide-legged trouser. Denim jeans, again not quite so popular this year, are shown in dark indigo shades and straight-legged styles.
One way of dressing up this coming season’s sombre look is with the use of accessories. The two most popular handbag options are oversized clutches and structured satchels. The clutches are generally 12″X5″; Steve Madden is showing a gunmetal grey pleated clutch which is quite pretty, while Maxximum’s newest looks include a leopard faux fur clutch with bright metallic trim. Maxx NY came out with a leopard faux fur tote with black leather, which is quite sharp-looking. They are also showing bronze and silver metallic leather satchels as well. Another cute option are the patent leather satchels in a variety of colors. Some of the higher-end designers who make beautiful clutches and satchels include Kooba, Botkier, Siger Morrison. If you’re looking for something a little bit funkier in either style, check out what Betsey Johnson is showing in her handbag line. You can always count on Betsey to be a little on the wilder side.
Other fashion styles touted include big, wide bangles and belts and cropped jackets (with turtlenecks peeking out from under them). Via Spiga is showing a leopard print cotton polyester trench coat as well. (Faux leopard print, as you can tell, continues to make a big comeback, which started the middle of last year. Leopard print flats continue to be a popular fashion trend.) Large hoop earrings also add a bit of color and drama this season as well.
Mini, mini dresses, tunic tops that LOOK like mini dresses, dark denim jeans, a somber color palette, wide-legged trousers, efficiently structured handbags: all paint a picture of frugality intertwined with ‘safe’ looks with just a flash of the daring. Fall/winter women’s fashions are “safe” this year. You may spend as much – or as little – as you choose, and pretty nerly every item in the offerings this season are all ‘keepers’. They’re timeless, classic looks for the most part. No flashiness, no daring, just attractively designed, well cut items that you can keep in your wardrobe as long as you choose. More to the point: You’re not taking any risks with these fashions. It would appear that we’re still in a ‘hibernation’ period: womens’ fashions are safe, sensible and structured. Now, if we could only say the same thing about the American economy…