Friday, September 17, 2010

The WWPD Guide: Trend Anticipation

This is the new look, and it's time to get used to it.

This is, by the way, a shot of the same woman (same day, presumably) as the Sartorialist photographed to illustrate the difference between fashion and style - the photo was meant to exemplify the latter. An outfit the Sartorialist perceived as a rejection of the trend cycle I (along with, apparently, Refinery29) read somewhat differently. What I find compelling about the get-up - aside from that I'm delighted that wide-leg jeans and floppy hats are so-very-now - is how it illustrates the principals of trend anticipation: the look is current because of its one-by-one rejection of that-which-has-been-so-very-now-for-just-a-bit-too-long.

Examples: Dark, skinny jeans have been every woman's default? Trade 'em in for pale-blue flares. Wayfarers have become synonymous with sunglasses? Go for giant round frames. Fedoras and porkpie hats have been the it accessory since Agyness Deyn and the rest of Williamsburg declared them so? The time for wide-rimmed has arrived. It-bags with studded black leather give way to a brown clutch. As for the blouse, nothing remotely silky-'70s has been fashionable since I can remember, which is to say since the mid-'90s. This woman is so unfashionable that she is, in fact, ultra-fashionable. Thus the Refinery29 post on how to use the outfit as inspiration for how to rock the current trends. Thus the overlap between the outfit in question and what are, as of five minutes ago, the current trends.

In other words, by picking the opposite of a bunch of fashionable styles, this woman has created a look that gives the impression of having staying power, which is what the Sartorialist picks up on. And it probably will look "now" for quite some time. Trend anticipation is not frugal in the same way as, say, not giving a crap and only wearing Old Navy basics bought around the time that chain first appeared. But skinny jeans or leggings-as-pants were a better "investment" (or, more accurately, a better buy) five years ago than they are this afternoon.

This is the moment, I think, for me to clarify what I meant in terms of fashion, in fashion, things looking dated, and so forth. I'm not talking about that which only fashion-types notice, both because that's not the point and because (even though, fair enough, I read some fashion blogs, and neither Paris nor NYC is representative of how much The Average Person cares about clothes... with some exceptions) I wouldn't be qualified to do so. I'm not talking about trendiness, aka fads, aka the things in H&M all but the most daring/fashion-victimy of us pass by on our way to low-priced basics. I'm referring to the changes in silhouette, both of individual items (boots, pumps, pants, jackets, etc.) and of whole outfits, that can mark a wearer as looking of a different era, or of the one in which she lives.

Most of us - not all, dear contrarian commenters, but most, and with the caveat that it's entirely possible that 99% of men, yes including gay men, don't much care about clothes and I'm conflating "humanity" with "women," "women" with "women in NY," "women in NY" with "yours truly" - do want to look at least vaguely current. Attractive, individual, appropriate, or subculture-specific as well, perhaps, but also of-this-age. Thus the "timeless" marketing idea in the first place - if it wasn't a problem, in the eyes of many consumers, to look dated, there'd be no need to shop for "classics." We could all just buy well-constructed jeggings and wear those for years. But once we admit to ourselves that we'd rather look "now" than "five years ago," the best way to approach buying new clothes - or choosing which old ones to bring back into the mix - is to embrace the opposite of all current silhouettes. Predicting specific trends, aka fads (horizontal-stripe shirts, knock-offs of Chanel's newest nail polish colors, hipster-Victorian-artisan) is futile, but also irrelevant to this post. Meanwhile, getting the overall outline right is very doable. It is, at any rate, something I did unconsciously for years, until trying to figure out why, despite not being particularly well-dressed/stylish/fashionable/glamorous/you-get-the-idea, I often find myself ahead of trends.

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