Fashion has always been influenced by current events. The invention of the bicycle, for example, brought new corsets and shorter hem lengths for women. World War I brought simpler, lighter, less restrictive garments for women with restrictions on color dyes and fabric, as well as the creation of the trench coat for men. Restrictions during World War II resulted in even shorter hem lengths and a more masculine silhouette for women as they began taking on traditionally masculine roles. In more recent times, the 2008 recession led to subdued, logoless garments as the outward appearance of being rich became stigmatized. The fashions of current times are no different: the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced and changed fashion on a large-scale.
Protection has been put on the forefront of the mind with the rampant spread of the coronavirus. With face masks becoming such a vital and prevalent part of everyday life, many people have turned them into fashion statements. Some people make their own, and various brands have created their own designs. Increased awareness of bacteria and microbes also led to some brands focusing accessories and, in some cases, entire lines on having antimicrobial properties. Protective fashion also presented itself in more aesthetically inclined ways with some high-fashion designers, such as Kenzo who created looks that covered models entirely.
The shift from working in person to working from home and high unemployment rates have led to an emphasis being placed on comfort rather than style. Loungewear and house dresses saw a massive increase in popularity. Zoom calls and other online forms of communication replaced face-to-face interaction. As we are only visible from the waist up in most video calls, sweatpants also saw an increase in popularity.
Fashion has also been used to make powerful statements, particularly in recent months and years. Protesters for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter advocates wore “I can’t breathe”clothing to symbolize years of oppression and to advocate for justice. The election led to clothing items and accessories with the word “vote” on them spiking in popularity. Those that wore such apparel attempted to encourage others to do their duty as a US citizen by voting in the election. Many also wore hot pink power suits to encourage others to vote. Workwear brand Argent and advocacy group Supermajority encouraged women to exercise their voting right by using pink to show strength and female solidarity.
While demands for sustainable clothing are not new, the rise in shopping as a result of the pandemic led to more people becoming concerned with the sustainability of the brands they purchased from. Vegan leather saw an increase in searches, and locally made garments became popular as the impacts of a large carbon footprint were considered.
With in-person interaction becoming very limited, fashion also became digital. Various fashion weeks occurred entirely online, being filmed and then sent out on different social media platforms, and designers using creative methods to display their pieces. Burberry streamed its shows during London Fashion Week on Twitch, and Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott used marionettes to display a mini version of his collection in Milan. E-commerce also grew in popularity in the fashion world. The fashion industry had resisted digitalization, as it came with the price of the loss of physical experiences, such as artful stores and attendance at exclusive fashion shows. However, the pandemic led to a shift in this attitude, and e-commerce was wholeheartedly embraced as a way to keep the fashion industry alive.
The influence of current events on fashion have only increased in these unprecedented times, and it will be interesting to see how our new values and experiences will shape fashion for years to come.