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14-12-2005
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Trend Theory
I find trend analysis really fascinating. I'm obsessed with the idea that there are patterns to trends, and perhaps even a loose kind of "laws of fashion" that trend development follows. We all know that fashion is not physics and follows no "laws of", but still I think that there are patterns out there that can help us predict what's coming down the line.


I myself often apply my own "evolution/revolution" trend theory. It goes like this:

1. Trend Initiation. New trends reject whatever came before. (Revolution) They tend to start loose and unstructured, and adopted only by those who are extreme, radical, or outside the mainstream.

2. Trend becomes Fashion. As the trend grows it inspires fashion designers and young people first. It begins a process of formalization and stiffening relative to the original trend. (Evolution)

3. Trend Reaches Physical Limits. The initial reaction of the extreme early adopters is to push the trend to it's extreme physical limits in order to continue being outside the mainstream. (Evolution)

4. Trend becomes Mainstream. Eventually even the extreme styles are acceptable to the mainstream. The trend is seen everywhere and seems more and more "ubiquitous". At this point it can become to be the kind of trend that "defines an era", if it is large enough. (Evolution)

5. Trend Rejection. At this point the cutting edge realize that they now look just like everyone else. This is when the trendy reject the trend. (Revolution). They usually choose a new trend that is very distant/opposite to the new mainstream, even affecting the original styles that were rejected in the first place.

6. The cycle starts again.


It was the high-waisted pants thread that inspired me to start this thread. It's interesting to see how ingrained a trend becomes when it is the mainstream, and the feelings of rejection.

My theory applied to Jeans waistbands over the past 15 years or so.

1. Trend Initiation - In prison, prisoners aren't allowed to have belts. This inspires the gangster/hip hop culture to allow their jeans to drop to their hip-bones to enhance "street cred". It's seen as sexy and dangerous.

2. Trend becomes Fashion. The low waist is adopted by grungers and ravers. The style at this point is still very loose. Fashion designers begin to show the low waist... most notably McQueen's Bumster pants. Denim companies respond, so early adopters don't have to rely on second-hand or oversized garments.

3. Trend reaches Physical Limits. The hip-hoppers' waistbands drop below the bum and approach the knee. In women's pants, there is competition amongst denim manufacturers to produce lower and lower rises - 7", 6", 5", 4", I've even read about three inch. At this point the trend can't go any further without displaying hoo-ha, and plumbers crack becomes excessively common. Legislators threaten laws regulating jeans rise. Health authorities warn of the dangers of low-rise jeans.

4. Trend becomes Mainstream. Almost all of the jeans available now are hip-huggers. Even your mom wears them, and so are younger and younger children. If you want high-waisted jeans you have to go to the thrift store or raid your mom's old disco clothes.

5. Trend Rejection. Lately I'm just sick of seeing hip-bones and underpants. Other fashion-watchers notice this gut reaction as well and are beginning to adopt pants at the natural waist. The look feels fresh and exciting. I smell a new silhouette coming down the pipe.

So that's my fave theory... if you guys have any trend theories I'd be really interested!

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14-12-2005
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evolution/revolution theory applied to french revolution/directory/empire period.

1. Trend Initiation. Early adopters begin to be inspired by "the english look", implying more ease and "democracy" as opposed to the high Rococo of court costume. Classicism and rationality are adopted by newly fashionable artists, as a response to the exaggerated embellishment and affected prettiness of rococo.

2. Trend becomes Fashion. Marie Antoinette is painted by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in a muslin "milkmaid" costume. The painting causes an uproar and has to be removed from exhibition. Still, the idea of comfort and simplicity are influencing both men's and women's costume. The english cut "redingote" has now mostly replaced the old french-cut frock coat as everyday dress for men.

3. Trend reaches Physical limits. During the revolutionary period, fashion intensely rejects what came before. A surprising trend for "nudity" inspired by greek and roman classicism invades fashion. Legs and breasts are visible through thin muslin dresses. Corsetry and artifice are rejected as the waist rises to just below the breasts. Working class clothing beyond even the "democratic" English fashions influence menswear - loose trousers are adopted by the middle and upper classes for the first time. Appearing too clean can arouse suspicion and even execution.

4. Trend becomes mainstream. The new silhouette is defined by the "empire waist", but the flowing dresses become more structured with padded hems and embroidery and new types of corsets. Neoclassicism is the defining art style of the period. In menswear, all "aristocratic" pretensions are rejected, even by Napoleon, in favour of clothing that emphasizes that men are serious and above the cares of fashion.

5. Trend is Rejected. The cold rationality of classicism fails to inspire a new generation of "romantics", who return the waist to it's natural position and adopt fuller skirts and sleeves and a softer, emotional style of art and music.

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14-12-2005
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this is really interesting..and so abstract..

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14-12-2005
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thats interesting though I think there are a few points that i would disagree with. First of all, I wouldn't say that a trend inspires 'fashion designers and young people first'. The way i am familiar with is the market being broke down into 4 distinct groups...It's the Adoption Theory by Rogers that I'm referring to with the Innovators being the first people to accept new fashion or create it which is a very small percentage of the population. Also I understand your point regarding physical limits but I would say more like extremes than physical limits, there are a lot thing that have evolved or been rejected not because of a physical extreme but just from excessive exaggeration. Thanks for posting

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meg
It's the Adoption Theory by Rogers that I'm referring to with the Innovators being the first people to accept new fashion or create it which is a very small percentage of the population.
I'm not familiar with the Rogers Theory, could you explain?

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14-12-2005
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basically Rogers developed the Adoption Theory which regards the speed at which we accept new ideas. It breaks the public down into 5 groups. The Innovators who are at the forefront and accept new trends/fashion the quickest and are the smallest percentage of the population.

The second group is the Early adoptors who make up 13.5% of the population and are generally well-informed about all various things in life and are generally more cosmopolitan and are opinion leaders.

The third group is the early majority which the name is fairly despcritive is when the trend starts to go mainstream. This is 34% of the population.

The Late majority is the 4th group and they also make up 34% of the population but a trend must be well established for them to adopt it.

The fifth and final group is the Laggards who make up 16% of the population. Generally they buy clothing functionally and are not that interested in fashion and suspicious of change within it.

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That's really interesting, thanks Meg

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I can't help but wonder how one would seperate these groups to a half a percentile... my theory isn't very scientific, and I have a hard time taking scientific attitudes towards such a subjective phenomena seriously. But still the breakdown is interesting.

Meg, you say "I wouldn't say that a trend inspires 'fashion designers and young people first", but the Rogers breakdown doesn't go so far to explain who the early adopters are. My saying "young people and fashion designers" as a broad stroke, and what I'm trying to do is describe the transition from a phenomena that may not have much to do with fashion into the development of a "fashion trend".

I think what might start as a kind of tribal mark amongst a subculture doesn't become a trend until it starts influencing people outside of the subculture. My gut feeling is that fashion designers and artists have their feelers out for burgeoning happenings within subcultures, and that young people are more responsive to new ideas and influences than older people. So that's why I described the early adoption scenario in that way.

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14-12-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finalfashion
I can't help but wonder how one would seperate these groups to a half a percentile... my theory isn't very scientific, and I have a hard time taking scientific attitudes towards such a subjective phenomena seriously. But still the breakdown is interesting.

Meg, you say "I wouldn't say that a trend inspires 'fashion designers and young people first", but the Rogers breakdown doesn't go so far to explain who the early adopters are. My saying "young people and fashion designers" as a broad stroke, and what I'm trying to do is describe the transition from a phenomena that may not have much to do with fashion into the development of a "fashion trend".

I think what might start as a kind of tribal mark amongst a subculture doesn't become a trend until it starts influencing people outside of the subculture. My gut feeling is that fashion designers and artists have their feelers out for burgeoning happenings within subcultures, and that young people are more responsive to new ideas and influences than older people. So that's why I described the early adoption scenario in that way.
This is taught in pretty much every Marketing 101 course (not to take away the importance of Meg's post, all respect due ). Rogers theory is about a new product in general, not about fashion. So the early adapters of Plasma TVs are people with a lot of money to burn, or tech freaks. The early adapters in fashion might very well be the young people and the fashion designers.

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Anne Hollander is a fashion historian, trend analyst, and seemingly a god for all fashion nerds.

There's not too much on the internets...

She's quoted in this article from 2003.

a blog about a review she wrote about a book in 2003

An article she wrote about the big shoe trend in 1996 - remember that?

“If you always buy Brooks Brothers button-down shirts whenever you do buy shirts, if your income permits it, you will be associated with everyone else who does the same, whether that is what you intend or not… Going once a year to Brooks Brothers usually indicates that in order to keep shopping easy and safe you associate yourself with other safe, conservative Brooks Brothers shirt wearers and, further, that you do not wish to avoid being associated with them.”
- Anne Hollander
Quoted in this review of Virginia Postrel's book

An article from 1997 about bras.

I really want to read her book Sex and Suits... sounds terrific. She writes about trend theory stuff.

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Last edited by finalfashion; 14-12-2005 at 05:11 PM.
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Some other trend theories are pretty abstract. The "20 year rule" and so on. I don't believe these things are cyclical in a steady way.

It's interesting to recall the big shoes that happened about 10 years ago. We all had the tackiest shoes in high school. But at the time we thought we so cool. Small shoes were just... no way. Remember that the converse sneakers seemed so wimpy? Little ballet flats were just too eighties? I had platform sandals and platform mary janes... and I wasn't even that fashionable in high school. I wouldn't be caught dead in platforms now. My goth and punk friends are still into it... because they were with it all along. We got inspired from them, and Michael Jordan, and strippers, I guess.

I wouldn't ever wear platforms now.

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Last edited by finalfashion; 14-12-2005 at 05:26 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meg
Also I understand your point regarding physical limits but I would say more like extremes than physical limits, there are a lot thing that have evolved or been rejected not because of a physical extreme but just from excessive exaggeration. Thanks for posting
I've been thinking about this. It seems to me that there are physical limits to fashion. Waists can only be so constricted, sleeves only get so large until they collapse, collars only get so large until they obscure vision, waistbands can only drop so far until walking is impossible. To clarify I'm talking about what people have actually worn, not some modern designer runway fantasy. These days most people prize the ability to see and walk
(except for some exceptions) In the modern sense we don't go as far as fashion did historically, because the concept of "comfort" is a relatively new trend in fashion. Fashion is limited by the tolerances of the human body, and society.

And to continue along the example of big shoes... how much higher could the Spice Girl's shoes get until they resembled elephants? If Naomi Campbell falls off 8" heels... and for my friends in platforms winter is treacherous... how much further would they be able to go before they no longer qualify as fashion? 12"? 20"? Like Elton John wore in Tommy?

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Last edited by finalfashion; 14-12-2005 at 06:56 PM.
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Are these shoes?


www2.latech.edu

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15-12-2005
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ah thanks for clarifying faust. I've only ever learned that in a fashion context but it makes sense that it's universal. To me though, it usually isn't young people who are the innovators.....it's such a small percentage of the population...i would say young people are more likely to be the early adaptors....once things begin in small quantities to hit the high street. I'm not sure I can identify who they are but.......

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I agree with you Meg... in the evolution/revolution theory I've posited the trend initiation starts outside the fashion melee... wheter with a subculture, or avant garde artists, or whatever it is that sparks the trend. The early adapters, in other words, are a different group from the trend initiators in my mind. Trend initiators vary widely according to the trend.

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