Skip to main content

Women’s Fashion Is Heading in Four New Directions

The next 18 months of fashion will be shaped by the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on consumers’ health, emotions, lifestyles and wallets. But designers have an opportunity to create a feeling of renewal through clothes.

Last week, as part of its “Fear into Fuel” webinar series, Fashion Snoops vice president/creative director of women’s wear Melissa Moylan and Jenna Guarascio, director of content strategy, discussed the impact of the coronavirus on product shifts for the women’s market.

“The best ideas are born on the edge of uncertainty,” Moylan said.

With the desire to connect and explore running high, and consumers yearning for inner peace, the trend forecasting firm says fashion will take several new directions for what will become the new normal.

Here’s a closer look at four of those shifts.

Emotional Maximalism

Emotional Maximalism signals a transition away from peacocking for social media to bright and bold fashion that solicits an uplifting, emotional reaction by the wearer. “This is less about wearing something for the sake of someone else, and much more about bringing joy to yourself,” Moylan said.

This shift in fashion is driven by an overall acceptance of indulgences. Studies, Guarascio said, have shown that being able to indulge in things that make us happy and calm—be it a Netflix binge session or an extra cookie—reduce stress. Meanwhile, the evolution of tactile therapy is translating to fashion that makes the wearer feel enveloped, hugged and secure.

Related Story

As a result, Moylan said fashion with surface interest like ruffles, long fringe or feathers is picking up momentum and will continue to do so in the next 18 months as consumers can engage and touch these decorative and playful details.

Valentino Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock

Electrically charged color is an instant mood lifter, too, and increasingly an influential factor in consumers’ purchases. “We’re seeing the use of color in such a major way that it’s the driving force behind the product—the product almost becomes secondary at that point,” she said.

And volume is on track to gain importance. In a post-coronavirus world, Moylan said she expects consumers will shift to the polar opposite of what they’re currently wearing. Instead of loungewear, women will be reaching for statement pieces like puffed-sleeve blouses and tiered dresses. Though this doesn’t mean women will be wearing ball gowns, there will be a renewed focus on individuality and self-expression.

Prepared Essentialism

There’s a shift in women’s fashion toward products that have purpose and functionality—a step away from the throwaway culture that has plagued the industry for years. In Prepared Essentialism, Fashion Snoops focuses on what consumers need to feel safe.

“We’re looking at preparedness as the antidote to anxiety, so looking at utility and functionality being really important as well as materials and overall design that’s going to last longer,” Guarascio said.

Adaptive design, not only for the sake of inclusivity, but that can adapt to different climates, lifestyles and outside factors, is driving this shift. Innovations born out of necessity will become more important than ever, Guarascio said, as people are worried about the future.

And with consumers making more considered purchases, performance attributes inspired by the outdoor sector will become a focus for lifestyle brands. The category, she said, is already influencing ready-to-wear from a design and aesthetic perspective.

Isabel Marant
Isabel Marant WWD/Shutterstock

This theme will be played out in women’s fashion through utility details like harnesses, buckles, zippers, drawstring closures and huge pockets, as well as constructions that are cozy and cocooned. Textural shearling and high-pile materials are key for outerwear in the coming seasons, while knits—be it oversized sweaters or long dresses—work for everyday use.

“I think what’s interesting here is that we’re seeing a contrast of either something that looks almost combatant, that is derived from that utility notion, or something that we want to feel very comforted in and very safe,” Moylan said.

Vacation Aspiration

Before COVID-19, women’s wear was shifting towards products that were intended for vacation and designs that could actually inspire consumers to book a trip.

This yearning for experiential escapism, Guarascio said, is in part born out of overworked employees burning out. Vacation as a wellness solution allows people to step out of their own surroundings, find themselves and create experiences that get them out of the office. “That’s what’s driving this desire for vacation,” she said.

And Instagram and influencers gallivanting in beautiful locations are nudging people to make their vacation dreams a reality. “In the case of influencers, they’re never wearing the same outfit twice, always wearing something different but always wearing something that aligns with wherever they currently are,” Guarascio said. “And when you bring it all together, there’s this really deep desire to go on vacation or even just wear things that make you feel like you’re in those beautiful tropical places.”

Missoni WWD/Shutterstock

Expect to see this feeling grow as people are cooped up at home and separated from one another, especially in fashion. Beach-to-street styling, bold print that give a notion of a faraway land and knotted details inspired by swimwear are pushing forward, Moylan said.

Vacation knits are also a classification, she added, that retailers and brands should watch. “We’re looking at spring/summer knits that [are] a little transparent with layering capabilities,” she said.

Vacation Aspiration, she added, does not require huge silhouette shifts. Long, languid silhouettes like maxi dresses evoke a vacation spirit, but can be updated with more voluminous skirts. Playsuits and rompers offer an easy summer alternative to shorts. Wrap tops and dresses capture that same effortless feel, while high-waisted shorts—be it jean shorts or Bermuda shorts—add a nostalgic vibe.

Nostalgic Minimalism

Pangs of nostalgia feels stronger during this era of social distancing and quarantine.

“More than ever, we’re really going to be looking at the past through rose-colored glasses,” Guarascio said. This mood will shift women’s wear into a new kind of nostalgia that speaks to consumers’ need for something that is beautiful and good, she added.

In Nostalgic Minimalism, Fashion Snoops examines how fashion is being influenced by consumers’ desire to find inner peace through meditation, yoga and tactile therapy. This shift, she added, looks at how the ordinary is actually extraordinary.

Chloe Shutterstock

Nostalgic Minimalism essentially serves as the building blocks for a wardrobe. The midi silhouette will continue to trend and evolve into the pencil skirt, Moylan said. A well-tailored blazer adds instant sophistication to an outfit. And classic trench coats are updated with mixed materials or a pattern—something that gives it an edge.

The theme comes to life in fashion through items like the shirt jacket, which Moylan said is making a comeback with a boxy shape, color blocking and retro floral lining, and soft suiting with wide leg bottoms.

“These are items that are going to hang in your wardrobe for a long time,” she said.