MARCH 2021

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Revival of Traditional Fashion in Economic Depressions

 Julia Duthie

Have you ever wanted to attend Catholic school solely for the uniforms? No? Just me… well luckily dress pants, little loafers and fitted blazers are becoming a grocery store look instead of a Dead Poets Society remake (๑˃̵ᴗ˂̵)و These items never truly go out of fashion but they do make strong reappearances in times of economic depressions, and with good reason, society clings to what they know. Throwing on a white dress shirt and some slacks feels comfy when the world is falling apart. 


The greatest example of funky innovative styles being created and then immediately extinguished, is the transition from the 1920s to the 1930s. Which was caused by the stock market crash and instigated the Great Depression. Before this incident, women were challenging fashion norms; they were finally freed of the La Belle Epoque corset and challenged the idea of what it really means to be a woman. No longer defined by their curves they took on the “garconne” look to resemble a boy (`ω´) With short hemlines and shorter hair that all began to change with the great depression. The 1930s silhouette was now at the natural waist and femininity has come back into play. More form fitted dresses, lighter makeup and soft curled hair was on the rise. The clothing quelled because no one could afford more than one dress, so it had to be appropriate for all activities. 


Day to night design is why this style continued into fashion during World War II. The “make do and mend” motto was introduced, and the people no longer had any funds to experiment. After the Great Depression and World War II, society began to be liberated in their fashion and political stance; after all,  free thought and expression can not grow in minds stuck in ‘survival mode’. The 1960s was the first era to bring on countless ranges of style while also bringing social change. Fashion is the reaction of history. Items on our body are directly linked to politics, social movements and overall feeling of society. 


Post-soviet fashion is another example of citizens reacting to a failing economy. Except when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they rebelled instead of holding onto what they know ᕦ(ò_óˇ) The black sheep of this theory that inspires people like Gosha Rubchinsky and A$AP Rocky. Though it does not conform, the feelings in this reaction are still the same. Poverty and unemployment were very prominent but finally, the Russian people have access to Western fashion. Before the collapse, the Soviet Union had many censorship laws. The official culture rejected any Western music, fashion and media. They did not receive imports of fashion and what they produced had to match the party’s views, which created a black market for western fashion. When the people were free to express themself, all styles were thrown at once and patched together with the little money they had. Creating “gopnik” street style of track suits, bright colours and athletic leisure. Similar to your quite religious friend that moves away to college and becomes a baddie (¬‿¬)


Both the West and the Soviet Union’s reactions share another interesting similarity. These fashion movements, created by the people, were then influencing the top luxury designers. This is known as the trickle-up theory. It's a little mischievous because the people that created these trends out of pure poverty are now completely inaccessible to them. This is an issue still prevalent to this day. 


Though classic styles have always been the foundation of every wardrobe, it's easier to bring them to light. In the fashion cycle, it typically takes a full year from when designs hit the runway to the styles appearing in stores such as ASOS. Gucci debuted their sweater vest look (image 1) in the Fall/Winter 20/21 Collection and it has influenced the entire market (If you have not seen this show I highly recommend, it is my personal favourite of the whole season ʚ♡ɞ ). And the more popular non buttoned style (image 2) shown in Dior's collection of the same season displays the wearability in the look. With the help of thrifting and depop, obtaining this look was quicker than the runway show itself. Since these designs already exist, they now have a second life with modern styling. 


When purchasing luxury items, every parent or person who’s purchased a Supreme fanny pack, will suggest investing in the more muted styles than the latest obsession. The Burberry trench coat may come off as bland but with the coat’s timeless silhouette and quality construction, it may last until the end of capitalism. Our society has been riddled with mass consumerism; after all, every purchase, new item and order brings addicting serotonin boosts. Entertainment was the leading industry in the 1930s despite the depression, people seeked escapism. Hunting for immediate small doses of happiness has become the norm and can almost be more accessible than investing in a quality piece. But occasionally, having a design that lasts, can be more sustainable and economical in the long run. Being money conscious may be the only option in today's climate ( ◞‸◟`) 


History tends to repeat itself, so it's important to recognize the patterns now. Looking to the past prepares society for the future. So stock up on some essentials, because there are few certainties in life, but these clothing pieces come very close ˖◛⁺⑅♡




  • Used for paragraph 5

    • “For us, looking like a gopnik is not really a desirable or fashionable thing. Instead, it carries the connotation of alcoholism, joblessness, and criminal activity that increased shortly after the official collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991” 


  • Used for paragraph 5

    • “on December 8, 1991, in Minsk, Belarus, declared that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist”


  • Used for paragraph 5

    • “The collapse of the USSR in 1991 resulted in the flooding of the consumer market with imported American and European designer clothing”