Why Do Fashion Trends Come Back?
“I can’t believe butterfly hair clips and neon scrunchies are back in style!” “I used to wear flare jeans in the ‘70s!” “I never thought I’d see Crocs come back into fashion!”
You’ve probably heard or said something like this before. Maybe your parents’ generation said it when you were wearing something trendy, or maybe you’ve said this to your friends when you see the next generation sporting your favorite ‘70s, ‘90s, or early 2000s looks. For me, I’ve been surprised by how low jeans and brightly colored scrunchies are back with the resurgence of Y2K fashion! But, at the same time, I’m not too surprised because fashion trends are almost always on repeat.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why do fashion trends come back?” then keep reading this article. We’ll share the scoop on why most fashion trends are cyclical and what you can do to predict and invest in the most timeless of trends.
What is a fashion “trend?”
A fashion “trend” refers to a particular style of clothing or accessories that is ultra-popular for a period of time but then generally fades out of fashion. A particular trend can refer to a silhouette, a color, a pattern, an item, a neckline, a hemline, a “rise,” an accessory, etc.
Let’s look at jeans as an example. Think about how many different “trends” there can be with just jeans alone:
- The denim wash, like light wash jeans could be trending
- The rise, like low rise was trending in the early 2000s before high rise came back in fashion
- The cut, like how skinny jeans are now out of fashion in favor of straight-leg or wide leg
- The length, like how cropped jeans are hot for spring 2022 while extra-long jeans were trending a few years ago
- Extra embellishments, like rips, rough hems, added designs, lots of pockets, etc.
There are usually lots of trends going on at once, from different colors to different styles – and they come in and out of style at their own pace… so how do you keep up?
5 stages of a trend
That’s where the stages of a fashion trend come onto the stage (or, more fittingly, the runway). According to an article related to Diane Von Furstenberg’s Masterclass, there are five stages of a fashion trend: introduction, increase, peak, decline, and obsolescence. We’ll quickly sum these up below.
1. Introduction of a fashion trend
In this first phase, the new style enters the fashion world. It might be an entirely new look, or it might be an “old” style coming back in a fresh way. Typically, we’ll see the introduction come through with designer shows, fashion merchandisers, textile manufacturers, and marketers. It may also pop up in celebrity outfits, particularly among celebrities that are esteemed for their fashion choices. At this point, this particular style is exclusive and only available in a handful of designers or retailers, often at a high price.
2. Increase in trendiness
The second phase is when the new style starts gaining momentum in the fashion world, making it a “trend.” The popularity of a trend typically starts to increase when influencers adopt it and show it off. That’s why social media has had such a profound impact on the rise of new trends: influencers and icons who are pushing these trends have constant, ongoing interaction with their followers. Now, more and more retail stores start showing this trend as the demand increases.
3. Peak popularity
This is when the trend is at its height of popularity. Lots of everyday consumers are wearing the trend, and it’s made its way into mass production at a variety of price points. Often, this means you’ll see this trend everywhere in fast fashion stores in particular.
4. Decline in popularity
The trend has now become so popular that it’s oversaturated in the market. Consumers who want to feel chic and trendy start to move away from that particular trend because it’s now considered too “mainstream.”
5. Obsolescence of the trend
The decline in the trend continues until the style is considered completely unfashionable and outdated. That trend is now rejected by the fashion world, and consumers have already moved on to newer trends that are in the intro and increase phases.
That’s what the Masterclass article spoke about, but we’d like to add a sixth stage…
6. Reintroduction of the trend
You’re probably a part of the first five stages without even realizing it. You see a trend you like on your favorite celebrity, on a designer’s runway, or in a store. So, you start wearing it yourself, and then you’re “on-trend.” But it’s this sixth stage of reintroduction or resurrection of fashion that is particularly interesting.
Fashion is cyclical by nature. Almost all rejected or obsolete trends will make their way back into the cycle at some point. There are very few “new” trends that hit the scenes nowadays. Rather, our runways are in a constant state of repetition and resurrection, renewing old fashions in modernized ways.
Why do so many styles that were once considered old-fashioned and outdated find their way back into trending fashion? There are a few theories and reasons as to why styles always seem to cycle back around. We’ll go through a few of the more prevalent ones (and our favorites) below.
Theory 1: We’re influenced by our parents’ closets.
For some of us, it might be hard to admit that our parents’ fashions are what we end up thinking as trendy in our own adulthood– but it happens more often than you might think. It seems that most core trends repeat every 20 to 30 years (a concept often called the “20-Year Rule”). This 20-year timeline could be that designers consciously or subconsciously take inspiration from the styles their parents wore. are taking inspiration due to “generational changes, as well as designers taking inspiration from styles their parents wore in order to create modern clothing and trends.
Maybe you remember sneaking into your mom’s closet to steal her kitten heels or midi chiffon skirt. Or maybe you remember idolizing older female role models and the fashions they wore. We are subconsciously influenced by what our parents and role models wore when we were younger.
The most recent example of this is happening right now in 2022 with the resurgence of Y2K fashion, which was almost exactly 20 years ago. We’re seeing a lot of today’s teens adopting bright colors, fun patterns, butterfly clips, and even low-rise jeans. Beyond that, the styles from the early 2000s aren’t that different from the 1980s (20 years earlier). Neon colors, big hair, spandex, and ripped jeans were all common in the ‘80s, just as they were in the early 2000s and now in the early 2020s.
Psst… The popularity of Y2K fashion nowadays is likely both a product of the 20-year rule and a way for fashionistas to regain a sense of fun in fashion following the pandemic lockdowns.
Theory 2: Trends cycle every half-century.
Another theory comes from James Laver and was utilized by Stanley Marcus to stock Neiman Marcus in the late ‘60s. This theory says that the 20-year rule is too short, and fashion cycles instead are closer to 50 years. He says that trends in the introduction phase are “daring.” Those in the increase and peak phases are “smart.” And they are considered “ridiculous” by the time they go obsolete and for the following 20 years. Laver claims that it takes 50 years to see a resurgence of a style not just in fashion but in all creative areas like design, art, architecture, and music.
This is an interesting thought because it’s also believed that major political movements also exist in a 50-year cycle. For example, shoulder pads became popular in the 1930s when women first began working outside the home during World War II. Shoulder pads, a symbol of strength and endurance for women, lost fashion again until the ‘80s when women began to fight for their voice economically and politically (and particularly in the working world). Shoulder pads once again lost favor until recent years when more and more women are entering the political and business sphere than ever before, and we’re now seeing mild shoulder pads hitting the runways in recent seasons.
I tend to fall somewhere in between the 20-year and 50-year mark. I think basic ideas tend to show up every 20 years, like high-rise versus low-rise pants, but more intricate or untraditional trends like shoulder pads take a longer time to recycle. What do you think?
Theory 3: Economic changes impact fashion.
George Taylor’s “Hemline Theory” discussed how fashion changes based on the economy. For example, in the roaring ‘20s, women started wearing shorter skirts and dresses to show off their elegant and fashionable silk stockings. Fur coats, jewels, and sparkles were all the rage. With the Great Depression, hemlines dropped back down since silks were no longer in-fashion or affordable. Furs, sequins, and glitters too felt ridiculous during such scant times. It wasn’t until the economy started thriving again long after the Depression that glitzier fashion came back on the scene.
We saw this theory in action during the economic fluctuations idue to the pandemic. Interestingly, though, we didn’t see people stop wearing high-quality goods. In fact, it was just the opposite! More and more people began buying high-quality, timeless pieces that they will wear for years to come. The idea of a capsule wardrobe filled with classic items became the new big fashion movement, emphasizing a push towards sustainable fashion rather than fast fashion. People stopped caring as much about trends and started caring more about the longevity of their clothes (and wallets). There was also a strong push toward unlocking a personal sense of style that brings about happiness and self-expression.
We’re entering an era of individualism.
Fashion has always been about expression. People wear trends because they want to be fashion-forward but also because those trends speak to their sense of style.
However, for the first time in history, individualism is the hottest trend right now. The ‘70s and ‘80s were periods of expression, but even then if you wore a poodle skirt, you’d be looked at as conservative and old-fashioned. Now, although poodle skirts aren’t necessarily trendy, if you wear a poodle skirt, others will think you like sporting a vintage style and they’ll praise you for your uniqueness! You can completely curate your style to suit your vibe, and others will applaud you for it. What I’m loving about 2022 is that what’s hot in fashion is whatever makes you happy to wear.
TikTokers are changing the fashion industry.
But that’s not to say there aren’t trends in 2022. Quite the contrary, we’re constantly being bombarded with messaging about fashion trends thanks to social media.
TikTok, in particular, has brought an influx of more micro-influencers in a variety of spheres. We see not just mainstream fashion icons like celebrities, but we’re also seeing micro-influencers in different industries and with different hobbies and interests. Every aesthetic, vibe, and style – no matter how niche – can find an influencer or two who’s making TikTok content. This is creating a beautiful blend of conventional trends alongside a burst of individualism. This platform is also accelerating the rate at which trends rise, fall, and recycle.
With more fashion influencers on the scene, we’re likely to see a future filled with a greater array of trends and styles as well as a faster reintroduction process of old trends as the lines between generational outfits are blurring.
Tik Tok thrifting
One of the most viral forms of TikTok content is thrift hauling and consignment finds. There are thousands of TikTokers who have turned to secondhand stores to find unique, vintage pieces that are higher quality than what you can buy from box stores. And they help you save money! Thanks to TikTok opening the doors to different ways of dressing and purchasing, we’re seeing an influx of women getting in on the fun of purchasing preloved goods.
Shopping secondhand is a great way to put an end to fast fashion and promote sustainable fashion, and sustainability has become a particularly hot topic for consumers in recent years. But shopping secondhand is also the perfect way to get your hands on both timeless pieces and trends that are endlessly cyclical. More and more people are seeing the beauty in and benefits of buying secondhand, particularly when trying to curate their own style through a blend of lots of different trends and eras. You can have flower power flare jeans from the ‘70s, a ‘90s neon tee, and kitten heels from the ‘50s. Or you can buy a classic dress you were eyeing a few seasons ago today at a major discount than what it was being sold for.
If you want to try out “new” trends, chances are those trends were also hot 10 to 50 years ago. That means that you can be trending while still shopping for and wearing preloved goods. You might be able to find some stunning vintage or preloved pieces on sale that are high-quality, authentic, and timelessly trendy!
Why do fashion trends come back?
Some items are timeless, like a little black dress or a white button-down blouse, while others come in and out of fashion with the season, like ripped jeans or neon tank tops. Fashion trends are cyclical because we are constantly being influenced by the fashions before us, nostalgia for eras past, the economy, social media, and so much more.
But ultimately, what you buy for your closet should reflect your style, what you like to wear, and what you feel most beautiful in. Whether it’s a timeless classic or a trendy piece, the best way to find high-quality items is by shopping consignment stores for designers.
Not convinced yet? You will be once you start browsing our site! Start shopping our Trends collection on Current Boutique to find your next favorite trendy, preloved piece for your wardrobe!