This season, the most popular clothing for young adults is also the most modest. After more than a decade of enduring skinny jeans and shirts as tight as second skins, young people are seeking out cargo and harem pants, baggy Ts, and oversized puffer jackets. Fashion icons like Billie Eilish are rocking voluminous clothes and shutting down body-shamers who (in Eilish’s words) can’t “have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.” Being comfortable is at long last “in.”
Two other trends are pushing teens to modest dress. The first is that the fashion industry finally recognizes the huge target market of women who wear modest attire due to religious convictions, particularly Muslim or Orthodox Jewish. Last week, TheWall Street Journal profiled Iowa teen Ugbad Abdi, a Somali-born Muslim who wears a hijab and has been crowned “fashion’s newest It Girl.” Vogue UK estimates Muslim modest fashion as a $44 billion market worldwide, fueled by a fast-growing, young-skewing population that’s all over social media.
The second trend toward more modest attire is the rise of the VSCO Girl. VSCO (pronounced “visco”) is an Instagram-like app for photo editing and sharing, and according to Slate, its archetypal user is a teenage girl who wears oversize, name-brand shirts; wrist scrunchies; and puka-shell necklaces. She also carries a hydro flask water bottle covered with stickers. TikTok popularized and satirized the trend, the latest iteration of 1980’s “preppy” or 1990’s J. Crew fashion.
What can marketers learn from the trend toward modest attire?
*Pay attention to societal trends. The rise of the young Muslim consumer arguably kicked modest fashion into overdrive. And our society’s reckoning over its treatment of women and their bodies arguably opened the door to more female celebrities feeling comfortable wearing baggy clothes to preempt body-shaming.
Today, the youth climate movement is probably the death knell for “fast fashion” that’s worn once or twice, and then quickly discarded. Indeed, fast fashion pioneer Forever 21 just declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So as societal trends sweep pop and youth culture, consider what they mean for how people will look, dress, groom and accessorize.
*Representation counts. As discussed in previous columns, it’s important for marketers to represent different ethnicities, genders, body types and sexual orientations in their campaigns. It’s also important to represent those of different faith traditions, including Orthodox Jewish women, Muslim women in hijabs, and Latter-Day Saints.
Nike made headlines around the world in December 2017 when it started selling a performance hijab, raising the bar for how brands serve and represent diverse populations. So consider how all faith traditions can interact with your brand, and how you’re representing those faiths in your marketing.
*Technology drives fashion. Apps like VSCO and TikTok create their own fashion. And some clothing lines now feature garments with pockets designed specifically for mobile devices.
As hardware and software continue to evolve, so will fashion, and smart brands will evolve with it. Google Glass and Snap Spectacles didn’t break through, but one day a brand will crack the code on stylish “wearables.”
Fifteen years ago, those “cool” enough to have a BlackBerry showed it off in a belt holster, or talked on it with a Bluetooth headset. Then, after the iPhone debuted in 2007, it was fashionable to walk around with white earbuds to show you were listening to music on it. Perhaps next decade, cool kids will wear red contact lenses to show they’re using augmented reality.Tech — and hemlines — are always changing, but the brands that follow societal trends and represent the full diversity of their consumers will always stay in fashion.