Fashion’s Bell Curve

As an image and wardrobe consultant, when I do Closet Audits with my clients, without exception, they want me to tell them if something is outdated. It makes me feel horrible, but sometimes I see things that still have the tags on them, and they’re out of style. Often, my client had just been shopping the prior weekend. How can this be, you ask? It’s the fashion lifecycle. Read on to learn more, and find out how to make sure you never end up with brand new out-moded clothes in your closet.

Trends are usually introduced at the New York and international runway shows. As you can see from the chart, new styles start on the left and evolve into a bell curve. Initially the clothes and accessories are quite expensive and are adopted by the Fashion Innovators. As time goes on, the style becomes more and more popular, peaking when it is very widely available to the masses at all price points. (How long each of these stages lasts varies greatly.)

As a style starts to fade, it is accepted by the Late Adopters. And finally when the style is virtually gone, it’s adopted by the Laggards.

The point of this style education leads me to two points:
1. To get the most longevity out of a garment and a trend you love, try to adopt it very early. Become an Opinion Leader. (Unless you travel or live in a fashion capital, it’s quite difficult to get in on the very beginning of a trend.) You’ll be fashionable and get a great cost per wear out of your purchase.

2. No matter your budget, take a quick trip to fashion leaders like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and high end specialty stores/boutiques at the beginning of a season– just to get a feel for what is in. (Looking is always free!) Often times, when a trend is in the Late Adopter and Laggard stages, it’s still available in discount and lower to mid price department stores, but you won’t see these styles at the afore mentioned shops. It’s sad to say, but just because something is being sold in a store doesn’t mean it’s in style. It doesn’t make sense to buy an out of date item at any price.

In today’s fashion world, knock offs of original designs are available sooner than ever. Fashion is available at every price point. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a stylish image; however, doing a little homework each season will pay off. It’s a little extra effort, (if you don’t enjoy shopping,)  but the dividends are huge. And if you want to keep your research to a minimum, consider building the bulk of your wardrobe with classics, and sprinkle in trends here and there for fun. Your wallet will thank you!

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