If mankind has established one thing in the recent years of pestilence and political disarray, it is that anything can become a fashion aesthetic. From the notorious “clean girl aesthetic” (think: linen, small hooped earrings, slicked-back hair, green smoothies) to “bloke core” (think: football tops, baggy or straight-leg jeans), we’ve seen it all and yet barely scratched the surface.
However, “recession core”, a buzz phrase that has recently sprung up 3 years into the current global economic depression, is not the first example of fashion trends reflecting economic decline. Various fashion commentators have noted that the 2008 global financial crisis marked the end of the ‘McBling’ fashion trend, where celebrities and fashion models wore bejewelled materials, heavy jewellery and fur. 2008 saw many celebrities arriving at red carpet events with their necks bare instead of adorned with chains and necklaces, and in more muted, simpler gowns than in previous years.
So how is the “Cozzie Livs”, an abbreviated name for the current global cost of living crisis, influencing fashion trends in 2023?
According to both Vogue and Hello Magazine, “designers made denim sexy for SS23”. Denim is, in fact, everywhere right now: from the famous denim jumpsuit only 3 degrees of separation away from you, to denim maxi, mini and micro-skirts that can be worn during any season. It makes perfect sense in a time of financial decline to make a staple material in everybody’s wardrobe a hot item, and high fashion slightly more relatable. Simplicity and relatability are key influencing factors for designers during recessions.
2. Loose and airy
Various observers have noted that a recurring fashion trend during economic depressions is the donning of baggy trousers, and 2023 is certainly no exception to that rule. In fact, trousers that aren’t loose-fitting are becoming an increasingly rare sight. This winter, the streets of Oxford have been filled with cargo trousers and wide-leg jeans, and during the spring and approaching summer, one can expect to see many pairs of long-line, denim skate shorts and white linen trousers. But why do we go baggy during financial slumps? A logical explanation would be that less consumption due to financial restrictions necessitates the trousers that we do consume to not run the risk of being outgrown.
In solidarity with interior design, clothing trends, too, are becoming minimalist. The above-mentioned “clean girl aesthetic”, as well as the business casual look, were both simple but extremely popular fashion styles throughout 2022: this suggests that bright colours, patterns and logos are receding out of popular style. Instead, we are more often seeing monochromatic or dichromatic looks. Muted tones, simple earrings (such as small hooped earrings) and plain bags (often having a barely or non-visible logo) are also on the rise.
We are also seeing less clothing in comparison to the 2019 pre-recession layering trend, where celebrities wore several layers of different coloured clothing. Echoing the recession fashion trends of 2008, celebrities are similarly losing their necklaces on the red carpet. It almost goes without saying why minimalist fashion becomes trendy during recessions, but this pattern also happens to complement the already minimalist interiors of trendy apartments, the simple logos of the biggest companies and a large proportion of current web design.
What to expect: the hemline index
According to the ‘hemline index’, which proposes that skirt hemlines increase in length as the economy declines, we should expect to see streets lined with midi skirts. However, both pleated and denim miniskirts seem to be all the rage this recession. If it is possible to place any sort of positive spin on such dark times, collectively consuming fewer clothes allows for us to get more creative with the clothes we do have, and also offers the environment a nice warm hug.