Forward Thinking — and Back Again – Squamish Chief
Squamish retailer, historians and fashion expert ‘a dress’ the subject.
Trish James of Squamish, owner of her women’s clothing store, Stylezone Modesin Squamish for 34 years, has never seen anything on fashion but the pandemic.
Due to global supply chain issues, she has to order clothes for her boutique long before she normally does.
“There’s no more excess inventory on the manufacturers’ side. They can pretty much only cut what they can cut,” she said. “Let’s say they have a bestseller; normally they could go back and replicate it, but they can’t do that anymore, because COVID has slowed everything down. So for the brick and mortar side of looking at things, we just order well in advance.”
She has already ordered what will be in her store in the fall.
“You have to go out on that branch, or you won’t get enough merchandise to carry you through the whole season. Guaranteed,” she said.
When it came to what people were wearing, she said at the height of the pandemic — when it all shifted to Zoom — there was an increase in women who wanted dressier tops, but not bottoms. .
“Everyone wore joggers or pajama bottoms and put on a nice top. The bottoms really slowed down for us, except maybe the joggers. You know, comfortable, comfortable casual bottoms.”
The dresses didn’t move for a while either, she said.
But now people seem to want to dress down a bit and do away with more casual attire.
“I see a huge shift from being really laid back to people just wanting to up a little,” she said.
“I really feel like the dresses are going to be huge for this spring and summer.”
What does the past tell us about the impact of crises on fashion?
The current pandemic is often compared to the Spanish flu, which began in February 1918 and continued until April 1920.
Face coverings, although perhaps not the first thought when you think of fashion, were also worn during this era, said Margaret Mills, of the Costume Museum of Canada.
“People wore them because they understood that the spread of things happened with germs. I mean, it wasn’t a new idea,” she said. “Face coverings were different, of course, because that was 100 years ago, so they tended to do things like wrap a scarf around their face.”
As with COVID-19, this pandemic has also had an impact on working life.
It was the end of the First World War and the men had gone off to fight, leaving the women behind to take on the rural tasks that needed to be done.
“Caring for animals, all that kind of stuff,” she said.
Like today, there have also been supply chain disruptions, with men leaving in droves.
“Due to the change of situation, there was practically no noticeable change in fashion during the period from 1918 to 1920. Things stopped because people could not advance because of the war . And because of the impact of the Spanish Flu and soon.”
While today we tend to associate the 1920s with flapper dresses and “The Roaring Twenties“, which did not start immediately after the war and the end of the Spanish flu.
“It takes a long time for societies, in general, to change after something catastrophic,” she said, adding that it takes time for the workforce to return to full capacity and the supply is restarting.
“If you look at, say, fashion in 1921, 1922. Yes, it was changing, but it wasn’t the drastic changes you saw in the mid to late 1920s.”
Anne Bissonnette, professor at the University of Alberta is a dress historian, museum curator and designer.
Fashion has always changed with world events, she notes.
“Fashion is an instrument that reacts very quickly to what is happening,” she said.
Thinking back to World War I, she said women’s clothing became more functional as it picked up where men left off.
“Clothes went from… very, I would like to say decorative, to something that became much more utilitarian. We ended up losing the very narrow skirts to something very wide, a little shorter so that the women can move and join active life and could be much more comfortable.”
What will fashion look like after the pandemic?
Bissonnette says trends that were in the pipeline before the pandemic have accelerated.
Business attire, which she said was already getting more casual, could become much more casual when people are all back in the office.
“Professional circles will have to react to that. People will actually probably have to buy things that are a little less formal but still speak of professionalism. So what does that look like? For men, we’ve seen suits worn with, with the fancy sneakers, not just like ugly sports sneakers, but casual sneakers… We’ve seen that before. But now we’ve seen a lot more. We’ll see less ties; maybe we’ll see more color in the shirts. the suit will have fitted somehow.”
Rapid Industry Changes
Briana Morrison, Global Fashion and Social Media Marketing Director at Blanche Macdonaldfashion and beauty post-secondary school, says she sees changes in the industry as a whole.
She said understaffed employers are desperately calling on school graduates who aren’t as willing to take jobs that aren’t suitable for them.
“It’s good and bad. It’s obviously bad for employers, but it’s good for employees because they can demand more money, they can demand benefits, they can demand a better balance at the work because they have the influence. And they can ask for things like flexible working hours, remote work.”
She noted that fashion has always been fast and is even faster these days, so industry players need to keep up with the latest trends.
Morrison thinks the future of fashion could be digital in the metaverse.
“If we were to talk on Google Meet about this conversation or on Zoom about this conversation, it’s the metaverse,” she said.
“It can be fun; it can be like, ‘Look at this digital dress I bought.'”
Digital fashion means an online outfit is created using professional 3D applications. The item of clothing, for example a dress, is then put on your photo for you to share.
In this case, there is no real dress in real life.
“It’s so much better for the planet than if we had to sample and ship and all the dye associated with it and how bad it is for our planet,” she said.
“You’re here with this beautiful dress that happens to be digital that you paid money for. Because no one else is getting it and no one else can buy it.”
She noted that fashion was already heading digital, but the pandemic has accelerated it.
“Don’t get me wrong, I hike every weekend and at Pacific Spirit Park, and I go to Squamish, and I love trees, and I hug them, and I’m a hippie, but I think you know, it saves the planet to have digital clothes. And there’s digital printing… and eventually we can print our own clothes. And you know, it can be fun and cool and exciting to live in it.”