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HALIFAX, N.S. — Fashion trends change faster now than ever before.
Social media and the Internet help create trends overnight and online shopping gives people everything they want at their fingertips — and fast fashion lets them get it cheap and quickly.
But, for the spring and summer seasons, what must-have styles can be made more affordable amid inflation and more sustainable amid climate change?
Maureen Elsie Court, owner of Elsie’s Used Clothing in Halifax, has curated her consignment store, since it opened about 25 years ago, based on her unique taste. Some people call her Maureen. Others who meet her in the store call her Elsie, but all of them come for her clothes.
“Initially, the way I stocked the store — and still to this day — is based on my particular eye for things and my taste in quality and good design and good fabrics,” said Court.
Court was in her 20s in the 1980s. It was an influential time for her. It was the first time in her life that she had enough money and was old enough to be creative with her personal style.
The fashion range was crazy and a lot of oversized clothing continues to be stylish today, she said.
“Even to this day, I’ve never really gotten away from it,” she said.
Oversized fashion from the ‘80s isn’t becoming a new trend, though, she said.
“A magazine might say it’s a trend now, but it’s really never gone out of style for many of my clients,” said Court.
Last summer, she noticed a huge ‘70s influence, but. Now. even more oversize items seem to be coming back.
Negative body images
There is an additional benefit to oversize clothing — it disrupts a personal opinion that younger and older people have, Court said, that someone has to be a certain size and wear form-fitting clothes.
“(This opinion is) unfortunate,” Court said. “It brings up all kinds of body opinions that are incorrect.”
At her store, she hears people all the time speak negatively about how clothes look when they try on something that’s too big. People automatically think that ,when something is too big, it’s unattractive and that they shouldn’t consider buying it because it isn’t form-fitting, she said. But some people may embrace the trend to get away from the negative body images that can come from form-fitting fashion.
Court said all she has to do is go to the mall to see that plenty of people aren’t embracing oversized fashion and that form-fitting clothes are still wildly popular. But, she added, if young people are following trends and decide to buy baggy jeans or an oversized men’s jacket, then that is a good thing.
“I certainly take every opportunity here to talk to young people when they put something on and their immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my God, this is too big,’” she said. “And I explain to them why it isn’t.”
Anna Campbell is the owner of The Loot, a vintage clothing store in downtown Halifax. Her stock ranges from high-end items to quality brands of jeans and t-shirts for between $15 and $35.
Lace, lingerie and Y2K street style are what has been selling really well in her store. She buys her clothes outright from sellers and curates the selection for a certain demographic.
“We try to make it so that there’s something for everyone, but we see mostly young people in here from high school [age] to mid-30s,” she said.
Campbell noted that The Loot is selling a lot of lingerie pieces that people would wear casually, like slip dresses and slip skirts. Bustiers and corsets are big, too, she added.
The Y2K styles include a lot of t-shirts with tattoo-like designs (skulls and designs reminiscent of motorcycle shirts, she said), super micro miniskirts and shorts and low ride jeans and cargo pants.
High-quality basics, regular pants and shirts, instead of statement pieces, and neutral colours are quite popular, too. Campbell attributed this to inflation and the rising cost of living, but people are also more conscious of their environmental impact, so they are buying less, she said.
Crochet and knitwear
Court has noticed an increase in feminine styles like ruffled clothes and handmade clothes.
Campbell also noticed that, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, crochet and knitwear have become more popular. She said a lot of people got bored stuck inside during quarantine, so they took up new hobbies.
Campbell hasn’t sold a lot of feminine knitwear to men, but she has noticed a lot of masculine-presenting people wearing tight clothing, like short-cropped tees from the ‘70s, and wearing skirts and styling them in a way that looks natural.
Affordability versus sustainability
As part of Court’s curation process, she avoids fast fashion. She doesn’t like the fast fashion aspect of the fashion industry. Nine times out of ten, she said, the fabrics are synthetic or the clothes aren’t made well, so they don’t fit her taste.
Court doesn’t want to tell people that they should buy a $500 dress from Chloe instead of a similar-looking dress from Zara. However, if people invest in the high quality, well-designed items that she’s selected, she said that the clothes will last them longer because they’re made better.
“If I just plant the seed to let them think about it, maybe next time they go in, they’ll say, ‘I wonder why she doesn’t take fast fashion?’”
Court has a balance of items in-store. It’s more affordable to buy quality items secondhand, but she also sells high-end items secondhand for a lower price than retail. The most expensive item she’s sold so far was a Hermes Birkin bag for $14,000.
Fast fashion brands create new clothes to keep up with constantly changing trends on the Internet, but the rapid mass production of clothes takes a toll on the environment. According to the UN, the fashion industry overall is responsible for eight to 10 per cent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute significantly to climate change. A lot of that impact comes from raw materials like cotton and synthetics like polyester.
Campbell believes that, if people want to be more sustainable, they should buy fewer clothes. Upcycling and swapping with friends is great, she said. That and repairing clothes helps get rid of waste when unused clothes end up in the trash.
“Buying something secondhand off of someone is inherently sustainable in my mind,” she said.