08/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Style in a Decession

Something interesting is happening to women's style in this decession... somehow women are more interesting to look at today that they were say, 18 months ago... I feel as if I'm suddenly seeing women who look like themselves in terms of the way they are putting themselves together. To be very specific, I am seeing more creativity with outfits, less general conformity on the streets, and much more individuality! How exciting!

Not so long ago -- (and in fact I've written about it for this column in the past twelve months,) when baby doll dresses were in trend, I would be able to travel the length of Manhattan.... uptown to downtown, east to west, and I could see a constant stream along the streets of baby doll dresses on every woman from mid teens to mid sixties. When the corresponding fad switched to the feet and ballet flats were all the rage, ballet flats were on every pair of feet -- young or old -- for every occasion, casual to black tie.

Same has been true for handbags... whatever the 'it' item or shape was, it could easily be found most everywhere...

I realize now, that I became accustomed to seeing a lot of current fashion on people's bodies (the latest shape, the latest bag, the latest shoe) but not a lot of personal style -- well, no more... I am feeling a sea change happening. Perhaps the shift in the consumer's personal values which is a consequence of this decession and is also helping to precipitate it is one key cause, but perhaps there are others as well;

1. The absence of very strong, clearly defined trends. The consumer cares much less in this moment when other things are occupying her mind. She is scooping things up, at her favorite stores, at a much slower rate than used to be the case. Because of this diminished appetite, ideas or trends in dressing have less inherent steam behind them to make them pop onto the scene the same way way we used to see happen as recently as 12 months ago. This has been particularly apparent in the contemporary designer market, which used to rely on the strong presence of trends to help sell looks.

2. Shopping in our own closet. In this moment when for many of us, someone in our immediate circle is unemployed or on the verge of becoming so (or feels that way) or already has lost a job, we are feeling generally much less comfortable parting with the money in our wallet, and so therefore find ourselves re-looking at items already in our closet. It stands to reason that it's anyone's guess what decade or period one might find in there, but chances are, if we loved it 3-4-5-6 years ago, we probably still think it's pretty wonderful, and will pull it out again and update it with a new purchase, or wear it with something else in our closed which is more current.

3. Editing our purchases. Where once, if we liked a look we might buy all the pieces to it, today we are buying the one important piece, and personalizing the look with something we already own... thereby making it our own. Head to toe purchasing, just doesn't feel appropriate right now.

Since I work in the fashion industry, I will be among the first to bemoan the shopping apathy that I feel everywhere I go, however, it seems to me that this current difficult state of affairs has served women's sense of identity well.

Will we continue to be less impressed by the latest trend (if in fact that concept even does return) and far less inclined to jump on that latest 'it' bag for the foreseeable future? ... We may like the power that not spending has given us... a swelling savings account has a way of doing that, in the way that a bulging closet never could... It used to be we felt powerful when we pulled together what we liked and paid for it at the counter, now our sense of power is coming from a discipline that many are becoming practiced in... we walk by the shop window, we see something we like, we think; 'I'd love to buy that,' but our feet keep walking us away, as we reason that we'll think about it, and maybe come back next week (maybe it will be on sale) Well, next week comes and goes, and the dress goes un -purchased; maybe we never thought about that dress again, maybe other thoughts took precedence, maybe the incessant stream of yet more sobering news yanked us out of the mood for that pretty dress, or maybe we reasoned we just didn't need it after all? Maybe the urges that used to control us, are now controlled by us, and just maybe, we don't know if we'll ever want go back to the way things were when we really did shop till we dropped... all the time.