Monday, July 16, 2007


Today's women's apparel appeals to a variety of tastes

If variety is the spice of life, then women are asking for seconds, thirds and even more helpings of this season’s tasty offerings in apparel.

According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorTM, the newest fashions have scored big with women. Thirty-nine percent of respondents say that they like this season’s fashions more than those from last year. That’s a year over year increase of 15%!

In addition, the Shopping Barometer is up dramatically, especially among the Fashion Innovators, from 72.18 points last year to 80.80 this year, an increase of 8.62 points. Monitor data also reflects thatwomen currently allot more time for apparel shopping these days – spending an average of 111 minutes in stores, up 10 minutes from the previous year.

And if you need more convincing, consider this: the most recent Monitor data reports that 27.2% of women love shopping, up from just 17.9% for the

same period last year.

So, what’s not to like?

The options of what to wear for women seem suddenly endless: twin sets, slim trousers, short, long and knee-length skirts, and man-tailored button-down shirts in long and three-quarter length sleeves. The new styles encourage creativity and, more importantly, look good on a variety of body types.

“Designers are not following any specific trend right now so there’s a lot of diversity in apparel,” asserts designer Mark Montano. “One reason young designers are becoming more popular is that they have something that no one else has. Their clothing allows people to be more expressive and individual. I thinkwomen are tired of being part of the pack.”

In fact, 65% of consumers say the current styles are anything but boring reports the Monitor.

Notes Jo Cohen, associate director of The COTTONWORKS® Fabric Library for Cotton Incorporated, “Women have experienced a fashion breakthrough, which is why they’re buying more clothes now. Their apparel has become a way in which to express their individuality. The 90s have been the decade of eclecticism and the birth of the new casual.”

Designer Jill McGowan, who has built her Portland, Maine-based women’s fashion company around the classic white shirt, agrees, “I think the trend now is that women are finding their own style and finding it in their own way. It’s less dictated than ever before.”

Many recognize that it is the designers who have spearheaded this trend, by making fashionable clothes that are more accessible and speak to the everyday sensibilities of the average woman. A woman they’re finding is willing to pay more for a quality item with superior style.

Says Cohen of Cotton Incorporated, “Designers have played a key role in this by taking into consideration the needs of the contemporary woman and making more wearable clothes.” She adds, “I think one of the successes of cotton is that it’s becoming more and more seasonless, so that a woman will invest in something more costly because it can be worn year-round.”

Concurs McGowan, “The time has finally come when the designer is meeting the needs of the customer. We’re seeing more customers buying more practical, wearable items for their wardrobe which are not boring, but timeless. I think customers are willing to pay more for quality – invest extra money to have a product that will survive several seasons and still look great.”

Montano feels that color is one of the main driving forces behind the new fashions. “Before, when so many neutral colors were playing a part in fashion, it didn’t matter what you wore because it was all beige or black,” he says. “Color gives you a whole range of opportunities that are perfectly acceptable and more an expression of who you are. ”

All this has generated a new excitement about women’s apparel, a spark which has been missing from seasons past.

The advent of casual days at the office seems to be one of the greatest influences on the current fashion, especially for women. With offices sporting an average of two casual days per week, women have had to come up with their own alternative to the men’s polo shirt and khakis uniform.

And it is a challenge they have embraced with enthusiasm.

Linda, an editor for a women’s consumer magazine, can’t say enough good things about the new fashions. “What I really love about fashion now is that there are such a variety of styles,” she enthuses. “It’s so easy to pull an outfit together that’s elegant, yet comfortable. And there’s a whole feminine element to the newest looks too, but not the frilly, frou-frou kind. It’s definitely chic.”

Designer Montano defines the new fashion as not so much casual but comfortable dressy. “The look is dressier now,” he asserts. “We’re seeing beads come back and sequin trims and things that make clothing more special.”

But perhaps it is a recent article in the Style section of The New York Times that summed it up best, “While women still dress up on special occasions, fashion for the 21st century will be based on comfort and utility.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American women’s wear consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.