How Coronavirus Stitched Up the Fashion Industry
Fashion trends are known to come and go, generally operating on a 15-year cycle. Ever since women were allowed to have jobs we’ve had workwear, casualwear, and clothes for going out-out. But then in 2020, something unusual happened. Our need for office-appropriate attire went out of the window with the Coronavirus pandemic requiring businesses around the world to let their employees work from home. We might have worn a blouse with pyjama bottoms for the first few weeks of Zoom calls, but eventually we relaxed into our new normal. Trousers with elasticated waistbands and the humble cardigan became wardrobe staples, as the bra was banished to the back of the underwear drawer.
Interest in ‘comfy clothing’ from 2005 — present
Google search results for ‘comfy clothes’ reached their height in April 2020, the month after the UK went into lockdown. With no sign of a return to business-as-usual on the horizon, people decided to invest some of the money they’d saved from not travelling or eating out on comfier clothing.
Interest in ‘dungarees’ from 2005 — present
Searches for dungarees sky-rocketed, reaching a peak in May. The number of users searching for ‘not wearing a bra’ spiked in April, as many women around the world pondered the reason behind putting our breasts in cotton cages each day (spoiler alert, it’s because of capitalism).
Interest in ‘not wearing a bra’ from 2005 — present
Searches for ‘elasticated trousers’ would reach their peak in August 2020, with several months of gyms and sports facilities being closed leading the nation to pile on the pounds. I myself bought some culottes with an elasticated waistband after an over-indulgence on banana bread that meant every time I sat down my Levis cut into my stomach.
Interest in ‘elasticated trousers’ from 2005 — present
Another item which saw an increase in Google searches was the humble cardigan. When I was in year 9, cardigans were all the rage. Every girl at my school had the same New Look cardigan in different colours that were paraded like they were the height of fashion on ‘Own Clothes Day’ at school. Sidenote: I still find it fascinating that we were made to pay £1 for the privilege of not wearing our scratchy school uniform once a term, in what was undoubtedly the biggest scam of the 21st century.
Interest in ‘New Look cardigan’ from 2005 — present
Now, you’d expect the interest in cardigans to wax and wane each year because it’s a pretty seasonal item of clothing. But in July 2020, one of the hottest months of the year, searches for cardigans sky-rocketed. Why? Well, there’s two main reasons.
Interest in ‘cardigan’ from 2005 — present
Harry Styles’ JW Anderson cardigan
Back in February, Harry Styles wore a brightly coloured patchwork cardigan made by JW Anderson during a rehearsal for an appearance on The Today Show.
With more time stuck inside than ever before, his fans shared their attempts to recreate that cardigan on TikTok, using the hashtag #harrystylescardigan. Inspired by the creativity of the viral movement the £1,250 cardigan designer, Jonathan Anderson, released the pattern in July so that fans could follow the design to the letter, or should we say, stitch.
Divine Mae de Perio, 19, is from the Philippines. She said: “As a fan of Harry Styles and an aspiring fashion designer, I always love how his stylist experiments with colour and styles. The cardigan really became a trend to all those who love to crochet or knit. I was a beginner and watched so many tutorials on how to make one — and the time and labour on making it was really worth it.”
She added: “Also thanks to the designer himself, who released the patchwork of the cardigan and a small tutorial video on YouTube, I found out that “celebration of imperfections” is the true concept of the cardigan.”
Abby Ward, 17, from San Diego, California said: “I’ve been crocheting since I was about 12. I saw other people making the cardigan and I wanted to do it too.
“I wanted to twin with Harry. He’s such an inspiration to me, even down to the things he wears, so ultimately harry was my inspiration.”
Interest in ‘Harry Styles cardigan’ from 2005 — present
Taylor Swift surprise drops folklore
The second reason for the increase in searches for ‘cardigan’ in 2020 is that Taylor Swift released a surprise album, folklore, on 24 July 2020. The lead single ‘cardigan’ (stylised in lowercase) came out on 27 July; in the track the singer-songwriter describes feeling like an old cardigan, discarded under someone’s bed.
To promote the album, Swift sent cardigans as presents to her celebrity friends, and now fans can buy their very own Taylor Swift cardigan from her merch store. If only The Vaccines had thought of that when they released ‘Wetsuit’ back in 2011, eh?
Interest in ‘Taylor Swift cardigan’ from 2005 — present
Fan Lauren Darwent, 23, London said: “I love the song because lyrically it is beautiful, very different in how it sounds from a lot of the songs on Lover, her last album.
“I was motivated to get the cardigan because it looked super cosy and I love anything with stars on, which links to a lyric in the song.
“I love getting a piece of merch from each era, but usually wait until tour to buy something. As any Lover shows didn’t happen, I decided just to buy the cardigan online.”
Thanks to Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, cardigans are cooler than they’ve ever been before. As we approach Christmas, no doubt cardigans are going to feature on lots of peoples’ wish lists around the world.
As we hurtle towards the likelihood of another national lockdown, though, it begs the question of what the world is going to be crocheting next. My suggestion? Perhaps the mustard scarf worn by Taylor on her second date with the One Direction singer in Central Park in 2012.