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Fall Fashion Trends as Seen on Skidmore Campus: An Exploration of Cyclical Fashion and the History Behind Our Most Recent Fits

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Skidmore chapter.

Fall is in the air at Skidmore College, and with it, the return of the beautiful denim, thick knits, and boots we know and love in autumn fashion. Thus, as new trends come to fruition and tried and true staples make their fall return, a new season of fashion is established in the history books. However, as with all fashion, the trends being sported around this fall season are all vestiges of cyclical fashion that return for another turn. With that in mind, where did these trends originate from, and why do today’s outfits look so different than those of years prior? We will explore this today, delving into the implications of today’s recession on fashion, concerning past recessions, as well as the rise of “work wear” and more country styles. 

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Each year of late, more and more people step out to classes in overalls. The denim article has no clear origin but can date back as far as the 1850s, sported by the likes of California coal miners wearing them in traditional blue or white denim (Strawn et al. 44). Women did not begin to adopt the fashion until World War I, where entering factories and workforce, like the Victory Garden, required practical and functional clothing. This effect is mirrored today, with the influx of women entering the workforce increasing yearly, with an exponential increase specifically within blue color and trade jobs in recent years (Almeida and Salas-Betsch). Especially post-Covid, women’s employment recovered to pre-pandemic levels as of January 2023 and continues to improve and level as more and more women seek work during this recession period. 

This recession plays a more significant role in fashion than one would typically assume. During the Great Depression, retailers focused mainly on producing and pushing work clothes, like overalls, that they knew the consumer would buy (Strawn et al. 47). Thus, during our recession, it is unsurprising to see a more significant uptick of people adopting the style. Similarly, it is not shocking to see numerous brands pushing their take on overalls, hoping, like Great Depression-era realtors, to cash in on the lessened spending potential of the masses by focusing on more utilitarian needs. 

Cowboy boots

Cowboy boots have been all about around campus this semester. Brown, white, black, suede, or leather, all different rises and fits have been worn by everyone across campus. The cowboy boot originates from a background many would not expect: Mexican, Italian, Germanic, and English influences. When Mexicans came to the area of Texas in 1541, those who drove the cattle were known as “cowmen” (Loranger and Divita 15). These workers brought with them a knowledge of the true cowboy lifestyle. When Italian and German immigrants settled in Texas around the seventeenth century, they assimilated with the culture. They also brought a shoemaking tradition, which helped cultivate the advent of the modern cowboy boot. The cultural transmission within this boot-making created the boot as both an icon of traditional American dress and an internationally appealing item due to its broad base of national inspiration. This universality of fashion can be seen today as more and more people don the iconic boot. 

The spread of the cowboy boot into more mainstream fashion also coincides with the rise of overalls, both clothing items denoting a more Western and country aesthetic. This is no surprise when coupled with the boom of country artists like Zac Bryan, Morgan Wallen, and Tyler Childers in the last few years, alongside the rise of aesthetics like the “Coastal Cowgirl” aesthetic. This revival of a more country aesthetic may seem out of the blue, but it harkens back to a broader style revitalized over the last few years, the Y2K aesthetic. In the 2000s, there was a period in which evangelist forces put purity rings on many Disney stars, and Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears’ iconic 2001 American Music Awards double denim is just a few relics of the era of more evangelical country influence in the 2000s (Raiss). As projected by Vogue in 2022, with the return of the 2000s, cowboy boots have been making waves and being reestablished as a go-to footwear. The cowboy boot further reflects our recession-era desire for versatility, with a flattering shape and comfortable fit that can cross as an all-day-wear shoe; the universality of the boot for both day and night looks has drawn lots of attention its way (Cary). 

Maxi Skirts

You can’t walk anywhere on campus without running into at least one person wearing a maxi skirt. The white linen maxi skirt has been making waves across the internet as a wardrobe staple; this fall, we’ve been seeing it all over campus. This increase in maxiskirts across campus is a universal trend; hemlines have been lengthening over the past few years, with notable contributors being the Skims dress, Brandy Melville maxiskirts, and the return of the midi-dress. This reflects a long-held theory known as the ‘Hemline Index,’ which suggests that when the economy does well, hemlines shrink, only to fall back with recessions (Komar, “Is the Hemline Index Actually Real?”). A classic example is in the 1920s; hemlines rose significantly with the advent of flapper dresses. However, with the Great Depression, they fell again, only to rise once more during the 1940s due to the wartime economic boom. This specific theory has since been expanded to encompass less financial and more psychological perspectives. There has been a sort of fashion rebellion, a need for control, seeking self-gratifying things that identify with one’s internal state. Combining these theories, as the market crashes and people seek comfort during an era of pandemic, a turn to comfortable and functional long skirts is a practical and fashionable choice. 

Printed Tights

Printed tights have also been worn around campus, with different designs, colors, and opacities cropping up in various fashion subgenres and aesthetics. The origin of said tights can be traced back to Allen E. Grant in 1959, with his invention “panti-legs,” now referred to as pantyhose(Komar, “Tights Are Now a Fall Fashion Staple- But They Were Once a Revolutionary Style Statement”). However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and the advent of the modern miniskirt that tights became mainstream.

The new fashion of tights helped illustrate a woman’s changing place and status in modern society, as young women asserted themselves through new and bold fashion choices in the 1960s into the 1970s, deviating heavily from the fashion culture of prior decades. In the 1970s, designer Mary Quant brought the modern tight to what we see today. She made pantyhose in bright colors, prints, and fanciful embellishments, trying to capture the girlish and playful quality she loved about the item (Komar). Tights at the core of their design are an assertion of feminine identity and a refusal to lose that youthful magic to growing up, a patriarchal society, or “womanly” expectations. 

“If you go back 45 years ago, the idea that marriage was the end of a certain kind of freedom was in fact politically and legally true. It was the end of a certain kind of agency. So, the mini skirt paired with tights could be understood in that context — it was available to women to carve out a space for a kind of personhood that was pre-marriage,”

Marjorie Jolles, Women’s and Gender Studies Associate Professor at Roosevelt University

Regardless of one’s personal gender identity, wearing tights today is an assertion harkening back to the forerunners of the movement: to wear what you want how you want and be your own individual, regardless of what society expects. At Skidmore, this means presenting yourself however you choose and feel comfortable expressing yourself in a way that is true to you. If tights end up being a part of that expression, you are participating in this rich history.

Works Cited 

Almeida, Beth, and Isabela Salas-Betsch. “Fact Sheet: The State of Women in the Labor Market in 2023.” Center for American Progress, February 2023.

Cary, Alice. “Cowboy Boots Are the Standout Footwear Trend of 2022.” Vogue, 21 Oct. 2022.

Komar, Marlen. “Is the Hemline Index Actually Real?” InStyle, 1 Sept. 2020.

—. “Tights Are Now a Fall Fashion Staple- But They Were Once a Revolutionary Style Statement.” Time Magazine, 25 Sept. 2019.

Loranger, David, and Lorynn Divita. “Texas Cowboy Boots: America’s Material Culture Melting Pot.” The Journal of American Culture, vol. 46, no. 1, Mar. 2023, pp. 14–21.

Raiss, Liz. “How Western Fashion Turned into High Fashion.” GQ, 28 Feb. 2018.

Strawn, Susan, et al. “Bib Overalls: Function and Fashion.” Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, vol. 32, no. 1, July 2013, pp. 43–55.

Maddy Rader

Skidmore '25

Hi my name is Maddy and I’m a junior psychology major and religious studies and english double minor at Skidmore College! I’m also the Style Editor of the Skidmore chapter! I love the beach, books, working out, and writing :)