"There's a mood: It doesn't feel right to show things that are overly opulent or steeped in luxury, in light of everything going on in the world," says Hope Greenberg, fashion director of Lucky magazine.
The dress, which has enjoyed a lengthy reign over the market, is losing ground to more conservative, versatile, basic pieces that can blend and carry their owners through several seasons. Retailers report excellent sales in practical items such as blazers, denim, basic separates, and trousers.
As ShopBop's Crandall says: "Classic designs in bad times."
Of course, it's always possible that a downturn will produce its own aesthetic. Uncertain times often produce astonishing results in the fashion world; after all, the dreary early-1990s economy produced Marc Jacobs' now-famous grunge epidemic. Editors and buyers are very curious to see what turns up in the American spring/summer 2009 collections, which will be showcased in New York City this fall.
"We're in very unstable times," says Vogue's Sally Singer. "There's a war going on, and you wouldn't know it in the city. But fashion designers are receptors; they have refined antennas, and it comes out on the runways."