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"Depression-Core" is Here, and The Elegance Economy Has Responded.

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

A look back at the last 100 years of fashion decline reveals luxury fashion doesn't hold the power like it used to.

Fashion lore tells us that great designers rise to fame because of their ingenuity, then in turn take over and establish new fashion houses leaving a legacy for generations. And in a sense, this isn't incorrect. However, the ideas of great designers-- be it Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, or Vivienne Westwood-- are largely predicated on something much more invisible... the economy.

The dot-com boom in the late nineties and early aughts saw a time when the economy was booming, technology was on a skyrocketing incline, and Brittany Spears was still sane. The fashion during this period was reflective of a time of cultural opulence, and subtlety wasn't a characteristic.

The early aughts saw neon colors, tie-dye, and bedazzled-everything lining the clothing racks of stores across the country from Nordstrom to Walmart. Feathers, designer labels and faux leather were a staple of the times and makeup was accentuated with blue eyeshadows, bright pink blushes and bucket hats (which are back again, surprisingly).

Today, over two decades later, fashion has mellowed to feature primarily neutrals, simple designs, and a lack of accessories. Celebrities have embraced this subtle, simple style and stars like Gwyneth Paltrow have re-entered the fashion conversation thanks to this approach (even taking away focus from her bogus ski trial). What happened?

Many have called this new period the, "return to the upper echelons of society" with trends like quiet luxury and old money taking center stage. However, rather than denoting racism or wealthy-snobbery, this change seems to come in line with the downfall of the economy, just as it did a century ago during the great depression.

Americans have suffered through a recession over the last year thanks to poor government policy, federal budget mismanagement and allocation of American funds overseas, and all signs are pointing to a full blown depression not far off. In fact, @DecadeInvestor on Twitter made an interesting comparison of the current economic climate to the trials a century ago, making viewers fear the economic worst-case scenario may already be here.

Calling the current climate the "Silent Depression" and outlining how houses, cars, and rent are all 3-8 times more expensive (allowing for inflation) than the average salary today, @DecadeInvestor highlights the strains every household in America is currently feeling, no matter where you land on the income ladder. Another recent study found that the average single-person income in 1930 was around $4,000, which would be around $80,000 today. Can you guess what the average household income is today? Around $55,000.

As the economy suffered in the 1930's, the fashion industry tried to inspire purchases with designs based off of the Hollywood Golden Age Starlet's who had provided an escape during these trying times. The styles were muted, the patterns were smaller, and unique elements were added like beautiful buttons to take the mundane to another level.

Do the muted colors, small patterns, and strategically placed small accessories sound familiar? The same approach to fashion a century ago has returned, with a modern twist of course. This style is now named, "Depression-Core" and is defined as "a new age of dressing that parallels economic downturn".

This new age of dressing during economic downturn should not be an excuse for a lack of elegance, but rather provides the perfect ingredients for the elegance principle of "Subtraction" which will set you up for success. Depression-core opens the door for creativity in dress, and lowers the barrier for entry for women to learn how to be elegant without the trends of designer brands, ostentatious jeweled accessories or neon colors that well-suit only a small percentage of women's skin-tones.

Muted tones aren't new to trend, in fact, muted color pallets have been some of the most elegant and even regal choices for centuries. Muted tones denote cleanliness, peace, and wealth. Catherine, Princess of Wales has worn and popularized muted monochrome outfits over the last few years, and recently debuted what has since been dubbed the, "Mocha Style" with every item worn being a coffee-colored dream.

Over the next decade with the right government leadership, the economy is expected to return to a state of excess and fashion will again, in turn, revert to a trend of bright colors, excess, and opulence. But we elegant women never really follow a trend anyways, right?

Check out the 4 principles women have used for centuries to be memorably elegant, no matter the economic climate, by clicking here.


Hannah Brusven founded The Swish in 2018 to combat trashy & politically biased women's media and create a  place for young women looking for a little more than more society feeds them.


Here we believe elegance is powerful, and the key to unlocking confidence, persuasion, and impact. Explore trends, traditions, lifestyle, and more with The Swish-- for an inspired elegant life. 


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