Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frou Frou Flounces and Suits

In the spare corners of my mind, I've been tossing around how our generations will influence the future in fashion and design. I've learned a lot lately about the next big generation coming up, the Gen X and the Gen Y. Contrary to demographic prediction, the babies of the boomers are not a boomlet, but boom-bigger. Birth rates continue to rise. It turns out that boomers kept having children even as they've aged, and that Gen X started having families earlier.

So what is this newest generation? They are scheduled and watched over and cherished by helicopter parents. They run in packs. They dress alike. Think golf shirts, chinos and jeans.

Which got me to thinking about how this newest generation will influence fashion as they hit the work force.

There's another little nugget on how this generation will change us. The girls are continuing to secondary education in record numbers, and boys' attendance is dropping. It will be the girls running our corporations, not the boys. Where will our young men go? I predict they will go to the trades, where there will be flexibility and freedom. It will be the young fathers, I suspect, who will be picking up their children from school.

Another pondering in my crowded brain is the difference between frou frou flounces and suits. Why have men perfected an office uniform, while women continue to flit through the spectrum of color and design? I suspect it has to do with the gender biases regarding power and control. A man in a pack must establish his conformity and dominance early. This means a power suit, which exudes confidence, dominance, wealth, and intelligence. For a man in our current culture, these are attractive attributes. A woman in a severe suit, however, is mildly terrifying. I quote Marlo Thomas, "A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold." So the woman's attire at the office is a little frillier, sillier, and impractical. The message here is that "I am harmless, creative, and sweet. You want to help me."

But this dynamic will change as women in packs start to take over the office. Power for a woman will be in her ability to work her team. As much as this makes me shudder, think Gossip Girl all grown up, strutting down the hallway with her posse.

So I predict that this next generation of women will dictate a new uniform for the office. It will be softer, it will be easy maintenance, but it will also be more alike. I'm thinking Chanel classics here. Not the latest stuff, but the suits of the fifties and sixties.

I cite two sources for my new-found knowledge, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe, William Strauss, and R.J. Matson and a presentation by Bani Dheer, Futurist.