How to get the most bang for your buck
In a world where there’s so much competition for the coveted title of best dressed, the women who can wear the most dresses are usually the ones who make the most money.
In fact, the number of women in the industry has increased by nearly 50% since 1995, and the demand for them has skyrocketed.
“The demand for female fashion designers is really high,” said Jessica T. Leinonen, a fashion business professor at Columbia University who has studied the industry for decades.
“They’re still doing very well in the marketplace, but their earnings are still not enough to support the demand.”
As a result, some designers have decided to leave the industry altogether.
“I think we have to be really careful about what we do,” said Yolanda Lefevre, a former designer at Dior, the company behind the brand’s iconic pink polo dresses.
“We can’t be in this market without creating value for women.”
Leininen said she and her colleagues were trying to figure out how to better serve women by offering them a broader array of styles.
“If you can only wear a certain kind of dress and it’s not really appropriate for the occasion, it’s just not worth it,” she said.
“That’s the only way we can get to the bottom of what is a good, beautiful dress, and that’s not always going to be about what’s trendy.”
But not everyone is on board.
Some women are opting to ditch their dresses altogether, even if it means going out with a bang.
“Some women have just said, ‘I’m not going to wear anything that isn’t my thing,’ ” said Jennifer L. O’Brien, a designer at Ralph Lauren who is married with two kids.
“A lot of women don’t want to look at clothes they don’t like and not look at something that doesn’t feel comfortable.
I think there’s a huge divide between women who are happy to dress up and people who are unhappy to dress down.”
That divide could be especially stark in the case of dresses made by designers like Lauren and Marc Jacobs, who have spent years redefining how women can dress and how they look.
They’ve made a career out of pushing the boundaries of what can be dressed and what can’t, and it has made them a big draw for brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton.
But not all women are willing to embrace their newfound freedom to express themselves in a more daring way.
“There are women who really don’t care about dress anymore, who are just going to do whatever they want to,” said L.L. Mencken, a retired fashion editor who wrote a book about the subject.
“These people are really the only ones who will actually take a step back and look at their wardrobe, and maybe, just maybe, be a little more adventurous with it.”
But some designers say that a little bit of experimentation is still necessary.
“Dress is a very personal thing,” said Leinen.
“You can’t just be in it for yourself, or for the day.
And you can’t dress a certain way for the sake of dressing a certain type of way.”
For Lefegvre, who is now working on a book on the history of women’s fashion, the answer is to find out what works for you.
“When you have a body of work, it just opens up,” she told The New York Times in 2013.
“It’s like going to a museum and seeing a collection of paintings and watching the different styles.
And I think it’s more important to really look at what works than what doesn’t.”