Fringing in a Time of Social Change

There once was a man who created an entire trend based off an already existing color. A color that become synonymous with his name. Valentino has been the brain behind trend operations for the majority of his career. Now, with two different designers behind the wheel, the brand still continues to present garments, accessories, color palettes and more that are timeless, refined and sensual. They create works of art that, in fact, become trends. With the latest catwalk from Spring/Summer 2016, Valentino showcased one particular trend I found most compelling- fringing.

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These images from the Valentino SS16 runway show unique yet similar instances of ways fringe was used on the Valentino runway

One of the most iconic historical instances of this trend is from the 1920’s with the emergence of the flapper dress. This drastic change in the feminine silhouette was due in part to prohibition, a time where people were restricted in what they could drink, and men coming back from war efforts and restricting women in how they should look. The natural remedy to so much constraint was to create a counterculture. “One of the first subcultures to truly take hold of fashion was that of the flapper” (Croll 83).

We now see women who were embracing more freedom. In an article written by Emily Spivack on Flapper culture, she states that “the embodiment of that 1920s free spirit was the flapper” (Spivack). One of the most iconic dresses of this time is the 1924 Chanel flapper dress. This dress shows a raise in the hemline to accommodate for increased movement in the legs. Showing the ankle was previously unheard of. The flaps of material and beading cascading down its sides are meant to sway and rock in time with the movements of the dancing woman. As social change was occurring women were enjoying an increased freedom; within their clothes and their lives. Designers can grasp influences from anywhere and anything.

The original 1924 Chanel flapper dress, also referred to as the first “Little Black Dress”

This flapper/boyish silhouette was not only shown this year with Valentino, but also a multitude of other designers. Sonia Rykiel, Martin Grant, and Alexander McQueen were just a few of the designers who interwove fringe into their SS16 collections. One can wonder, why the revival of a trend so deeply rooted in social change?

Martin Grant’s otherwise nautical-inspired collection ended on a note of elegant fringing. The models appear chic and the raised hemline in the bottom image can be traced back to the 1920’s and the freedom of movement.

Social change is rampant in society today; especially dealing with women. In the 1920’s we saw a push away from what men wanted women to look like. We went from corsets to free-form figures. Today, we have male politicians pushing for the reproductive rights of women. How do women respond? They take charge and live life to please themselves. We see a revival of the mens suit, fringe, and tailoring. All trends that are opposite of what the traditional male view is of women. Instead of soft flowing drapery, we see sharp edges, distressed ends, and boyish silhouettes.

Images from Alexander McQueen SS16 allow viewers to see a different use of fringing. In an almost string-looking placement, this form of fringe still showcases movement on the female body- like it was intended to do in the beginning.
Sonia Rykiel also chose to use elements of fringe within her SS16 collection (shown above). We can see a more playful interpretation of this trend- something a bit more youthful with the use of the sweatshirt top.

It seems fringe re-emerges anytime there is significant societal upheaval. The 1920’s with prohibition and the great depression. The 1970’s with the free love movement and Vietnam war. Today with the Syrian refugee crisis, Afghan war and women’s rights. Again and again we see this trend, its a safety net. A reliable marketing maneuver that allows a safe place to fall back on for designers and consumers alike. So will it sell in 2016? Well, I’ve already purchased several pieces of fringed clothing myself, but I could be a bit biased.


Croll, J. (n.d.). Fashion Subcultures. In Fashion That Changed The World. Prestel.
Dress | CHANEL, Paris (fashion house); Gabrielle ‘Coco’ CHANEL (designer) | NGV | View
Work. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2015, from
Spivack, E. (2013, February 5). History of The Flapper, Part 1: A Call For Freedom. Retrieved
October 21, 2015, from (accessed 20th October 2015). (accessed 20th October 2015). (accessed 20th October 2015).

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