Understanding Where You Sit on the Fashion Continuum


What is the Fashion Trend Continuum?

As with all products, and fashion is a product, there is a continuum, a growth and decline cycle.  With fashion though, it can be fast (fad) which lasts 3-12 months or slow (classic) which last 5-10 years, though many fashions turn into that mid-point (trend), that last around 2-5 years.

Understanding the fashion continuum and where you sit on it

When considering where you are you can consider which group you identify most with on the fashion trend continuum:

  • Innovators – like risk and change, always looking for something new, are the fashion innovators
  • Early Adopters – take the ideas of the fashion innovators (often make them more wearable) and turn them into popular styles, enjoy change and newness, will pick up and wear the fads as well as wearing the trends
  • Early Majority – the majority who adopt the trends, may wear an occasional fad item, but stick mostly with trends and classic items.  Looking to improve their wardrobe not overhaul it.
  • Late Majority – are much slower to notice fashion trends, and will need to see it worn on many people, of many shapes and sizes before they feel comfortable wearing it.   Tend to dislike change for the sake of change.  Happiest in longer term trends and will build a wardrobe around ‘classics’.  Can sometimes not realise that classics don’t last forever (read up here about what I’m meaning).
  • Laggards – will tell you that fashion doesn’t matter, they are not interested.  They wear clothes to be ‘not naked’ and tend to dress very safely.  Can easily appear dated and out of touch and that they are not able to deal with change. They will tell you, as far as fashion goes, that they are actively ‘not looking’.

I would think that most likely, the Innovators, Early Adopters and Early Majority are more likely to be people who like “options” (like variety) vs the Late Majority and Laggards may more likely be “procedures” (that is smaller wardrobe people) as they have less of a need for change or new (find out about options vs procedures here to discover which you are).  I’d love to know your thoughts on whether or not you think I’m right or wrong – please leave me a comment about this below.

Where are You on the Fashion Trend Continuum?

Thinking about the Fashion Trend Continuum,  Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe and I discuss in this video:

  • Fashion as an industry – it’s about newness and change
  • How we may feel about following fashion or avoiding it
  • Why you should most likely include a little of something new in your wardrobe each year
  • Being an early adopter or slower adopter
  • Do you have a need for variety or novelty or do you like stability and less change

Discussions about fashion fads and trends always remind me of this scene in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, which I think is a great reminder of how nobody (except a hermit) is exempt from being influenced in some way by fashion trends.

I’d love to know where you see yourself fitting into this fashion continuum?

Do you feel the need to replace much of your wardrobe each season or are you happy wearing the same things for years?

Do you like to change the way you wear your old favourites each year or do you keep wearing them the same way year-in year-out?

I know for me, I’m not an Innovator, I sit between early adopter and early majority, I usually to see new silhouettes around for a short while before I want to try them out, though sometimes I like to try something very different or what I see as a fun fad that tickles my fancy, when I do want to add something new, but I do keep much of my wardrobe for years and years. Rather than replacing it all, I prefer to add a little of something new, and then find a new way to wear what I already own, which makes me feel like I’m wearing something new, without it actually all being the latest fashion.

Where do you sit and why?

Where do you sit on the fashion trend continuum?


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  • Very interesting, Ladies. I have recently begun a new job and feel the need for change. Last year, with a very tight budget,I shopped my wardrobe and made a few capsules for the roles in my life. I was VERY happy with these, at the time. Now,I want to be more fashionable within the confines of my budget and roles. What is driving me crazy is that I have the money, time and desire but can’t make a decision on the garments. Being unable to go shopping and try on new things, as there are only two fashion outlets where I live, is frustrating. The variety just isn’t there. Shame you can’t order online ” on appro” as the shops used to do for approved customers. Have we gone forward, I wonder.

  • Very interesting video and article! I feel like I’m an early majority person. I wear the same classic/relaxed pieces for a long time (5 years) and buy trends only if I feel they fit my style and personality. I will wear those for a longer time too, but sometimes I make mistakes and wear them only a couple of times before I donate or sell them. I can’t say I’m an options or procedure person, I’m in between those two.

  • It’s taken me all day to figure this article out as it applies to my wardrobe! I’m a classic, always have been, but lately I’ve tried trends and new runway ideas. I guess that makes me a late majority…

  • For me, it is all about how flattering the trend is for my body type, if it meets my standards for modesty, and if the price is reasonable. If it meets that criteria, I am all over it! If not, I won’t buy it.

  • Great thought provoking video and article, Imogen! I would have to agree with Sherilyn, the style must be modest, appropriate for my “H” shape and a flattering color, otherwise, why bother? If it doesn’t work, a trend could turn us into fashion victims very quickly. Not a good look for mature women.

    Thanks, girls, this was fun!
    A faithful fan,

      • I find that as I am moving into late-mid-life, I don’t know what flatters my shape anymore! Proportions that used to look good on me no longer suit my shape. Is it because I haven’t accustomed my eye to except the changes in my body? I don’t know, but because I feel so unsure of myself, and the newest trends seemed to be more suitable for “Younger” shapes, but I can’t make myself buy many things outside of basic, classic, neutrals. It’s frustrating because I enjoy looking current and relevant. Most people I work with are younger than I am, and I don’t want to become the frumpy one. Thank you for giving me something to think about, and I’m sure it’s something I’m going to have to work through during this stage in my life.

        • Yes age can shift the way weight sits on your body which can change your shape. You may need to reconsider what shape you are and learn new guidelines for your current body. Many of the trends are for the super thin, which can always make life hard, but there will be something out there for you that isn’t “old lady” too!

  • Very thought provoking Imogen ! While most days I am happy with what is in my wardrobe I am always adding items. Well for now I hit the pause button here as I am in a shopping ban as I realised I have too much stuff.
    In my case I think I am in between the early adopters and early mayority.

  • Oh this is such an interesting topic. I have hopped around through most of these categories depending on age, peer groups and finances. In my youth I sewed random outfits together and was very experimental and had supportive peer group who loved the wacky stuff I created… there was a poor boyfriend at one point who said “do you have to wear that Jacket out tonight”. Jacket was long green fake fur box and Monsterlike and hilarious.

    However, I have job in very corporate engineering company for nearly 15 years and so trying to adjust I went in far opposite direction and was very dowdy. Also had kids and wanted to fit in with other mums. As my personal confidence grows again I am naturally returning to my experimental self but don’t need to shock as I liked to as a teenager. I’m dressing for myself – my shape and message I want to project.

    That said while I love original clothing on myself and other people the engineer in me is partial to procedure and adopting capsule wardrobe concepts has greatly helped my dressing over last year. My shopping is more focussed and hence making better purchases of garments that fit in and get worn.

    A great test of whether you are early adopter is how soon you bought a pair of skinny jeans. Remember how no one thought they would last past a season. I’m also surprised at how the ripped jeans trend is sticking around.

    • Yes, how quickly you pick up a trend is related to that early adoption phase. Most people are in the early majority or late majority as they get used to seeing something on lots of people. I think the ripped jean thing hangs around as on the whole jeans are expensive, so people don’t like to throw them out too fast!

  • I’m with Jill, too. I’m size 10, 5’7″, but will probably never own a pair of skinnies. Don’t care if my side zip sailor pants are ever in fashion. I love the look and feel. I rather resent fashion, but love everything about style. For me, that means vintage in outerwear, jewellery and accessories. I did move from mid-calf, full skirts to knee-length straight about 10 years ago; they still feel trendy to me. (And I keep a couple of good favourites at the back of the closet, just in case. Love them in the bitter cold, for example.). I get my novelty kick largely through thrifting. The hunt is irresistible. That said, my wardrobe is quite small because: a) I am hard on my clothes; and b) if a garment lets me down twice (if I feel uncomfortable or badly dressed in it), I release it back to the thrift shop I bought it from. The circle of life.

  • Interesting topic. I’d say I was an innovator/early adopter with the innovation in my head long before I can find it in the shops. I’ve always been like that, which is why I used to sew my own. There’s a logical progression to style and colour, so you sort of know what’s coming next. Also, when I’ve bought a designer coat or jacket, I’ve found they feature details and colours that become mainstream three or four years later, and often you can wear then long after that without looking dated.

    The other thing is you don’t need to buy the whole look. I like neon, so I bought a cheap bracelet in the pink and the green which look great In summer with a tee shirt. Others look great in neon tee shirts on a bright summer day, they but wouldn’t suit me,

    My classics, which form the basis of my wardrobe are a collection of mainly cashmere vee necks, to which I add any new colour I like. I find them in charity shops, as well as Uniqlo sales (excellent btw) and elsewhere. This year I bought a couple of jumpers in different looser, more off beat styles, I also like scarves and have a good collection from designer to supermarket.

    In my mind I’m a minimalist, though nothing around me supports it. I dislike rules intensely, especially my own, though addicted to reading about capsule wardrobes, how to pack a carry on suitcase and have 72 outfits with only three garments. How simple it would be if I’d only implement them, but I can’t. Btw I do finish what I start, but not necessarily in a linear way. I drop things, then pick them up again later, sometimes many times and a lot later. I do finish them though and can meet deadlines. It’s good because there’s time to absorb and reflect. I can do the straight line stuff too. In fact most of the late majority and laggard stuff, I’ve had to learn for work. It’s what they like best.

    In January 2016, I announced that I would not buy any more clothes. I’d achieved the style I wanted so didn’t need anything else. It unleashed the biggest spending spree of my life! I realised that my clothes bored me silly. Still, the charity shops did very well and I ended the year rather shame faced at the time, devotion and money I’d spent on my wardrobe.

    Interestingly, last year (apart from my lovely clothes) was terrible. Everything conspired against us moving house, including my husband’s health collapsing through various illnesses, including cancer. Every time I felt stuck, helpless or whatever, I bought more stuff. I have to say though, that I bought well! I’m very happy with the way I look today. It’s fun getting dressed, not least because there’s not too much stuff to confuse me. And I do wear all of it.

    My purchases included beauty and skin care. A real makeover. And guess what! I only bought two things in this year’s sales, because – wait for it – I didn’t need anything. Not a statement I thought I’d ever make! And, added bonus, my husband thinks I look great, so I’m now starting on his wardrobe, a much harder task because he is the ultimate hanger on of everything, just because…..

    For the record, just so your readers know it’s never too late, I’m 71. How I look is as important as it ever was. I buy from everywhere – charity shops, high street, designer, I never think is it too young. Why would I? If it’s too young, it wouldn’t look right, I do find quite a lot of clothes that are ageing. Even my 103 year old mum won’t wear them.

    It sounds as if I have loads of money. I don’t, but being older means that you don’t needs lots of ‘useful’ things for work etc. You can acquire what you like. I think the most important thing I’ve learnt from this column is to buy for the life you lead, not your fantasy one or just in case. My ‘just in case’ clothes comprised most of what I gave away.
    Sorry. Got a bit carried away here. Thank you for all your insights. I read your column avidly!

      • Unleashed,
        I am 75 and still learning about how to choose the garments that make me look and feel my best, thanks to Imogen, Jill, and my fashionista 96 year old mother ! I also love capsule wardrobes and have probably viewed all that YouTube has to offer, except for the black , white and gray ones, as I love a balance of warm colored neutrals and happy, though muted , accent colors ! Never too old to feel good in our clothes — it does matter ! During this worldwide pandemic, the study and learning of the nuances of what goes into choosing the best choices for my individual body, coloring and personality has been both my happy distraction and my joy !

  • Very interesting. I have no interest in fads or trends per se, I do not actively try to know what’s in vogue right now or how I could be fashionable according to the rules of the market. I have found the colours, silhouettes and types of garments that I like and that flatter me and usually stick to them.
    But there are two exceptions to this rule: The first would be that I notice how suddenly one of my preferred garments or colours is in fashion for a season or two, for example palazzo pants, that seem to pop up everywhere every two or three years or so. And when this is the case, I always buy new stuff, because I know perfectly well that I will love it and wear it a lot.
    The other case is rarer, but it does happen: I see a trend, something that I have never seen or noticed before, and fall in love head over heels, because I know exactly that it will fit me and my style to a tee. And in this case, too, I will whip out my purse – here, please take my money. After many, many years (about twenty, to be honest), I still remember the exact moment when I first saw a sporty halterneck-top in a magazine article with retro-seventies-flavour. The halterneck-tops just took my breath away. Since then I try on every halterneck I come across in a store. I own some that have been in my wardrobe for years, and although I don’t wear them that often because they aren’t the most practical or versatile garment in the world, I love them dearly.
    I would not call myself a laggard, because I love clothing and style, but fashion? I don’t know.

  • ESTJ, late majority to laggard. I like process and what suits me. I’m not interested in what the industry says I should be wearing. I hate the idea of something being dated a year or two after I buy it so would never buy very specific styles. For instance, in 2018 I avoided cold shoulder tops.

  • Jill,
    We are sisters in concept on fads and trends ! However, I do like subtle ways of staying up to date in my otherwise Classic style ! Though I don’t care for Meghan Markle’s personality, I did appreciate Jill’s post on her use of color and subtle details added to her Classic pieces to look more current !
    I’ve recently started to explore how values within an outfit can create a sense of “ newness “ for me, or at least a new understanding ,as well as new color pairings to provide that spark of creativity within what I already own without the need to buy buy buy the latest things on the market that will be old news next year ! The ultra short cropped blazers comes to mind as being a short lived fad. Frankly, I am hoping that the distressed jeans look also fades into history !

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