Why the off-the-shoulder top is suddenly everywhere – the washington post electricity sources usa


The silhouette is seemingly everywhere, and it’s taking many different forms. There are Carmen Miranda-esque ruffled styles and ’90s-inspired clingy ones. A variation known as the cold shoulder top — which leaves skin bare between strap and sleeve — has also been flying off shelves. The look has been translated into dresses, jumpsuits, and even bridal gowns and swimwear.

Making a trend catch fire like this is the fashion industry’s constant quest, but it can be an elusive one. Glossy magazines once were the agenda-setters for the apparel business. Today shoppers take their cues from the vast and fragmented landscape of social media — and they have micro attention spans.

In the first quarter of 2016, there was a 110 percent year-over-year increase in the number of off-the-shoulder tops and dresses arriving online, along with a 218 percent boom in arrivals of cold-shoulder tops and dresses, according to Edited, a fashion analytics firm. A dramatic spike in Google searches in recent months for “off the shoulder” and “cold shoulder” suggests shoppers are on the hunt.

Tam is senior vice president of merchandising and planning at Rent The Runway, an upstart site that rents designer frocks. She scours fashion shows each season to identify looks that might appeal to customers. Last September, after seeing New York runway shows from designer labels Proenza Schouler and Prabal Gurung, she said it hit her.

Meanwhile, at J.C. Penney, Henning said the garment came to the fore because it was at the nexus of a few bigger trends percolating in the fashion world. Pieces with a ’70s-era vibe have been hot for several seasons, and off-the-shoulder pieces — especially flowy, diaphanous ones — fit into that. Plus, ’90s-style knitwear seems to be mounting something a comeback, and the J.C. Penney team was also looking to Cuba for inspiration on color palettes and silhouettes. Off-the-shoulder and cold-shoulder pieces could check all of those boxes.

Brooke Jaffe, fashion director at Bloomingdale’s for women’s ready-to-wear, works with her team to put together an extensive trend report at the beginning of each season to guide the upscale department store’s buyers. Off-the-shoulder pieces were in the No. 1 spot this season.

Henning of J.C. Penney echoed that sentiment, saying he realized early on that it was a look that could be adapted to appeal to nearly the full spectrum of the retailer’s female customers. Teens and millennials might go for a full-fledged clavicle-baring style, while older, more traditional shoppers might like a split-sleeve iteration that shows just a sliver of tricep.

At ultra-trendy e-commerce site Shopbop, fashion director Caroline Maguire said the off-the-shoulder blouse meshed well with other trends she was trying to push, such as cropped flare jeans. By merchandising the pieces together, perhaps each trendy piece could give the other a boost.

Both Shopbop and Rent The Runway said they first gambled on the trend by buying some poplin tops from Tibi, a label known for sophisticated silhouettes that was early to make this style available to retailers. It didn’t take long before customers responded.

J.C. Penney dialed up vendors and manufacturers of some of the off-the-shoulder tops. Early in the season, it asked for more shipments of the same item; later in the season, it asked for fresh versions in different colors. After all, a neon-pink blouse doesn’t carry into the fall season quite like a black one would. As soon as buyers reorder a piece, it can be on shelves in two months.

This is Jaffe’s term for a relatively new tactic the chain is trying with its visual merchandising. Instead of a single mannequin here and there, or a few grouped at the top of an escalator, the store is clustering 12 to 15 of themto show off several variations of a particular style. The idea is that such a big, grabby display will send a signal to shoppers that this look is a must-have.

Rent the Runway turned to social media to lure its customers to the shoulder-baring bandwagon. About a month ago, the company shared on Instagram a photo of pop singer Katy Perry on the sun-drenched shores of the French Riviera in which she was sporting an MSGM off-the-shoulder dress that the retailer had available for rent. Tam said that within that week, the dress was “100 percent booked,” meaning that all the rental slots – at $115 a pop – were taken. And, Tam said, when customers found they could no longer book that particular piece, many rented other off-the-shoulder items. So interest in that one dress drove a bump in rentals of similar garments.