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 Fashion Trends 2004

Part 1 - General Changes Affecting Textiles

By Pauline Weston Thomas for



General Trends Affecting Fashion Textiles


New fashion statement makers will emerge as we approach the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.  Global trends now emerge faster than ever before as the internet and text messaging, shortcuts transmission of ideas and concepts between individuals, bringing the next big thing to you and me in the space of seconds. 

In 2004 -2005 a new fashion focus will develop around centres like Dubai, Delhi and Japan as well as the Eastern Bloc.  Fashion trends and influences in 2004 from these places combined with translating what these cultures consider to be western ideas of street fashion trends, will give a fresh, but sometimes exotic interpretation to traditional Western styles.  In 2004/5 new and important trends will emerge from countries such as Romania, Estonia and Hungary once regarded as followers rather than innovators of Western fashion and lifestyle.

From 2004 as Global communication and video conferencing becomes the norm buyers will be able to speak directly and swiftly with business colleagues, customers and clients and so these centres will become lively fashion statement makers.  They will be demonstrating new fashion ideas in clothing, accessories, style and lifestyle every bit as important globally as fashion influences from London, Paris, New York, Milan and Los Angeles have been in the past.


Who will wear what in 2004?

Mass manufacturing and rapid creative copying of a fashion catwalk design means that many of us can afford innovative looks at high street prices without the couture price tag.  Age is no barrier to following a fashion trend or making a fashion statement as 10 becomes the new 18 and 50 is the new 35.  Consumers will crave new and different products, actively be seeking new fashion forward items on each shopping expedition.

Once you would never have seen a woman over 45 in one of the UK's TopShops, today they are a significant part of the customer base.  Many who shop in the UK's Per Una outlets within Marks and Spencer are buying snappy 'just in time' fashion items in the same section as their daughters and granddaughters. 

These consumers are more concerned with the innovative approach to new styling and the use of new fabric finishes and textures.  They consider the why and how, and what will it do for them when buying an item, rather than does their generation's age match the marketing demographic profile of what a typical Ms.45+ might like to wear.   Ms.45+ may well think that the garments the marketing has bookmarked with her in mind would be better suited to her granny who is 90.

Just in time is a concept that suits not only the manufacturers and retail suppliers, but also consumers who have long associated exclusivity and scarcity to mean desirable and therefore luxurious, even though the cost in this example above is affordable to most.   Just in time helps consumers to feel unique. It enables consumers to reward themselves frequently with affordable luxuries that enhance their perception of self image of their unique personal style. 

Likewise the kidult, the adultescent and the rejuvenile generation are adults in their thirties and forties who behave and dress as they choose, wearing clothes directed at teenagers and following marketing trends and pleasure activities directed at their children.  Market researchers have named such individuals who reject adult choices in favour of youthful tastes as the kidult, the adultescent and the rejuvenile generation.

Cocooning – In 2004 staying at home to relax and just be secure, will become an important lifestyle factor that will continue throughout the decade.  As dress becomes less formal and more casual most of the time, even in work time, so does the desire for differentiation between leisure wear and just casual wear with casual brand names becoming an even more important focus as status symbols.  Clothes to cocoon in will be soft and comfortable, stretching and retaining shape. Today comfort is one of the main qualities required of clothing for over 50% of consumers, as is easy wear easy care.


Sports styling will continue to dictate many casual designs throughout 2004, although natural looks where the fabric makes the statement will also be important.  Tom Ford the fashion designer has suggested that the average consumer is 'only interested in jeans and T-shirts for daytime'.  If this is correct, sportswear and sports styling will continue to grip consumers who desire comfort in everyday wear, yet as couch potatoes hardly ever indulge in the activities for which the clothes were originally designed.

To counteract this sports styling some consumers will also seek exquisite top garments and accessories or label led tops to wear with casual designer trouser bottoms, short above knee skirts or limited issue jean styles.  Worn along with fancier showgirl footwear will help marry a mix of feeling powerfully dressed up and casually comfortable all at once - casual clothes will almost merge with dressier styles so that the two show miniscule differences that are visually read by those in the know.

Cotton and Linen will be the fabrics of Spring and Summer 2004 as the demand for natural fabrics continues and supports the casual, but chic discreet look of understated elegance.

Interesting finishes and blends with Lycra®, added to Linen will add versatility to this fabric and will help capture a market previously put off by linen creasing almost as fast as it is donned.  The company Moravolen has produced a range of elastic half linen fabrics under the registered name Stretchlin®. Despite this innovation crumpled poor ironing and wrinkled looks will still feature.

Manipulated textiles and variations with precise texture weaves make for interesting sophisticated and subtle looks along with layered contrasting fabrics of tulle, chiffons, bubble fabrics, crinkle printed semi sheer crêpons, satins, satin backed crêpes, striped and gauze fabrics. New ways of adding interest with lace, ribbon, hem stitching, texture, precision weaves, filigree decoration, yarn cut work, self fabric fringing and embroidery abound.  Fortuny pleating will be very popular as will pin tucks.

Satin and satin effect finishes in 2004 will be a favourite, as a whole generation unfamiliar with satin’s last real outing in the 1980s, wallows in the sophisticated effects and tactile qualities of this elegant fabric.

Silk dupion with satin slubs are a variation on this.  Lustrous viscose and silk jersey knit fabrics support the demand for sheen as does ribbon meandering appliqué on knits.

For more details on fashion fabrics and colours for 2004 go to the next page.

Fashion trends that will take off in 2004 include hip stitched pleated skirts, sometimes set on a basque and reminiscent of skirts fashionable circa 1960, but also set onto the dropped hipline tunic bodice of A line 60’s dresses.  Some of these skirted items will have a Gladiator feel to them.  Tops that meander from poncho, refined kimono and kaftan styles to open ethereal angel sleeves, will lead through finally into batwing designs.  Large broad collars and collars gaining length add a new surprise to garments.

Dress styles for 2004 will be several inches above the knee and favoured by many age groups, including many over 50s with good figures.  The late 60’s cutaway armscye in dresses will continue to feature alongside some extended shoulder line sleeveless tops quite reminiscent of the mid 1980s.  The 1980’s retro styles will appear fresher because of the above knee shorter skirt length.  Women will enjoy showing their legs again after years of shrouding them in trousers.  Dresses of printed chiffons and drop waistlines often with shoestring camisole style straps will feature strongly.

Other popular trends for 2004 female fashion will include the seductive empire baby doll dress look and mid/late 1960’s architectural style A line shift dresses.  The latter will be bound and faced with approximately 3 centimetre contrast bands on armholes and hemlines and will stand alongside 1980’s influenced extravagant open split dolman/batwing sleeve dresses.  Ruffles in the Spanish style add frivolity.

The return of the Olympic Games helps maintain strong sports fashion influences in city wear for both sexes.  This will be more and more emphasised as the 2004 Olympic fever gains a grip on individuals globally.  Colourful fashion trainers rather than traditional running trainers will accommodate the massive shift in shoe buying habits.  Keyholes, zip inserts and satin contrast strips and bindings will continue to feature in mass casual wear emphasizing the sporty feel.

In 2004 slimmer more fitting trouser styles will offer change and give alternative body revealing competition for shorter hemlines.  Sophisticated cigarette pants with ankle zips will gain acceptance and as will sexy skinny, second skin fitting trousers as close as leggings. Slimmer pants of all descriptions will emerge, especially some cropped at the knee.

Look out too for quite wide trousers with turn ups as well as timeless sailor front button trousers which all add interest to pant styles making trousers an accessible fashion for all.

Casual urban looks continue as a mass trend in 2004.  Whilst not at the forefront of a new fashion, simple casual urban looks of military combats and hooded tops will be translated into almost any fabric.  Regardless of the fact that many fashion designers have long abandoned them will be bigger sellers than traditional tailored goods for the masses.  Cropped trousers and narrow legged combats will be preferred over shorts and Bermudas as more suitable summer town wear.  For those unwilling to give up their boot leg trousers there will be 1970’s style innovations of fabric inserts in denim bell bottoms.  Circus looks and colours bring a fun dimension to some casual clothes.

Retro 60's tailoring will feature in jackets and coats for 2004.  Jackets will sometimes be double breasted in mid sixties style and with large almost bell like wide chopped off cape sleeves.  A feature of this style will be oversized buttons and pert neat collars sometimes broader than now.


Innovations for New Areas of Body Exposure

Bum cleavage and bum buttock exposure will be for the daring.  Keyhole ovals and circles cut out of the centre bottom backs of shorts and trouser legs to show Jo Lo style domed buttocks will be for the thrill seekers who feel no fashion bounds exist and no area of the body should be unsuitable for exposure.

Body exposure will meet fetishism as the 5 inch bum keyholes are often held together with biker bar straps and buckles. For the more timid these large keyholes will appear between waist and hip level at the side waist on fitted dresses and fitted tops.


Fair Isle and Tyrolean influenced pattern on knits will feature strongly in 2004 after first being seen in Autumn 2003.  Printed knits with vintage flora, graphic symbols, graffiti and ethnic motifs will stand alongside true intarsia rose knits.  At first glance these knits sometimes appear to be decorated as appliqué, but often reveal instead braid/bead trim on the edges of the motifs giving an almost amateur, less structured, neat finish to the edges.

Bomber fur jackets from the winter ranges will translate into bombers made of textured knits that emulate fur fabrics, but in lighter summer weights or as loopy knits.  Lacy airy knits will be made into mid 1960’s empire cape styles as summer shrugs that do the job Pashminas once did. 

For more details on fashion fabrics and colours for 2004

For Men

This site deals with female fashion and costume only, but a brief aside here for style trends for men in 2004. The most important fashion print will be stripes and striped variations on all garments including belts, ties and edge trims, ideally suited to the cowboy designs forecast by several major designer like Gucci, Tom Ford and Cerruti.  Colours for men include terracotta, clay, wicker, soft tea, all blues and the return of greens.  Genuine Panama Hats

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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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