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The Death Of Skinny Jeans: Women Are Bored With Fashion Retail

Prepare your legs for sweet, sweet freedom

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Later, hater. — (Getty Images)
Feb 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM ET

It’s been a rough winter for clothing retailers. Some have blamed the unseasonably warm weather for lagging sales, but there seems to be a larger problem at work: People just don’t want to buy what the stores are selling. Specifically, they’ve grown tired of skinny jeans and all the looks that revolve around them. Hear that? It’s the sound of your calves breathing a huge sigh of relief as they’re set free after nearly a decade of being smothered by tight-fitting pants.

So why are we suddenly over the ubiquitous skin-tight look? Sidney Morgan-Petro, a retail editor at the trend forecasting firm WGSN, told us, “2017 marks about ten years since the advent of the skinny jean, which posits it perfectly as a year for major change.” Quite simply, the skinny jean is beginning to seem like old news, which she sees as a positive thing, “Boredom is good. Boredom brings change. The consumer is growing restless with the lack of newness and retailers are taking note.”

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Major chains like J. Crew and Gap have been frank about the fact that they’ve been failing to stock their stores with fresh styles that women actually want to buy. Richard Hayne, chief executive of Urban Outfitters (which includes Anthropologie and Free People), told the Washington Post, “Our customer’s current lack of enthusiasm for the apparel and accessory categories is primarily due to a lack of fashion newness.”

That lack of interest has delivered a noticeable hit to their sales. Their suffering may be temporary, however. Just as skinny jeans once pushed out bootcut jeans (which had dominated the silhouette since the 90s), something new is on the way. Morgan-Petro explains what’s heating up:

“Spring/Summer 16 sees a decided shift towards wider denim and trouser silhouettes via culottes, flares, classic 501s and wide-leg pants. While this shift has been steadily creeping in for a few years now this is the first time we’re seeing it take hold in a commercially viable way. […] I’m really feeling the Rachel Comey-esque wide-leg cropped silhouette as the next big thing in denim.”

Wide-leg pants are certainly due for a comeback, according to the 20-year trend cycle that says styles from the mid-90s should start to reappear just about now. This week’s New York Fashion Week shows will reveal whether the trend has taken hold even further for fall. Of course, the long-term success of denim depends on women continuing to favor jeans over athleisure, which is on a serious roll. But at least in the near term, the appearance of a totally new silhouette should be good news for retailers (and not-so-great news for your wallet) since it will mean consumers loading up on wide-leg pants and all the tops and shoes that pair well with them.

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