"Convertible Clothing: Getting rid of fashion stereotypes"

Innovation flows through the veins of fashion designers and textile houses. There was a time when people mocked at those who made the mistake of wearing their clothes inside out. That was the side with rough stitched edges, faded designs and untidy looks.

Designers and fashion houses worked on the concept of reversible clothing and today, reversible clothing is in. Convertible clothing is similar to this idea. With busy schedules and tight budgets, customers are always on a lookout for financially viable dresses that serve various purposes. A single dress is expected to be perfect for office, evening wear or a casual shopping day with friends. While initially the idea was thought to be a mere fragment of someone's vivid imagination, it gradually turned to reality. Convertible clothing is still a new concept, but customers have enthusiastically embraced it.

The concept

Convertible clothing evolves from the idea that fashion comes and goes. Halter style is in vogue for a season, then gives way to the hooded style. Hemlines keep changing and so do patterns and designs. Considering the prices of garments, it becomes difficult to throw away carefully chosen apparel simply because the style is out of fashion. Convertible dresses work wonders when it comes to staying trendy without investing in another dress.

Here's a realistic example. St Louis-based designer Emily Koplar Brady designed a black and white tweed shirt that had black leather details at the sleeve and peplum waist, for her 2012 fall collection. What makes her design unique is that the sleeve is removable, and so is peplum. "I realise that just because peplums are in now, doesn't mean they'll want to still wear it next year," Brady explained. Designing houses have designed clothes that can be used in fifteen different ways. Some dresses can be transformed into a scarf, bag, skirt or even an evening gown.

Customers rely on creative wardrobes to perk up the style quotient and convertible dresses offer creative freedom and style at a comparatively low cost than buying lots of apparel to look different each day. These dresses help save space and are a perfect option for minimalists.

Whatever is considered a fad just takes over the whole planet. Convertible clothing is now a fad. However, the low-cost option and the creative choices it may help this style rule global markets. In terms of those who like to spend wisely, these dresses give more for money and environmentalists are happier since convertible dresses consume less energy and material to produce than buying several pieces.

Markets welcome the change

Convertible clothing is a practical concept and so far, customers from developed nations are more inclined to invest in a convertible dress. The idea of convertible is especially appealing for youngsters, who struggle in terms of finance. Working professionals, who are worn out finding time to shop for dresses for different occasions, also appreciate the idea. In developed countries, customers are more open to experiment with style than in developing countries where consumers largely continue to be traditional in apparel shopping. Also, designers like Colorado's fashion designer Kristin Glenn believes, "People are becoming more conscientious about overconsumption, and I think that versatile garments are an important part of any minimalist's or traveller's wardrobe."

Though options for men are fewer than for women, designers are also working on menswear. Washington designer Shaun Rhames created a reversible tie for men. Rhames said, "You are getting two ties in one and for the price of one. The tie features an elastic band that can be switched to be worn on either side, so the reversible nature doesn't hurt its usability."

In the US, convertible dresses are popular in all styles from the casual variations offered by Target, American Apparel and Victoria's Secret to the more complex designs of Lanvin's Albert Elbaz. In 2011, Elbaz showcased a collection that worked as chemises in daytime and reversed for evening to ruffled chiffon or tulle.

The convertible clothing trend is catching up in China, as consumers increasingly look for their money's worth. Chinese retail giant JNBY offers convertible knitwear to consumers, and is popular in the US also. It has earned loyal customers in Manhattan. JNBY's brand manager Michelle Wohlers said, "JNBY introduced multipurpose pieces with a handful of items priced from about US$ 200 to US$ 500. The trend started as a test for us." Nevertheless, convertible clothing garnered huge attention and attracted several consumers, which has made the company expand this section by 5 per cent to 10 per cent each year since 2007.

In India, the young urban population from metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore is more inclined to buy convertible clothing. But, choices offered in these cities are also limited, which is keeping the trend from becoming popular. The population from tier II cities continues with a conventional shopping style. Though experimenting with accessories to give a dress new look is popular, convertible clothing is not a trend here. The reasons for this are lack of awareness and lack of choices.

The convertible clothing fashion is in its formative stage so trade figures for the international market are still not clear. The US Census Bureau does not list convertible clothing when detailing apparel and fashion trade figures.

Global reckoning of the fabric

Designer Tansy Hamley who designed 'work to flirt dress' is optimistic that the future belongs to convertible clothing. This dress can be worn at work and easily converted to a dress appropriate for an evening date. "Due to the hectic lifestyles that we all are leading these days, I believe that in the future more fashion will be focused on two-in-one versatile outfits that can be altered to suit different occasions," Hamley said.

There are websites like Style Hive, Refinery 29 and Trend Spot that provide illustrations in images and schematic representations that help customers unmask the convertible fashion style and apply to their personal style.

Famous clothing retailers like Gap, Express, etc are also offering convertible dresses. Globally, retailers in China, Europe and America have produced convertible clothing in fashion shows. Gap offers four-in-one-dress, which can be transformed into three different lengths according to the occasion. Express offers reversible belts, camisoles and dresses. Anthropologie sells a seamless tank top with a V-neck on one side and scoop neck on the other.

A few designers in India are also experimenting with convertible clothing. Though the experiments are still confined to a few dresses, the versatility has been lauded by consumers. Some designers offer convertible collars so that the wearer can fold it back into the neckline if required. This dress is perfect for formal and semi-formal occasions. Convertible collars are also available in men's shirts.

Convertible dresses are a cool option for consumers, but these are yet to become wardrobe staple. Yet, the future is definitely promising as the customer gets multiple dresses for the price of one. According to senior executive with Stylesight Sharon Graubard, "The moment is right. Consumers have become more daring and self-expressive. They're getting comfortable with shifting their clothes around, pinning them to the side, and kind of working them."

Published by Fibre2Fashion 2015

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