When we go to the clothing store, a few factors influence our decision of whether we want to buy a shirt we like or not: the color, the texture, the fit, the brand, and last but not least, the price. 

Money is interwoven with fashion because every decision in the fashion industry costs money.

Fashion designers have to present designs with a low production cost to generate profits for the company. The cost of production is the sum of the cost of fabrics, threads, trims, cost of labor, dyes, shipping, packing, and labeling. Fashion is a sum of money that both the fashion industry and the fashion consumer have in mind. 

So, if fashion is money and money is fashion. What does money look like in fashion?

Where and when is the wealth? 

Our desire to express money in fashion has changed as time passes because symbols of wealth have come and gone throughout time. 

Wealthy Americans in the 1930s wore fur coats made of chinchillas, minks or foxes.

Men who belonged to the British Aristocracy in the 18th century wore suits made of fine wool or silk and gold accents. 

Nate Archibald from Gossip Girl. Image Courtesy of MAX. 

Wealth looks different depending on the period of time and the location. 

For instance, Silicon Valley business people have more relaxed dress codes than Wall Street workers. 

Latin American millionaires tend to go for big logos and flashy designer pieces, while European millionaires go for classic and discreet, quiet luxury goods. 

So, the intersection of wealth and fashion takes us to a big universe of possibilities on how these two factors look when they are together. 

Today, we are going to talk about the intersection of fashion and money pivoted to the social and political context of 2024 and the fashion trends that this intersection is triggering. 

Money influencing fashion in 2024

The politics of Old Money

In Political Fashion, we have talked about how fashion trends trickle up, trickle down, and trickle across. 

Fashion trends can come from the working class (motorcycle jackets, jeans, and white T-shirts are all trends that trickled up from the working class to the upper class). 

Fashion trends can come from the upper class. (pearls, faux fur, and tuxedos all came from the upper class and trickled down to to the working class).

Now, we cannot predict fashion trends, but we can study the factors that influence the surge of these trends. 

When governments on the left assume power, there is more of a focus on civil rights, social justice, and attention to issues impacting the working class. We saw the hippie movement leading fashion in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy and later Lyndon B. Johnson assumed power as President of the United States.

During the Obama years, rappers began gaining mainstream attention and started being part of the fashion conversations on the front row in fashion week, on red carpets, and on the cover of magazines.

This phenomenon helped to diversify the faces representing the fashion industry in the United States. 

In the peak of Logomania, Madonna posed for a Louis Vuitton campaign with head to toe logos. Image Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

On the other hand, when the right assumes power, the factors of nationalism and improving/helping the economy are part of the conversations. Depending on the location, and social context, the right can also be linked with spiritual beliefs. 

During the George W. Bush years, aspirational elitism became mainstream through Gossip Girl on TV, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian wearing matching flashy Louis Vuitton bags and big, colorful logos on designer bags. This phenomenon translated into a desire by the working class to acquire what the upper class was wearing. So the velvety Juicy Couture tracksuit that Paris Hilton was wearing became available at JCPenney with a similar texture and another brand label. Globalization and mass production for fast fashion accelerated during these years, making it very easy for consumers to purchase an interpretation of the clothes celebrities wore within weeks. 

Image Courtesy of Kylie Cosmetics. 

Our political context influences fashion trends, with Old Money as an upcoming fashion trend this year. 

Old money is an aesthetic that describes significant inherited wealth. Think of Blair Waldorf’s pearl necklaces and Tiffany headbands or Nate Archibald’s Ralph Lauren attire as a daily uniform. 

There is an element of classic design, which can be plaids, pearls, or antique logos. 

Old money can easily be seen as “grandparent clothes” because the colors are usually toned down, and the silhouettes are very modest. So now, fashion brands are polishing elements from the Old Money aesthetic to make it appealing to the young consumer. 

 What is Old Money? 

Blair Waldorf wears classic silhouettes without logos that are luxurious and high-end. Image Courtesy of Business Insider. 

Old money is usually not flashy. 

Old money doesn’t try to communicate loudly that there is wealth because this aesthetic comes from families where wealth has been around for a long time; therefore, there’s no proactive need to communicate they are wealthy. 

Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren are two American brands that have prevailed following Old Money aesthetics, without loudness that are repeated in a motif all over a leather bag or on the buckle of a belt. 

Old money has sophisticated autumn colors, such as burgundy, olive green, beiges, and grays. 

Ironically, fast fashion brands are knocking off Old Money-inspired clothes to make them affordable for the mass consumer, making it a widespread trend for this year. 

Logo-free luxury

Styling for Succession cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with exclusive and high end pieces. Image Courtesy of MAX.

North American retailers sold 40% fewer heavily-logoed products in 2023 than in the year before. 

Additionally, luxury brands like Ermenegildo Zegna, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Loro Piana, which are known for including little to no logos on their collections, reported a significant increase last year. 

Some fashion analysts believed the popularity of Quiet Luxury would only last for a few months after the end of Succession and Gwyneth Paltrow’s heavily media-covered trial had passed. 

But these numbers suggest that fashion consumers are keeping themselves away from the logomania that attacked our closets for the last five years. 

On one hand, logos can be harder to style when there are multiple colors involved. 

On the other hand, knock-offs and replicas are becoming more prevalent, making logo-heavy goods more mainstream and, therefore, “less desirable” to those who want to communicate wealth and luxury. 

There’s also an element of appreciation for craftsmanship and material quality encouraged by environmentalists and sustainable fashionistas. 

Luxury is a Lady Dior bag made of grained calfskin with Cannage stitching, finished, edge-painted, and constructed by qualified craftsmen in Paris. 

Luxury is not an Extra Large Michael Kors canvas tote bag coated with polyurethane.

Following this premise, luxury is not always linked to the name of a designer on the tag. Luxury is craftsmanship, quality materials, and artisanal or avant-garde fashion that is special, not just because of the price but because there was thought and intention behind it. 

Maria Grazia, Dior’s creative director, has done a phenomenal job collaborating with craftsmen and artisanal studios from different parts of the world, including Egypt, Spain, India, and Mexico, to create luxurious goods that celebrate traditional and artisanal processes from the region. 

Where do we go from here?

As conservative movements rise across the world, images of nationalism, tradition, and elitism are consistently present in politics. The news spread across social media and other media outlets, influencing conservative trends that are then connected with the rise of Old Money and quiet luxury. 

This doesn’t mean that conservative fashion trends are only adopted by people with conservative values. The political context influences fashion trends that are adopted by the mass consumer as a whole. 

This Old Money, Quiet Luxury, and Logo-free Luxury will be in style for at least a few years until we become interested in another way to express our wealth.