Impact of Corona virus Pandemic on Indian Fashion

COVID-19 has brought an unprecedented level of disruption to our economy and our social lives. The fashion industry is also in crisis. Worldwide the factories are shutting down, either to stop the spread of coronavirus, or because brands are closing stores and canceling orders. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that fashion sales will face a loss of up to $600 billion in revenue in 2020 compared to 2019, which is a drop by a quarter or even a third.

This crisis isn’t completely unprecedented. The 1918 flu pandemic and the Second World War; if we draw on the expertise of fashion historians and trend forecasters, we can learn from the social, financial, and fashion upheaval of the past to predict how our style will change in the coming months and years. In short, It’s not going to be all leggings all the time: Dressier days are on the horizon already.

Before the 1918 flu epidemic, People didn’t wash their clothes nearly as often as we do now, except undergarments. A decade after the first electric washer hit the market, very few households had one.

You can imagine how difficult it would be to do your family’s household laundry by hand, especially amid a highly contagious pandemic when you’re likely taking care of someone who is ill. That pushed delicate or fussy clothing and voluminous undergarments out of women’s closets, bringing in slimmer clothing shapes, sturdy fabrics, and colors that don’t fade in the wash.


Today, as we peel off our “outside” clothes and stick them straight into the washing machine on the ultra-hot sanitary setting, we’ll likely also pivot to easy, washable clothing and away from “dry clean only” fashion. That means cotton, linen, washable silk, and washable merino wool are in. Delicate beadwork and lace, plus fabrics like rayon or regular silk that shrink and stain at the mere sight of water, are out.

Most likely, we’ll see cultural mores about displaying wealth or status change when so many people are out of work. The fur and ornate decoration slipped away during the 2008 recession but had started to creep back in over the past five years in the form of sequins, peplum, and puffed sleeves, big gold jewelry, and feathers, and even hoop-skirt ball gowns. 

We’re probably going to go back to an aesthetic of scarcity. Simple sheath dresses, tees, wide-leg pants, and humble jeans in rustic fabrics like linen and cotton have so far been popular only with a certain subset of minimalist, sustainable influencers. But you’ll probably start seeing them even on the most high-end influencers soon.  

During the hard times like this in the past, many women resorted to upcycling empty cotton flour sacks into dresses, leading food companies to start printing colorful floral patterns on their food bags.

We probably won’t need to turn our reusable grocery bags into blouses, but women are taking the time spent at home to organize their closets, mend their clothing, and learn how to knit, embroider, and crochet. Many are dragging their sewing machines out of the closet so they can sew their face masks. More and more people are going to be busting out any hotel sewing kits they have stashed away to replace buttons, mend tears, and maybe even hem those pants they have in the back of their closet.

The online secondhand fashion market is also set to explode. Even retailers are getting into that. But it hasn’t yet had mass acceptance.  As more people shop at places like these to save money and others clean out and sell from their closets to make a little extra cash. Less disposable income means less money to throw away on clothing each season, and priority will go to clothes that will be fashionable longer than a couple of months. Once we get sweat suit fatigue (it’s coming), we’ll reinvigorate the kinds of clothing that are one step above PJs: wrap dresses, caftans, easy blouses, and wide-leg loose-fitting pants that make us feel like queens of our realm instead of prisoners.

In the past, even though people were aspiring to glamour, they weren’t spending tons. These were fashion’s first mass-market dupes and copies. Now, instead of gleaning fashion must-haves and travel recommendations from influencers, we’re turning to Netflix for entertainment, to forget what is going on. I think we were almost at the point of exhaustion with influencers. Now that this has hit, if they were to put on something, it’s like, where do you think you’re going?

When the war broke out and material rationing started, the style stuck around. Similarly, when we’re back out in the world and our offices, we’ll run in the opposite direction from schlubby loungewear and toward tailored looks. We are going to want to dress up. During the Depression, women spent what little money they had on makeup to emulate the movie-star look. Now, with shelter-in-place orders spreading across the country, People will still be buying makeup and beauty products. It’s a way to continue your self-care.

(Photo Copyrights-Evening Standard)



Siddhartha Dharane

Lecturer, Fashion Design Department