Recession Chic

Mirroring the economy's dour mood, designers go back to black

Giovanni Giannoni / Corbis

A model on the runway at Balenciaga's fall 2008 show in Paris, France.

Just as the world's financial markets are experiencing a serious mood swing, from exuberance to gloominess, so too is fashion. Enjoy while you can the bright bursts of floral prints sprouting up on department-store racks this spring. Come fall, fashion will follow the downward spiral of home values and investment portfolios, as designers embrace restraint with a dark palette and severe silhouette. As Amy Winehouse would so aptly croon: Back to black.

Historically speaking, fashion trends and tastes often serve as early harbingers of economic change. In the booming, pre-Crash 1920s, flapper hemlines bounced giddily to the knee before falling down...