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When money's tight, what makes women spend thousands on clothes? No one knows, but that's certainly no impediment to authoritative-sounding speculation when there are column inches to be filled. So, even though fashion designers plan fabrics and colors many months in advance of their shows, everyone has been eagerly interpreting new collections in light of the economy, mostly claiming that the bright, cheerful designs seen on the runway—like Betsey Johnson's—reflect a desire to detract from the gloom of dire financial prospects.

Or, as the Wall Street Journal's Christina Binkley proposes, the many "romantic, feminine looks" shown at Fashion Week intend to provide escapism. Nanette Lepore (above), who has been doing clothes like that her entire career, is happy to go along with the thesis: She's "breaking more rules," she says—blazers without sleeves! A dress with a single ruffle!—in an effort to ride out the recession.

On the other hand, the complete opposite to floaty feminine clothes, the bondagey, sexed-up outfits seen at Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Thakoon, are also a response to what's going on in the world beyond fashion! Says Kate Betts: "I was curious about this aggressive undertone to a lot of the younger designers. They are expressing a certain kind of edginess they are picking up in the culture."

You'd think with all this deep analysis going on, someone would have come up with a satisfactory theory on the most pressing societal issue this side of Wall Street: Why has everyone designed jumpsuits? Because you have to undress entirely to use the bathroom, mirroring how trapped we are in debt? Because it's traditionally the outfit of blue collar workers, evoking our solidarity with the working man? Sunday Styles, this begs for indepth coverage!

To Frill or not to Frill? Designs for a Downturn [WSJ]
Drapery and Hints of Bondage [Australian]