While many of us would like an unlimited budget for fashion purchases, let’s be honest we need to be frugal – even more so in recent years. Still, it’s important to be current and look our best. The key to dressing current without breaking the bank is knowing the difference between a trend and a fad.

Here’s how to tell the difference…


Fads – by definition are in and out almost quicker than you can purchase and wear the item. They last one season, maybe two if you are extra lucky.

Trends – by definition are the fashion mantras that tend to stick around longer than one little season. This does not mean however that a trend current now will still be ok to wear in 10 year (ahem, ladies with your jeans from the early 90s – I’m talking to you.)


Fads – Remember those sweaters/pins/scarf’s that had your initial embroidered on them. They were popular about 5 years ago. You looked outdated if you wore it 6 months after you made the purchase.

Trends – Skinny jeans. They first made their appearance a couple years ago. Some people bought them, the celebrities started wearing them, now nearly every teenager and young professional has at least one pair.

Fads – Colors. Besides your basic black, brown, white. The color of the season is necessarily a fad. They last exactly one season, not usually a second longer.

Trends – Capri pants. At one point they were a total anomaly, now the trend is ending. Capri pants are too pedestrian now to last much longer. But they had a good long run.

How to Predict the Trend and Fad Future:

Ok, I admit this is a little difficult. Of course hind-sight is 20/20. I mean who would have thought those letter sweaters wouldn’t last? I mean, hello, Lavern and Shirley used to wear them. Anyway, here’s what I consider when trying to determine if something is a fad or trend:

Is it made popular so suddenly? Yes = Fad. No = Trend

Did the celebrities wear it last season? Yes = Trend. No = Fad

Is it popular in Paris now? Yes = Trend. No = Fad

Does nearly every woman you know own it? Yes = Fad. No = Trend

Why Care?

Well, if fads are going to be out of fashion next season it is going to be a lot harder to reuse the item next fall. And if you are going to pay a pretty penny for a piece, it’s usually smart to try and get a lot of wear out of it so your cost-per-wear is manageable.

The best bet is to purchase fads for cheap so that you don’t care when you bag it up in 6 months and send it to Goodwill. For trends you can spend the good money since you’ll be able to wear it next year, and if you catch it early enough, the year after too.

Current Fads and Trends: (in my opinion)

Fads – Purple, mega-distressed leggings, one-shoulder dresses, zipper-accents, flannel plaid shirts

Trends – Over-the-knee boots, skinny jeans, belts as accessories, scarves, leggings, colorful shoe, trench coats

What else would you put into the Fad or Trend category?

Katie Hinderer

Katie Hinderer is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism from Marquette University. Over the years she has transitioned from traditional publishing...