Giving Off Shoulders The Cold Shoulder

Giving Off Shoulders The Cold Shoulder

Written by AnnaMay 23, 2018

Giving Off Shoulders The Cold Shoulder

When the off shoulder surfaced in 2015 on the runways of Proenza Schouler and Prabal Gurung and became one of Spring/Summer 2016’s major trends, it wasn’t the first time. In fact, this style has been a fan favourite since the early 19th century.

Same goes to the cold shoulder trend, a modest variation of the off shoulder that leaves skin bare between the strap and sleeve. It was spotted back in 1993 when First Lady Hillary Clinton wore a black Donna Karan dress to a state dinner.

omnilytics First Lady Hillary Clinton wore a black Donna Karan dress to a state dinner
Source: DailyMail

And from 2015 till 2017, the trend was still growing strong.

Geoffrey Henning, a divisional vice president of design and fashion at J.C. Penney said, “To me, this is the best thing that’s happening right now in women’s apparel.”

Yes, shoulders have come a long way from their first fashion week hurrah but just like any other trend, online searches for both these terms seemed to have taken a nosedive over the past year.

omnilytics retail data cold shoulder and off shoulder google trends

Source: Google Trends

This leaves us wondering: What is happening in 2018?

Done To Death

Both the off shoulder and cold shoulder looks have been translated into every clothing category, from dresses, jackets, sweaters, and more.

To illustrate the wave of this trend, we will compare two different timelines – October 2017 to December 2017 and January 2018 to March 2018 – of two different brands, young and trendy brand, Forever 21, and mature brand, Dorothy Perkins.

Let’s start with the off shoulder, focusing on tops and dresses due to their popularity as compared to other subcategories.

omnilytics retail data sellout rates for off shoulder tops dorothy perkins and forever 21 omnilytics retail data sellout rates for off shoulder dresses dorothy perkins and forever 21

While Forever 21 sold more off shoulder tops and dresses this year at below-average rates, Dorothy Perkins’ sellouts decreased slightly for both categories. Which begs the question: Were Forever 21’s sellouts this year stimulated by high discounts?

omnilytics retail data forever 21 discount ranges for off shoulder tops omnilytics retail data forever 21 discount ranges for off shoulder dresses

Seemed like it, as shown above. They definitely had higher percentage of discounts this year, with 54.2% of 614 SKUs discounted at the 40-44% range for off shoulder tops and 57.5% of 252 SKUs at a 30-34% range for off shoulder dresses. This could have attributed to the higher sellout rate as we have seen earlier and perhaps an indication of stock clearance in lieu of a decline in popularity and sales.

Did the cold shoulder suffer the same chilly fate for both these brands?

When The Temperature Plummets

For Dorothy Perkins, it did and slightly so. Sellout rates for cold shoulder tops dropped from 59.3% to 49.8% while cold shoulder dresses fell about 20% in sales in just 90 days (74.0% to 54.10%), as shown below.

omnilytics retail data Dorothy Perkins : Sellout Rates for Cold Shoulder Tops & Dresses

So we know this trend is on the shoulder of extinction for Dorothy Perkins, with the decline in sellout rates at the start of 2018. What about Forever 21?

Two Years Too Late?

For a fast fashion brand, it’s surprising they didn’t pick up on this style till this year. What‘s not surprising is the far-from-ideal sellout rates, with only a dismal 3% sellout for cold shoulder tops and don’t even get us started on cold shoulder dresses. Practically zilch in sales.

omnilytics retail data Forever 21 : Sellout Rates for Cold Shoulder Tops & Dresses

If Forever 21 had invested in retail data, they could have avoided the issue of jumping on the trend bandwagon at the right time. This is a retail problem that mere intuition will not be able to address.

Shoulders have come a long way, and added a subtle hint of sexiness to any outfit. Though it may seem like we are bidding adieu to this style, it’s not forever. Start counting down for a comeback.

Curious to know what style is trending next in the fashion industry? Drop us an email at and we’ll be in touch!

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