Do you remember dressing up in your Easter best as a child? The tradition of buying new clothes for the occasion is one that has continued for decades in America, and perhaps centuries in Europe. In fact, Easter spending on outfits is the second largest holiday expense, according to the a survey by the National Retail Federation in 2014, second only to the money spent on groceries or meals out.
In fact, America was also once known for the Easter parade. Bruce David Forbes describes the popularity of the parades and the holiday fashion trend in America’s Favorite Holidays:
“…parishioners from prominent New York City churches strolled Fifth Avenue following Easter morning worship services to show off their elegant fashions, especially ladies’ hats, their “Easter bonnets”… “At its height in the late 1940s, the New York City Easter parade drew crowds estimated at over a million people, inspiring other parades in cities like Atlantic City, Boston, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. By the 1890s, the expectation of new clothes for Easter was being encouraged by explicit marketing appeals from merchants via newspaper and magazine advertisements, store windows, and other promotions.”
“The expectations continued until recent decades, and many adults today, nationwide, remember the special Easter clothes of childhood.”
However, in recent years, this trend seems to have diminished somewhat, even if the Easter parades continue in a slightly different fashion (no pun intended). Forbes continues: “The parades still occur annually, although they are substantially diminished and are now more of a carnival featuring outlandish hats, instead of the fashion show of earlier years.”
So why have we stopped dressing up for Easter? “As Peter Steinfels of the New York Times has written, echoing the impression of almost everyone, “The whole association between Easter and clothes isn’t what it used to be.” He suggests that the new spring fashions remain but are not as focused on Easter. Even more important, I would suggest, is that in today’s American culture clothing is increasingly casual at work and at worship, influencing even Easter Sunday. If new Easter clothes drove sales in previous generations, that spending is greatly diminished now. When is the last time you saw an Easter bonnet?”
Learn more about American traditions and celebrations in America’s Favorite Holidays, available now.