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November 21, 2017
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Source: Honestlywtf.com.
Arm Pary neologism Leandra Medine

Princess P Jewelry Set.
Source: QueenPee instagram feed. 

The "arm party" is a neologism first coined by Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller, denoting an assemblage of bracelets adorning the wrist, possibly stacked along the length of an entire forearm. It's an understatement to say the arm party is simply a popular trend; according to Leah Chernikoff of Fashionista.com, the arm party is presently one of the most important fashion elements: "Look at the close-up shots of people's arms, the stories dedicated to people's wrists everywhere." With a climate of recession in Europe, and warnings of waning fashion markets in China, wearing our wealth on our wrists is more than just accessorising on trend; it's symptomatic of a broader, collective mood and an example of feigned prosperity during difficult economic times. 

Where trends originate and the extent to which they permeate fashion scenes globally can be indicative of cultural, economic and social circumstances. "Historically speaking, fashion trends and tastes often serve as early harbingers of economic change," said Kate Betts in 2008 to TIME magazine. "In the booming, pre-Crash 1920s, flapper hemlines bounced giddily to the knee before falling down to the ankles in the depressed 1930s." Betts applied this logic to the pervasion of dark overtones in F/W 2008 collections as a signal of harsh times: "Black is always the color people rely on most often in tough times, especially if they're going to spend on big-ticket items."

Nowadays, the runway is less important than it once was when it comes to inciting fashion trends; to understand what's really going on in the fashion world, one must take to the streets. Numerous articles are dedicated to explaining the phenomenon of street style, where fashion - ostensibly - happens in its most organic manifestation. Perhaps the seeds of the arm party were planted by Tommy Ton, the Canadian street style photographer now affiliated with Style.com, who broke away from the head-to-toe photograph celebrated by street style virtuosos like Scott Schuman, and began focusing on stylised cross-sections of ankles, shoes and, for our purposes, the clutch and arm party duo.

It's much more feasible to switch up a few Hermès bangles and a one-time purchase of a gold DANNIJO bracelet than it is to own enough Prada sweaters to get you through the winter season without filing for bankruptcy.

Born in the streets, the arm party trend has endured over the past few fashion seasons - staying power that is, in and of itself, a rarity in an industry with a "here today, gone tomorrow" mentality. Rather than tapering off, the stakes keep rising with pieces like Delfina Delettrez's Skeleton hand bracelet, which retails for just over C$23,000 at Luisa Via Roma. In fact, the arm party is not unlike a post-modern pastiche - a mix of high and low culture - where an expensive luxury piece like the token Cartier LOVE bracelet is mentioned in the same breath as the Cruciani friendship bracelet made of multi-coloured thread and retails for an affordable 10 euros.

More traditional pieces, such as the Hermès bangle and a Rolex watch, are now competing with independent luxury jewellery designers and luxury brands, like Alexander McQueen, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs, looking to capitalise on the bony wrist market sector. One such jewellery designer, Eddie Borgo, introduced the cone bracelet in 2008 and it is now one of the most copied designs by arm party jewellers. Teen Vogue even offered a how-to DIY Eddie Borgo cone bracelet for more adept readers. 

And not only are designers springing up everywhere with styles that play right into the hands of arm party devotees, we are beginning to see ready-made arm parties available for purchase. Designers such as Princess P Jewelry, which boasts over 49,000 Instagram followers, offers themed sets comprised of five or six bracelets on her online shop, for as little as US$30. If orchestrating an eye-catching arm party seems daunting, the ready-made set is a no-brainer. Because pairing all those bracelets is somewhat of an art form - and I know this from experience - the last thing you want is an arm party that is a total flop. Leandra Medine will go as far as to call her arm parties, the really good ones, ragers

In between high-ticket items and ready-made sets are mid-priced designer accessories that, with a few weeks of savings, are relatively affordable - like entry-level Tiffany and Swarovski - that boast a brand name without breaking the bank. But, so begins the vicious cycle of buying and stacking until one can literally say they are wearing a year's worth of savings on one wrist. At US$500 a pop, a Hermès bangle is in reach sooner or later - especially when parlayed with a more frugal approach to other areas of dress. Fashion pundits everywhere now deem it is now acceptable, if not commendable, to thrift shop (on a daily basis, blogger Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat.com has readers salivating over her thrift store finds).

Arm Party Man Repeller

A Man Repeller Arm Party.
Source: ManRepeller.com.

When considering how much attention is placed on the wrist and arm these days, it makes sense that people are stacking their wealth where it is most visible. The arm party's success has sprung out at a time when countries are recovering from recession, but with a forecast of more difficult economic times ahead. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal stated that a new down turn would be tougher to tame and that, "The [International Monetary Fund] expects...growth [to] slow in nearly every major nation and political uncertainties threaten recoveries in the U.S. and euro zone." Just a few weeks ago, British luxury brand, Burberry, issued warnings of slowing profits in China - an important marketplace for most luxury brands. 

As the possibility of a second down-turn lurks forward, the arm party continues to rage on as a street style fashion trope. As Cherkinoff argues, the focus on accessories is "a by-product of a fresh practicality among luxe-lovers, that savviness that's appeared since the Great Recession." It's much more feasible to switch up a few Hermès bangles and a one-time purchase of a gold DANNIJO bracelet than it is to own enough Prada sweaters to get you through the winter season without filing for bankruptcy. Hence, from Eddie Borgo's cone bracelet and Princess P's ready-made sets to a gratuitous appearance on the Giambattista Valli S/S 2012 runway - the fashion industry has become purveyor of all things arm party.

The growing tendency of buying clothing second-hand or investing in fewer, quality pieces coupled with the ubiquity of the arm party, shores up the claim that contemporary fashion trends are inextricably bound, in this case, to the present climate of global economic recession. The arm party trend continues to reign triumphant in a society where perceived wealth is best alluded to in rows of baby pink bangles with gold-plated H's parading down our wrists. 

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