What’s Real and What Isn’t?


What’s Real and What Isn’t?

How social media is warping the way we view fashion

What's Real and What Isn't?

Y2K. Clean Girl. E-fashion. Indie Sleaze. Balletcore. If you’ve been paying attention to the American fashion scene of Gen-Z, you’ve probably seen these buzzwords floating around. Whereas yesterday you might have never heard of a style, it’s suddenly all over social media today–and basic tomorrow. There always seems to be a new “next big thing.”

We need to slow down…were these seemingly fast-moving trends really fast-moving? Or were they even trends in the first place?

The Y2K Issue

Y2K style in the 1990s
Courtesy of New Wave Magazine

Originally defining the decade of the mid-90’s to mid-2000’s, Y2K represented the turn of a century. Y2K was reintroduced in 2019, albeit more modernized, as a reaction to the turn of a new decade, as well as due to the 20-year fashion cycle.

Bella Hadid in the contemporary Y2K style
Courtesy of University of Fashion

As early as 2020, I saw contemporary Y2K being called the new “basic” in tweets and TikToks. But this style burst into the high fashion scene in 2021, with many collections featuring brighter colors, tube tops, and low-rise bottoms (you might remember Miu Miu’s viral micro-miniskirt!). Then the style filtered down from the runway to the rest of the fashion world (a process aptly described by Miranda Priestly), bringing us to where we are now. 

Today, the general fashion scene has clear Y2K influence. Claw clips, a hallmark of Y2K, are everywhere (and you can check this out just going down Locust Walk at Penn). Baby tees are the rage, and you’ll see plenty of bustier tops at parties. Y2K is truly in…over two years after it was first reintroduced. And it’s clearly staying for a while, having already lasted years.

A Trend Explosion

Chunky rings, a viral microtrend in 2021
Courtesy of Pinterest

Microtrends—like chunky rings, Amazon corsets, and the infamous green House of Sunny Dress—started popping up like weeds during 2020, a reaction to the restrictions on public self-expression during the pandemic. In 2022, there was commotion over the comeback of twee (a preppy style defined by the early 2010’s) and an introduction of gyaru (a style from Japan that has been around since the 1970s).

Despite how different these trends were, they had one thing in common: none of these styles truly influenced the greater landscape of the fashion world or changed what the average person was wearing, contrary to what many social media users complained about.

This is not to say that overconsumption of these trends, especially microtrends, was irrelevant to greater society. High consumer spending and turnover on products fitting into these trends have been extremely detrimental for our environment, and for underpaid and underage workers following the explosion of company and website SHEIN.

The overexposure of outfits on social media is changing the way people view trends, and it elevates people’s expectations beyond the actual state of fashion, while also promoting over-consumption and stopping people from developing an individual sense of fashion. 

Courtesy of ZEITGUIDE

Workers and the environment continue to face the consequences of these issues while it barely makes a blip on actual fashion.

We need to stop throwing ourselves at any new trend that pops up, by either glorying or villainizing it, and really take a look at the world around us.

If you’re worried that fashion is moving too fast, that the concept of trends will eventually implode on themselves and become completely obsolete, I implore you to go on a walk outside, and look at what people are really wearing. Chances are, you’ll still be able to see a pair or two of skinny jeans.

Featured Image courtesy of HIGHSNOBIETY

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