by Ally McLaren
Fashion has long been the way that we present ourselves to the world. For many, personal style is a means to embody and showcase their personality, values and taste. Historically, fashion has links to culture, religion, class, music and other influences.
Trend cycles from the last few years have taken away this deep link with fashion, with many following fads and changing their aesthetic completely month to month.
Trends typically would last a few years and have a cultural or seasonal basis, but what we are seeing currently are micro trends that pop up and flash by before a lot of people even have time to try them.
This year alone, social media has seen a whole range of cores and aesthetics trending throughout the fashion space: cottagecore, clowncore, balletcore, mermaidcore, fairycore, Y2K, clean girl aesthetic, and many more. These trends don’t require people to identify with a culture, meaning people hop between different aesthetics to try them out - it’s like cosplaying as a character version of yourself.
Now why does that sound familiar?
Taking the digital space by storm, games such as Fortnite allow players to alter their characters by wearing different skins, customising their appearance and outfits. So maybe micro trends is the wrong way to brand this new digital fashion revolution - are micro trends actually game skins for people in real life?
Micro trends have a parallel to video game fashion, as brands launch items that are unwearable in real life, from cartoon boots to handbags that are too small to carry even a smartphone. The wearability and functionality of clothing is taking a step back, and instead the focus is on the aesthetic, almost like we are customising ourselves as characters or avatars. As the internet continues to shape our relationship with fashion, these trends are what defines us in a virtual world.
While we have so many incredible options now to showcase who we are through fashion, allowing individuals to try out different aesthetics to find what suits them, there is the huge concern of how these shorter trend cycles are impacting on the environment.
With the demand for these micro trends sparking production by clothing brands, only for them to be obsolete a couple of months later, it’s hard to find a balance. A scroll on TikTok will bring up videos of people sharing the micro trends that they regret buying into and haven’t worn since.
So how can people explore trends while doing it sensitively to the environment?
Keep it digital - through characters, games, and digital try ons. Explore different skins and outfits online first to see which ones you like, instead of buying them all in real life and then having a haul of waste sitting at the back of your wardrobe when you change your mind.
Repurpose - if there is a certain aesthetic you like and want to embody, consider if you have any clothes already that can be repurposed to represent that. If there is the possibility, upcycling what you have instead of buying everything new can help offset the environmental impact of fast fashion.
Think over your trend - it happens to the best of us, where you see something cute on social media and five minutes later it is in your virtual shopping bag. It can be hard to differentiate between your actual taste and what is just trending, but if we stop impulse buying and take a moment to think about it, we might have a different opinion. Consider whether you actually like this fashion, why does it appeal to you, what does it represent? If you wouldn’t wear it once the trend dies down, maybe think again.
IRL skins - other ways to alter your appearance and identity are through haircuts, makeup, wigs, piercings, temporary tattoos, you name it. You can customise the skin you’re in to support your look without always relying on fashion entirely.