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Microtrends and Why They’re Bad for Fashion

Social media has had an undeniable influence on our youth’s fashion choices. The increase in microtrends, however, promotes overconsumption.

Koshiro K / Shutterstock and Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock

Social media has had an undeniable influence on our youth’s fashion choices. Ditching skinny jeans and side parts for baggier fits and middle-parted wolf cuts, today’s youth are firm in some fashion preferences. However, the prevalence of microtrends presents a less unified picture of our generation’s style.

The Trend Cycle

A micro-trend is a short-lived, hyper-specific trend. They tend to be one-offs but gain popularity (then lose it) within an incredibly short timeframe. The cycle is as follows: a new style appears, it briefly booms in popularity, it dies out, then it is mocked. A new trend arises, and the cycle repeats. Although this used to span years, each trend’s longevity has dwindled to months or even mere weeks. This rapid life cycle encourages overconsumption, with teens wanting to stay trendy and spending money on fast fashion to keep up.

Old styles get mocked, providing an incentive to move on to whatever is cooler and newer. TikTok users have used the term ‘cheugy’ to mock old trends, suggesting something is cringe or old-fashioned. However, this term also (ironically) had an incredibly short lifespan, becoming obsolete within a matter of months. Saying ‘cheugy’ is now the very epitome of cheugy.

So, what on earth does ‘coquette’ mean? What is y2k? Do people actually say these words outside of TikTok, or are you spending too much time online?

It seems like everything and nothing is trending at the same time. The edgy ‘indie sleaze’ style, cutesy ‘coquette’ fashion, and laid-back ‘fairy-grunge’ attire all coexist just a few scrolls away from each other. There is no overarching or defining style since these bizarrely named, niche microtrends come and go at increasing speed. The traditional 20-year trend cycle has been shot dead and buried.

A lot of the time, similar aesthetics reappear under different names. The soft, feminine coquette style repurposes the 2014 Tumblr Lolita obsession, the only fundamental differences being the name and less pedophilic overtones. Even having your life together has an aesthetic label: the ‘clean girl’. There are very few style requirements for the clean girl, only that she oils her hair and has an extensive skincare routine. Perhaps a desire for a cohesive social group fuels the formation of these cliques, but the lack of values and total emphasis on aesthetics sets these apart from earlier subcultures.

Fast Fashion and Uniqueness

Individual items of clothing go through the microtrend cycle. One item that comes to mind is the House of Sunny Hockney dress. Coming from a company that prioritizes slow fashion and sustainability, the dress boomed in popularity in 2021. It was adored, copied by Amazon, caused debate on TikTok, then never seen again. The swirly, psychedelic prints favored by House of Sunny were in every H&M and Zara possible that summer until consumers got sick of it.

Fast fashion brands copy these trending items and overdo them to death, thus watering down what originally made them unique. This quick turnaround promotes overconsumption under the guise of offering identity through aesthetics. The public is increasingly aware of fast fashion brands’ exploitation of workers and damage to the environment. However, the emergence of microtrends undoes some of the progress made in sustainability and longer-term or secondhand clothing purchases.

Birmingham, UK- July 13th 2019: Extinction Rebellion protest against fast fashion. Credit: Swampy167/ Shutterstock

Is it possible to have your own unique style now? The onslaught of online aesthetics might even open doors and offer new ways to express yourself. As long as you avoid trend-hopping and invest in pieces you can re-wear, having a personal style is still possible. For all their downfalls, microtrends have certainly changed the fashion world and our habits; we just need to strike a balance between trends and timelessness.

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English literature student! When I'm not online, I like reading, sewing, and making daisy chains.

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