Dripped out of style

Despite the spread of inspiration through social media, fashion trends have lacked creativity and online platforms promote the overconsumption of clothes without being conscious of the environmental impacts.

Being a teenager in the 2020s is one of the most convenient times to discover fashion ideas. It’s easy to find inspiration on apps such as Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok, with algorithms constantly adjusting to our likes and dislikes. This system makes it easy to find a specific article of clothing to wear and purchase. However, this algorithm discourages creativity and new ideas. Instead of something unique in our everyday fashion, we have been wearing trends from other decades — colorful flared trousers from the 1970s, pristine Mary Janes from the 1920s and Y2K tracksuits from the 2000s. Even though we have resources on social media to show us different styles, colors and ideas, we are retreating back to the same trends from other periods, leaving the question: Are there any original trends that define fashion in the 2020s?

Some Gen Z fashion trends have grown popular through TikTok such as maximalism, or in other words, a “bigger is better” mentality. Maximalism emphasizes layering and mixing textures and colors to make an outfit look over-the-top. It emulates Gucci and Balenciaga’s expensive and complex looks without a brand name attached. Even though this seems like a way to bring out your personality and artistic ideas, not all of us can own an abundance of random clothes or afford new ones constantly. As someone who often cleans out my closet and analyzes whether or not I want to donate old clothes, this isn’t a sustainable option financially or physically. Like many other teens, I don’t have unlimited space or money to keep up with this maximalist trend or any other fast fashion trends that will follow. While maximalism promotes self-expression, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It merely layers and uses different patterns to create something original for the time being before you need to buy more clothes. Overconsumption mindsets are becoming popular and boost pollution through manufacturing those products and shipping them around the world.

Overconsumption is a forgotten problem when driven to build your wardrobe. Buying so many pieces just for one or two outfits is unrealistic for the average teenage lifestyle. Because trends like maximalism promote overindulgence in owning clothes, it is easier to support fast fashion companies like Shein and Forever21. Shein is an online retailer that supplies cheap, trending clothes at the cost of poor and exploitative working conditions. The low prices and online availability are appealing, especially for teens, and only encourage buying more. Low prices draw you in, but the truth is that the clothes are inexpensive because they are poor-quality and made by underpaid people in harsh work environments. According to World Bank, fast fashion is the third largest contributor to pollution in the world, responsible for 10% of all annual carbon emissions. The rise of Shein from TikTok and Instagram through viral hauls and reviews has only increased its success. In fact, Shein has been outperforming established fast fashion companies H&M and Zara combined as of 2022. While fashion may be something that is on the back burner for some people, the influence it has on others every day is rather scary, especially in terms of waste. I avoid shopping through advertisements on social media; as a broke 17-year-old, the cheap prices hypnotize me into buying clothes even if I don’t like them. I set those boundaries after getting low-quality clothes from a fast fashion brand I impulsively bought from. Learning to invest in more sustainable clothes, even if they’re not dirt cheap, is easier said than done. But in the long run, I have clothes to wear for years to come.

Many teens think about fashion trends daily, whether it’s what they’re going to wear for school or a potential outfit for a weekend evening with friends. Following fashion trends is something that I’m guilty of doing too. The influence of TikTok and innumerable viral fashion trends will be our downfall concerning creativity. When I think about my time living as a teenager in the 2020s, I define it as a time of copy and pasting. We only reuse techniques and add to the waste and pollution that is already a problem. While you can scroll past viral Shein hauls and ignore the new fashion trends on Instagram, they still harm the environment regardless. We need to acknowledge our unhealthy, unethical shopping habits to avoid buying into another unsustainable fashion trend. Shopping locally, upcycling old clothes and keeping a more minimalistic mindset when you want to buy new ones are simple ways to avoid feeding into fast fashion. Tweaking our “easy way” nature and adding more awareness to our shopping habits will help limit the consequences of overconsumption and allow us to explore more creative ways to express ourselves.