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Micro-Trends, Major Impact on Fashion

Abrielle Hodge, a merchandising, textile, and apparel major at the University of Kentucky, shows off her '90s-inspired outfit on UK's campus in Lexington, Ky. on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Photo by Martha McHaney.

Trends are constantly evolving and replacing one another. The trend cycle is sped up due to several factors, including the introduction of social media, online fashion "influencers" and even the shipping time of items today.

Social media's constant scrolling, tapping and liking could affect the attention span of users, hence why trends may come and go at a faster pace. Apps including Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest contain loads of fashion content. The instant availability of clothing trends can lead to constantly changing fashion trends. By simply swiping down the phone screen, the page refreshes with newer content.

Influential fashion is brought to our fingertips with the use of these social platforms. Beyond movie stars, models and those the public has long thought of as celebrities, the Internet has given rise to social media influencers who post photos of themselves in certain styles of clothing. The clothing we see these influencers in can result in a trend.

Each decade has its own distinct style and trend that can easily be recalled; for example, '60s miniskirts, '70s bellbottom and wide-leg pants, and '90s tiny tops, bomber jackets and baggy pants. These pieces of clothing seem to correlate to these specific decades, while in today's age, there may seem to be more items that go in and out of style.

"I definitely think [trends are] a lot faster now, like fast fashion. It's kind of like with TikTok and stuff you see one thing, and then it's like everyone's on it and then like 10 days later you see something else and then everyone's on that," Abrielle Hodge, a merchandising, apparel and textiles major at the University of Kentucky, said.

Abrielle Hodge, a merchandising, textile, and apparel major at the University of Kentucky, shows off her 90s-inspired outfit on UK's campus in Lexington, Ky. on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Photo by Martha McHaney.

On "Anything Goes," a podcast by internet celebrity and fashion personality Emma Chamberlain, an episode of the three-part series titled "There is a cultural shift coming" is dedicated to the topic of trends. In the episode, Chamberlain focused on how today the trend cycle is speeding up and ending quicker.

"Ordering online has sped up the trend cycle single-handedly probably by 50%—no, maybe even more," Chamberlain said. "Not only can you now order things pretty much from anywhere as long as you have your phone on you, but also things come so quickly. You get something to your house sometimes as fast as 12 hours."

Through social media there seems to be a race to get the "it" item; however, once everyone else has it, it's time for the next best thing.

"I feel like it's kind of making creativity die," Hodge said.

Recent trends that have come and gone extremely fast have included beaded iPhone case straps, chunky plastic rings and the bleaching or dyeing of the front pieces of your hair called "money pieces." These specific styles, which were once seen all throughout social media, were short-lived.

Photo by Martha McHaney.

Trendsetters and followers in the past did not have the luxury of these advances and relied more on other types of influence. "Everyone got information from fashion magazines, which came out once a month, and there was nothing on television that shared fashion trends. There were movie stars and celebrities and athletes, but even with that you didn't get exposure like we do today," Dr. Scarlett Wesley, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the University of Kentucky's Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, said. Fewer items were available for purchase even if you did see them on TV. This likely extended the duration of fashion trends in past decades.

When comparing decades, there are differences in societal and cultural influences. Wesley used her mother as an example.

"I know talking with my mom, because she grew up in the '60s, you know, it was so rigid," she said. "Like, she grew up in the miniskirt decade, and I think back then women's fashion influenced more." Wesley said that women who did not adhere to the trends at the time were judged.

Fashion in past decades had stricter rules than current fashion. "I think back in the day, they're trying to prove their social status," Hodge said. The world today appears to have an open-minded and accepting shift in culture which may explain why fashion has more freedom behind it.

When using social media, for example, people post their lives for all their followers to see. The availability of information about what other people are doing, feeling and wearing has contributed to a freer culture. Fashion acceptance can be seen through TikTok and Instagram as users more openly wear what makes them feel comfortable—often breaking gender norms and being open about their style choices. People may feel they can relate to others or branch out after seeing someone else doing the same.

Scarlett Wesley, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, poses behind Memorial Hall in Lexington, Ky. on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Photo by Martha McHaney.

"For the first time, I feel like fashion should be defined as freedom. Because I feel all of us are freer to express whatever we want with fashion," Wesley said.

As for current trends, there is a large audience participating in the business casual style of this current decade. Hodge said, "I feel like business casual, like blazers, big pants, suit and tie or a pantsuit are in."

As trends usually reflect what is happening in society during that time, business casual could represent the empowerment of the women's rights movement. The "girl boss" and "it girl" aesthetic has been seen a lot on social media. The terms are titles used to describe the modern independence, confidence and freedom of women.

We constantly see the recycling of trends. The articles of clothing that Hodge mentioned as coming back in style included the '70s-inspired flare pants and bright colors along with the 2000s-era mini skirt and Capri pant look. She described it as "a mixture of '70s and 2000s." Similarly, Wesley said the bell bottom and wide-leg pants were styles she had noticed revolving in and out of fashion.

In an article by Vogue Magazine titled "Why Not Consider a Pant with a Bit More Flare?" published on Aug. 3, 2022, writer Laura Jackson discussed the re-introduction of this trend.

Photo by Martha McHaney.

"Unlike its disco-fever ancestors of the past, flared pants today are sleek and elegant—a go-to everyday wardrobe essential or a special occasion standout. Many thanks to designers like Prada, Saint Laurent, and The Row, flared pants, wide-leg trousers and bell-bottoms on the market now remind us of hemlines circa 1970 but are elevated enough to fit in with our modern closets," wrote Jackson.

Wesley and Hodge shared their favorite decades of fashion. "Honestly, I feel like the '90s. I'm definitely more of a baggy girl. I feel like I'm more masculine street style. So, the '90s with teeny tops and the big cargo pants and big jackets—like bomber jackets are my favorite thing," Hodge said.

Wesley said she admires current fashion styles. "Honestly, what I love that's going on right now is the fact that to me, more than any other time that I've lived through, people are allowed to do more. I feel like we've gotten a lot more freedom,"

she explained.

It is only so long until whatever is in style now falls out of trend and new pieces appear. As the speed of these trend cycles continues to increase, more will be seen of these past decade staples. The speed of trends varies based on external factors, so the next era of trends may change based on the future influences to come.


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