TikTok clothing “micro-trends” add to fast-fashion problem for teenagers


Kate Moores, Staff Writer

There is very little that is more satisfying to me than cutting the tags off of a brand new piece of clothing. From the methodical process of finding the perfect top to planning a specific outfit around a fresh purchase, the entire shopping process is fun.
This pleasure is short-lived, however, when the trendy item I bought is suddenly irrelevant and unwearable one month later.
Sweater vests are crowded into the corner of my closet now, and chunky necklaces rust while entangled in a dusty box. These were pieces I loved just months before. Now I look back on pictures from last January and can’t help but judge my outfit: a tennis skirt and chunky boots, what was I thinking?
I didn’t come up with that completely on my own. After seeing famous TikTok girls styling knee-high socks with athletic skirts, and looking stylish doing it, myself and thousands of other girls did the same. The difference between us and an influencer, however, is the source: the TikTok girl can buy designer boots, while I look to Zara or H&M for my own affordable take.
Those stores built their business model upon the idea that people like me want to look like those who get the most attention — the model in a magazine, a celebrity and the most prevalent: an influencer. The stores take trending styles and mass produce them at a lower price so everyone can look like their favorite star. Soon, everyone has the same pieces, which causes an issue for influencers who depend on standing out. How does one have a unique style in the midst of social media?
The way that most of these influencers have solved this issue is through niche styles that gain popularity quickly and die out even faster. Since the dawn of TikTok, many of these styles are still notable even after they became outdated: E-girls, Cottagecore, VSCO style. Each of these lasted for a year, give or take, and are now considered basic and unappealing. These styles reach a wide audience, yet fizzle out into unpopularity quickly.
This goes back to the aforementioned brands, and more: Forever 21, Missguided, Shein, Urban Outfitters, etc. These clothing stores are in on the secrets of social media style; they take these subcultures that result from popular trends and mass-produce affordable clothing that appeals to those that consume it.
Take the resurgence of the ‘70s style for example. Designer brands took inspiration from vintage subcultures, which celebrities bought and began to sport. As a result, people began paying attention and searching for a way to twin with their favorite cultural influencer. Fast fashion brands presented consumers with the only available solutions: brightly-colored halter crop tops, flare pants with a funky pattern and chunky sunglasses for cheap. Once just about everyone owned pieces of this style, it was then considered “basic” and nose-dived from popular to “cheugy.”
This may sound like the typical trend pattern, but what’s “in” comes and goes at a faster rate than ever before.
In the fashion world, trends used to follow a 20-year cycle: what was trending two decades ago resurges in the present, like Y2K styles regaining popularity. However, micro-trends are shortening the gap in this cycle. A micro-trend is a style of clothing that booms for about a year and then becomes unappealing, making customer consumption move at a rapid pace.
Micro-trends are at the core of the sustainability problem in the fashion industry. Clothing is used up at a faster and faster rate (from it either falling apart or going out of style), and it ends up in a landfill to slowly decompose. Wastefulness from over-consumption is a leading problem in the battle to take better care of the planet. The obvious solution is to stop buying unnecessary amounts of clothing, yet it seems impossible to do.
It’s so difficult to ignore micro-trends, especially as a teenager because of social media. One TikTok will tell you that you have to buy this pair of jeans, and the next will insist that they are overdone and boring. However, it’s usually too late. In the attempt to stay stylish and relevant, most of us will buy a garment that is quickly deemed unworthy, just to end up in a Goodwill and eventually a dump.
Social media is a business in itself. It sponsors content that insists upon the idea that matching a certain style or taking on a persona will make you cool and happy.
Our wallets and planet are suffering at the hands of fast-fashion companies that peddle out new styles every day, taking on the latest trend for the teenagers to buy and soon hate. It’s difficult to maintain your own style in this culture of consumption.