Were you able to snatch a pair of the UGG Classic Ultra Mini Platforms in Chestnut? What about the Babaton Contour Squareneck Longsleeve Bodysuit from Aritzia? Or maybe the black Skims Soft Lounge Long Slip Dress? If you answered no, you are among thousands that were both “too late to the trend” and only moved to purchase these items after they were sold out by hundreds of thousands of influenced TikTok users.
TikTok boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic when people were forced to quarantine. Naturally, they turned to their phones for entertainment, and with TikTok’s easily digestible ten-second videos, the app became a source of many viral fashion trends. Countless fashion and styling videos appear on the Explore Page, with creators building followings of millions as they propagate different aesthetics and microtrends.
TikTok fashion aesthetics vary widely and are often given artsy, abstract names that convey the style’s essence. In the past years, multiple aesthetics have emerged into the mainstream, such as the VSCO girl, Coastal Grandma, Y2K resurgence, Grunge, Twee, and Clean Girl. Many styles have been also dubbed as “cores,” such as Clown-core, Barbie-core, Fairy-core, or Abercrombie-core.
Many of these style aesthetics have arisen alongside microtrends. Microtrends are fashion fads that experience a surge in popularity before often falling off just as quickly. Their brief life cycle consists of an introduction to the fashion realm of TikTok from popular creators, a quick rise to popularity, acceptance from audiences through For You Page algorithms and comments, a following decline in popularity, and eventually a sad death when the microtrend inevitably goes out of style and is seen as so-last-week or “cheugy.”
Microtrends have only become prominent in the fashion industry with the rise of TikTok, as the algorithm allows millions of people to see the same video showing off a certain style, giving a platform to more trends that may be presented through #ootds, hauls, sponsored posts, or #grwms. When teenage and young adult TikTok viewers witness other people finding joy in how they are perceived through the clothes they wear, they feel the desire to acquire the item.
Furthermore, the inherently performative nature of microtrends raises the question of whether following these trends erases identity and self-expression or fuels it. The surge in popularity of microtrends leads to them becoming more easily accessible; many of these high schoolers will purchase from fast fashion websites at low costs like Shein and Cider, because why wouldn’t you buy fake pearls from SheIn to fit the Coquette/Lolita-core aesthetic?
Aesthetics allow people to express themselves through their clothes while also building a sense of community with others. The distinct cores and aesthetics differ in multiple ways; while some emphasize neutral tones, athleisure, and simple aesthetics, others like the Weird-Girl aesthetic focus more on putting together bright colors through color-blocking with abstract prints. In fact, the Weird Girl aesthetic has even been called anti-fashion because it just does not fit into a certain box but rather makes its own. Even by taking a closer look at the Weird Girl aesthetic, it is clear to see that it includes a medley of many clothing pieces ranging from colorful knee-high socks, micro mini skirts, and Y2K baby tees, to oversized bomber jackets.
While the abundance of TikTok style aesthetics have made self-expression much more fun and accessible to people all over the world, it is important to remember that microtrends do feed into fast fashion. The fleeting nature of aesthetics and microtrends on TikTok create issues of overconsumption in their promotion of fast fashion, since companies need to design and produce clothing in the span of a couple of weeks to keep up with trends. This raises the question of whether following microtrends is even ethical; buying from such companies means putting money into the pockets of an industry that turns a profit at the expense of others. The rise of microtrends reminds us that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and fast fashion.
Curating wardrobes to one’s personal style has never been easier and less anxiety-inducing with the platform of TikTok providing a vast and evolving style guide. The process is quite simple. As a consumer, if you like something, you buy it. If you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. There is no longer the need for the awkward stages of knee-length dresses, leggings paired with tacky off-the-shoulder tops, or denim on denim. Picking and choosing one’s personal style to curate a wardrobe saves so much time and nerves that teenagers often spend thinking about what they should be wearing versus what they feel like wearing and truly expressing themselves — all thanks to microtrends and aesthetics.