In the era of influencer culture, consumers want cheap instagrammable clothes: enter "micro-trends"
It's impossible to scroll through Instagram or TikTok these days without spotting an influencer talking about brands they recommend or showing off a new outfit they found for cheap on Amazon or Shein. While fifty years ago the average person was exposed to 500 advertisements a day, we are now exposed to around 10,000 advertisements a day. As Maxine Bédat explains in her book "Unraveled," advertisements take a psychological toll on consumers. The high a consumer feels when purchasing clothes is similar to the high someone feels when eating fast food, which makes the influencer advertising model wildly successful. Purchasing clothes from fast fashion retailers only to wear the item once or twice is now the norm, and cycling through highly popular "micro-trends" appears to be an expectation.
Micro-trends are only in style for a brief moment in time and can be emulated without spending much money. While macro-trends rise and fall in popularity every 5-10 years, micro-trends typically last 3-5 years. In the age of social media, many people feel pressured to wear the latest trends and avoid repeating outfits, heightening the popularity of micro-trends and highlighting the increasing pace of fast fashion. In contrast to past decades, we are more likely to be seen in each outfit we wear because much of what we do is documented on social media. In fact, a UK study found that 41 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds feel the need to wear a different outfit every time they go out, and 1 in 6 people in the same age group think they should not wear an outfit again once it's been on social media.
A prime example of a micro-trend is “avant basic,” which boasts patterns “reminiscent of the psychedelic fashion of the 1960s and the bold colors and patterns of the 1970s.” Avant basic, like other micro-trends, highlights pieces that are difficult to pair with other items and are unlikely to remain in style for long, given their bold and unique nature.
While the avant basic trend was popularized on TikTok by influencers wearing brands like Paloma Wool and House of Sunny (neither of which are classified as “fast fashion”), the ability to buy avant basic styles from fast fashion retailers makes it easier (and cheaper) to post pictures wearing these loud and whimsical silhouettes without repeating an outfit. Micro-trends like "avant basic" have largely emerged as part of the fast fashion cycle and are usually cheap, come and go very quickly, and are meant to be thrown out once they go out of style. Overall, social media has made it easier to discover micro-trends, buy into them, find the next trend, and toss the old one all within a short period of time.
Understandably, it's hard to avoid the desire to buy into micro-trends on social media. But, there are some ways to avoid the constant pressure of influencer marketing and targeted ads. First, before you buy something, put down the phone and think about it for a day or two. Does this item go with more than a few things in my closet? Is this item something I could wear years down the road? Is it high-quality? Second, instead of buying into multiple micro-trends, consider buying one item that could last for years. Third, think about whether the item you wish to purchase has been on-trend before. Some things, like flare jeans, come and go frequently and can be worn every decade or so. Finally, create your own style that's timeless: think Victoria Beckham or Jessica Alba.
It's not possible to shop for clothes without an environmental impact, and everyone buys a fast fashion item once in a while. However, making an effort to avoid the micro-trend cycle is a great way to become a more conscious consumer. For more tips on how to shop sustainably on a budget, click here.