The growing popularity of TikTok, starting in 2019, allowed niches within media to gain traction on a larger platform in a more palatable, quick manner. Within the realm of fashion, this greatly influenced the rise of trends for teens and young adults, a growing appreciation of high fashion and its influence on low fashion, as well as an increasing awareness of the cyclical nature of fashion trends and trend forecasting. Because of the fast, sweeping nature of how trends grow and spread on TikTok, the cycle length of those trends started shrinking dramatically, with fast fashion and increased accessibility to those trends feeding into their short, explosive life cycle. Enter: 90’s fashion and the reascension of Indie Sleaze.
Microtrends, initially common in business management, are characterized by a rapid growth in popularity, creating a bubble of increased demand before quickly declining. Influenced by the rapid spread of information through social media, as well as the shift towards short, dopamine-releasing videos on platforms, there has been a marked shrinkage in the lifecycle of products. In the world of TikTok fashion influencers and lifestyle bloggers, this means a faster turnaround for new clothing styles, pattern trends, and a buffet for mass consumerism. With fast fashion brands like Shein and Zara making rapidly rising trends accessible, and retailers such as Amazon delivering products quickly at a low rate, the pattern for the birth and death of a fad within one season has become well worn.
As the cyclical pattern of fashion trends throughout the decades increases its rate of change, we’ve seen a clearer picture of the progression of fashion trends and influences, drawing from certain elements of decades as a reaction to the popularity of others. In the case of 2021 and now early 2022, there has been a growing aestheticization of the “90’s model” look, as well as the beginning of the revival of the notorious Indie Sleaze. Indie Sleaze, which later morphed into the Tumblr trends of the 2010’s, developed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and peaked in popularity between 2008-2013. It drew inspiration from American Apparel ads, with its defining characteristics being messy eyeliner and hair, 70’s electro-rock, and early Brooklyn hipster styles. It also greatly emphasizes the underground music subcultures of the time, with niche bands and “oh you wouldn't have heard of them” being a hallmark of the style. This contrasts the also currently popular trend of the “90’s model” look. Clean cut, put together, and old money are defining traits of this style, with more simple silhouettes, low waisted pieces, and classic pieces like Levis 501’s being staples in this aesthetic. However, the last (and some would argue) vital necessity for these looks is the body type. Both trends originated from a place in time that was the antithesis of body positivity and acceptance, and this is reflected in many of the characteristics of these trends.
The 90’s and early 2000’s were incredibly harmful to how women perceived their bodies, what was viewed as an “acceptable” body, and what the ideal body was. Looks dominant in the 90’s model trend and Indie Sleaze emphasized the skinny-ness of one’s body, and perpetuated harmful mindsets surrounding diet restriction and health. Quickly rising microtrends in fashion based upon these aesthetics once again started to glamorize the “heroine-chic” body type popular into the mid 2010’s, reflecting the body types within the modeling industry and also often portrayed on social media. What could be a microtrend within fashion is becoming dangerously correlated to a body type, with the body ideal becoming a trend in and of itself.
The idea of a body shape being a trend can be incredibly harmful, especially for younger generations exposed to media on TikTok. With the clothing being popularized comes the body being popularized, and unrealistic or unhealthy standards that aren’t achievable for every body are becoming re-normalized amidst a seasoned body positivity movement. This could prove to be dangerous for teens already predisposed to body image issues, and the already prevalent nature of eating disorders in our society present the possibility for a dangerous comorbidity. The association of self with your body and clothing is being increasingly defined by aesthetic and ideals, with pressure to fit into a niche online carrying over into intrapersonal dialogues and the concepts that characterize who a woman is.
It is hard to be constantly inundated with idealized images on social media of what a woman’s body should look like, especially when that body is only achievable by a small percentage of the population or through unhealthy habits. The burgeoning popularity of the 90’s model look and Indie Sleaze on Tik Tok and other platforms presents a harmful reality for the future, with past issues surrounding body image becoming revitalized and repopularized through these trends. The quick turnover in fashion trends encouraged through social media is hinting at a quick turnover in the resurgence of body toxicity from the 90’s and 2000’s, and the growing synonymy between a fashion trend and a body type will do nothing but feed into it.