Ever since middle school, I have found myself quite interested in clothes. From figuring out what’s trendy, to piecing together items from my closet and creating cool new outfits, I have spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how I can best express myself through my wardrobe.
For a long time, what I knew about fashion came mostly from what I saw the people around me wearing, as well as perhaps a couple of my favorite YouTubers at the time. While I would watch Project Runway and flip through my mom’s magazines every now and then, I didn’t give as much thought to the fashion I saw in most of the media; it was more geared toward the runway and high fashion.
Thus, for most of my teen years, my personal style was not very personal at all. I was just regurgitating the trends I saw other people wearing, but with the clothing that was accessible to me.
All of this changed in my senior year of high school when we were all forced to quarantine, and there wasn’t much to do with our days other than Chloe Ting workouts and scrolling through TikTok. Scrolling through the app every day (usually multiple times a day), I started to come across a lot of different fashion videos. Some were from accounts dedicated to clothes, and others were just one-offs of people getting dressed up just to have something to do.
Because people had more time on their hands, they were able to get really creative with the outfits they put together. Not only were outfits getting bolder, but makeup was also being championed as a means of self-expression.
Furthermore, I believe that the expansiveness of the internet coupled with the isolation of quarantine allowed people to connect with trends, ideas, and styles that they enjoyed but had not previously been exposed to. Similarly, the pandemic was a huge shock to people’s perception of life and the things they enjoyed. It sort of laid the groundwork for people to become outspoken about the things they loved, given that we were all seeing just how fleeting life could be.
One particular niche I’m thinking of in this context is cottagecore. While cottagecore has been around for at least a decade, it was during the pandemic that it really gained notability. Many, including myself, believe this to be the case given the chaos that came with Covid. With so much of life being unpredictable and uncertain, it makes complete sense to me that people would romanticize and idealize a much simpler, quieter life.
Not only was the idea of a simple cottagecore life appearing increasingly desirable, but the fashion associated with it also saw a rise in popularity.
As we’ve moved out of quarantine and back into the real world, the fashion videos on TikTok have not stopped. If anything, I would argue that I’m seeing them even more now than I was then. Trends like coquette and maximalism have been huge in the TikTok fashion community within the past year or so, and just like most other style trends, they often make appearances in people’s everyday styles.
All of this is to say that my personal style has become so much more complex within the past couple of years, thanks largely to the vastness of TikTok. I’ve been asked a couple of times recently how I would describe my personal style, and at first, I had to stop and think about my answer. I thought about all of the different style boxes on TikTok and I tried to place myself within one, but none felt right. Sure some days I dress cottagecore, but on others, I would describe my style as more coastal grandma, and some days I am more in line with gorpcore. There are even days when I’m unable to categorize my outfit altogether!
Now when I’m asked to describe my personal style, I make sure to emphasize that it is not really possible for me to give a straight answer. My style is a collection of clothing items that I truly enjoy. The way I arrange those items on a day-to-day basis changes depending on my mood and what energy I want to channel that day.
It is true that I do take inspiration from niche TikTok subcultures and styles. It would be hard not to, given how online our world is! However, I make sure to remember that at the end of the day, style is incredibly personal as it is a means of self-expression. If my outfit falls into a certain aesthetic on any given day, then so be it. If it doesn’t, that is just fine with me too.