80s fashion was consumed by spandex, leg warmers and power suits. The 90s were defined by minimalistic, baggy flannels and black, grey and white tones. The 00s made way for Juicy Couture, graphic tees and lots of logos.
However, during the 2010s and now the 20s, we've noticed how instead of a few staple pieces defining a whole decade, trend cycles have sped up exponentially - and could this be a cause for concern?
How Have Trend Cycles Sped Up?
A large factor in these trend cycles turning over at such a fast rate could be due to the immense reach of today's Internet. It's easy to list off an abundance of 'micro-trends' from the last ten years; Twee, Pastel Goth, Indie Grunge, all popularised in the early 2010s - most notably by the social media platform, Tumblr.
Later on in the decade, we had Instagram bringing micro-trends with an even shorter shelf life, usually focusing on a specific clothing piece instead of an overall 'aesthetic'.
"Originally, trends tended to begin in a more “organic” manner, such as word of mouth, which resulted in longer life cycles." - Washington Student Newspaper 'The Elm'
So, it's clear that social media has a huge influence on the kinds of trends that come into mainstream fashion. This isn't helped by the fact that people generally tend to feel lower self-esteem and less confidence when wearing something society deems especially 'outdated', leading to a want to go out and purchase the latest styles. Only months or even weeks later, the accessory is no longer fashionable, and something entirely new and different has grabbed the attention of young people.
The acceleration of this timeline can easily lead to a dangerous cycle of over-consumption.
Stuff =/= Happiness
With more and more people shopping online due to the pandemic, it's become easier to get our hands on the fast fashion that fuels the trends circling around social media. Not only this, but with thanks to sites like Shein and Zaful, it's cheaper than ever too.
But what happens to the stuff that is no longer fashionable? It turns out that the majority of clothing created and thrown out ends up in landfills.
"The average American has been estimated to throw away around 37kg of clothes every year. And globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up on landfill sites every second." - BBC Future article by Abigail Beall
All of these factors combined have led to many young people to develop a dependency on shopping to fuel their daily happiness. Trendy clothes are marketed, especially to young people, to be a solution to a person's personal confidence issues and the growing ideology that everyone must 'glow up' and look like an Instagram influencer 24/7. However, once the trends change, we're left unsatisfied with the outdated garments and buy more, leading to over-consumption and a dependency on shopping.
How Can You Combat This?
One of the most effective ways to combat the grip of consumerism as an individual is to develop your own 'personal style'. A lot of people neglect to do this and instead fall victim to jumping on trends, never feeling truly satisfied with the things that they already own. Creating your own personal style can take several years, and it's normal to want to try several things to see what suits you the best. However, there are much more sustainable ways to do this without shopping at fast fashion retailers.
Borrow clothes from friends and family. Try out a few pieces from someone else's closet (with their permission!) and see what does and doesn't work for you. You may be surprised to find something you love.
Shop at charity shops - often dismissed because they don't generally have articles of clothing that are in line with current trends, gives you the perfect opportunity to find some truly unique clothes for cheap. Charity shops are a bonus because they don't fund typical fast fashion chains, and most of their income goes to a good cause!
Practice gratitude for the things you already own. Try and have fewer pieces in your wardrobe that are favourites, even better if they're considered 'essentials' and look great with all outfits. If you're able, splash out and have these few items be of high quality, so they'll last you for many years and create less textile waste.
And finally, a simple way to tackle the feeling of 'needing more' is to limit your time spent on social media. Seeing other people on our screen that seem to be perfect have an abundance of things is harmful because we naturally compare our own lives to theirs.
Imperfection Is Key
Of course, as humans, we naturally strive to have more and better things; but as with many factors surrounding sustainability, it's better for several people to shop consciously imperfectly than for one person to do it perfectly.
It's a common belief that 'being green' in your daily life is a huge sacrifice; and therefore it's normal for us to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the thought of living more environmentally-friendly. However, by incorporating a few of these tips into your shopping habits, it's very easy to make a difference in the way you consume goods and become more sustainable.
Once you have these techniques as a part of your shopping routine, it becomes much more straightforward to include additional sustainable practices into day to day life.