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Are fashion trends terrible? And how do they fit into one’s sense of personal style?

Fashion trends are about clothes and looks that are copied, become popular, often mass produced and then marketed around the globe.

Fashion trends are about clothes and looks that are copied, become popular, often mass produced and then marketed around the globe.

May I be so bold as to suggest, that we are all guilty of being attracted to an eye-catching store window display, beautifully showcasing new season fashion trends.  Some of us venture inside.  Eagerly we try on the ‘latest look’.  Uncertain, we might be encouraged by the sales assistant that, ‘it’s the must have item of the season’, as she enthusiastically exclaims, ‘it looks fabulous’.  Yep, we are sold!  Fifteen minutes later, we walk out of the store with a brand new purchase, and most likely one that is ’on trend’.  But is it one that is worthy of our hard earned dollar?

By the way, I am not having a go at sales assistants who work in the fashion industry, nor am I claiming that they are responsible for our decisions when we buy.  What I am alluding to is the fact, that like a kid in a candy store, we can become overwhelmed and bamboozled by the constant production, variety and choice of clothing and accessory collections that demand our attention.  We know that the fashion industry is a huge marketing machine, and it can play to our weaknesses, and delight on the days when we are feeling vulnerable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion and dressing to express, but I think it’s important to take a step back, and really assess the particular clothing or accessory item first, before handing over the credit card.  Fashion trends are not terrible if they suit us, and work hard to serve us. It’s important to consider all the facets of our personal style, including our body shape, colouring, personality, lifestyle, budget and values when shopping for a wearable item, be it a trend or not.

What is a trend and how is it started?

According to the Collins dictionary, “To set a trend means to do something that becomes accepted or fashionable that a lot of people copy.” (Collins 2022)  Fashion has to do with one’s clothing and appearance (Collins 2022), so fashion trends are about clothes and looks that are copied, become popular, and often mass produced and then marketed around the globe.

Designers are artists, influenced by internal factors, and external ones, such as current social, cultural, political and historical events.  Their work might tap into a particular mood or way of ‘seeing the world’ that resonates.  Royal families, celebrities, media editors and other influencers have a significant part to play in dictating what is seen to be ‘cool’, ‘on point’ and ‘in vogue’.  Films and music have influenced trends throughout history, such as Audrey Hepburn’s famous ‘little black dress’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Madonna has never been one to shy away from expressing her unique personality, influencing women to dress freely.  From her early days of wearing mesh tops, hairbands and heavy makeup, to wearing underwear as outerwear, her collaboration with Gaultier, and other designers, has heavily influenced fashion. Arguably, she forged the notion that being ‘sexy’ is not about being submissive, it’s about being a strong and empowered woman. Of course there are many other celebrities who have made strong statements when it comes to fashion, articulating trends that have been emulated across the globe.

Films and music have influenced trends throughout history.

Films and music have influenced trends throughout history, such as Audrey Hepburn’s famous ‘little black dress’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Madonna’s many iconic outfits.

When does a trend become a wardrobe staple?

When does a trend become a wardrobe staple? I think we can all agree that a simple black dress can be a very versatile and timeless garment.

When people admire someone, it can follow that they want to be like them. Oscar Wilde said that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. But I wonder, how far does one go before losing touch with their own sense of individual style? Psychology tells us that copying others is a way for humans to fit in and develop social rapport. Gosh, this takes me back to 1987, when I was in Year 12, and the spiral perm was on trend!  I observed several girls in the ‘popular group’ strutting through the school gates donning their prized ringlets of hair, bouncing with perfection. My friends and I (evidently, not in the ‘cool group’) enviously eyed them, wishing our mothers would let us do the same.  I can honestly say I was more concerned about getting an excellent TE score and getting into university, than how I should or should not be wearing my hair.  However, when I look back at that time, I am acutely aware that I didn’t have a clue about my personal style, nor the confidence to know what suited me, particularly trend-driven fashion.

This leads me full circle to the main message of this blog; trends aren’t terrible if they fit in with our personal style and lifestyle.  The key is understanding what your personal style is, how you like to express yourself, and what you value in life. For example, take the humble, but still ‘on trend’ white sneaker. From its sporty beginnings as a basketball and tennis shoe, the simple, but cool ‘off duty’ white sneaker is a trend that isn’t disappearing anytime soon.  Our ‘work from home’ lifestyles and the casualisation of our wardrobes (especially since Covid) means that the practical, comfortable, ‘goes with everything’ nature of white sneakers has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.   I’d go so far as to suggest it’s now considered a wardrobe staple. Personally, I own several pairs of white sneakers and they are my everyday ‘go-to’ shoes.  They suit my lifestyle and the way I generally like to dress, which is relaxed and casual, aligning with my natural style personality.  Today, there are so many choices when it comes to individualise your ‘white sneaker look’, such as laces, zips, stitching, cut outs, buckles, platform soles etc. In addition, there’s a white sneaker price point to suit everyone’s budget; you have to love that!  I can confidently say this is a fashion trend that isn’t terrible.  Yet, it’s always wise to consider how a garment or accessory, that is popular, will make a regular appearance in your wardrobe.  I believe a trend is useful if it regularly serves us and our lifestyle, instead of being a ‘one hit wonder’ and frankly, a waste of money.

The undeniable popularity of the white sneaker remains intact.

The undeniable popularity of the white sneaker remains intact.

Padded shoulders?  Do you recall this 1980’s trend?  I think just about every dress, blouse and jacket had built-in shoulder pads, adding ‘power’ and ‘strength’ to one’s look, supposedly.  Oh boy, I recall wearing an insipid apricot coloured button up dress with sharply defined shoulders, to my Year 10 semi-formal!  Once again, I had no clue what suited me and was guided by the sales assistant and my mum (sorry mum but the colour didn’t do me any favours!) I don’t remember feeling ‘great’, but the style of dress and colour was ‘in fashion’ so I guess I thought I would look the part and fit in?

This very angular look of shoulder pads disappeared for a time and again, has recently resurfaced in current fashion styles.  My personal gripe is with padded shoulder t-shirts . A couple of weeks ago, I tried on an apple green coloured t-shirt. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – apple green is colour on trend at the moment.  And yes, I know, but it’s a colour I love and it suits my complexion. Anyway, let me tell you why I didn’t like the t-shirt.  Due to the fact that I am quite broad shouldered, compared to my hips, the shoulder pads built in to the t-shirt, exaggerated this feature of my body shape.  It made me look like a gridiron player.  And I can assure you the effect is worsened when the sleeves are capped! Shoulder pads do not enhance my frame.  Annoyingly, the shoulder pads were sewn in, and they could not be removed without destroying the seams of the shirt.  Consequently, despite my love of the apple green colour, great cotton fabric, and a neckline that suited me, I did not walk out of the store with that t-shirt. A garment has to tick every box that is important to me before I can add it to my wardrobe, whether it is purchased new, or second hand from the local op shop. When you know your body shape, know your best colours, know your likes and dislikes,  then, you are less likely to be dictated by a trend that does not align with your personal style.

The 1980’s padded shoulder trend did not suit every body type

The 1980’s padded shoulder trend did not suit every body type.

Personal style is about education, discovery and renewed confidence.  When you learn all about the colours that make you look radiant, the styles and cuts of clothing that enhance your body proportions, the fabrics, prints/patterns, surfaces and textures that suit you, your lifestyle and your values, you will be empowered to make better choices when shopping.  You will enjoy the confidence that comes with understanding who you are, and dressing accordingly. Trends aren’t terrible; they can provide inspiration and interest.   When you take the trends that align with you, integrate them into your own way of dressing, so that you feel and look great, then that’s what I call authentic personal style.

References and image sources:

  1. Wood, Connor. January 23 2020. Why imitation is at the heart of being human. The Greater Good Science Centre, Berkley University of California, viewed 2/10/2022, < >
  2. Online Collins Dictionary, viewed 2/10/22, <>
  3. Pinterest, n.d. Armani tailoring. [image], viewed  2/10/22 <>
  4. Pinterest, n.d. Photo Print: Movie Stars’ News Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s. [image], viewed 2 October 2022 < >
  5. Pinterest, n.d. Madonna Ciconne. [image], viewed  2 October
  6. Vintage Dancer, n.d. 1980’s fashion trends for girls and women. [image], viewed 2 October 2022
  7. Pinterest, n.d. 12 high fashion trends to dupe. [image] viewed 2 October 2022 <>
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