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What happened to the clean girl?

Have microtrends become the new trends and what does this mean for us?
Olive Miller

Recently, while doomscrolling on TikTok, I began to notice a new theme that several posts followed– the metallic, silver ‘cool girl’. The cool girl is the clean girl but with a messy edge to her, instead of donning baby pinks and blues, she opts for silvers and blacks; She’s got a wild and untamable side to her and indulges in ever so slightly but intentionally messy makeup. The first thought to come to mind was how much of a dramatic snap this was from our known and beloved ‘clean girl’.

It was an interesting post, one I thought was a very niche microtrend that would die off in the roar of TikTok (if you’re unfamiliar with the word microtrend, its essentially a trend but with an expiration date that rivals that of a milk carton). However, I soon took to Instagram and found that my feed had been flooded with posts about the new ‘It girl’. 

One of the first to graze my page was @wilfreds post titled ‘the cool girl’ with a caption that read ‘the new era?’.

This left me scratching my head and wondering– have ‘microtrends’ become the new trends and has TikTok’s rapid algorithm killed off ‘trends,’ as they were, entirely? 

Reading those two phrases it may seem like they’re similes, if not the same word but remarketed for a younger generation, but they’re not, and here’s why.

“Thanks to falling costs, streamlined operations, and rising consumer spending, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, and the number of garments purchased per capita between 2000 and 2014 increased by about 60 percent,” McKinsey & Co in an article surrounding sustainability.

With a massive influx of consumerism and our most influential social media apps only furthering that agenda, it makes sense that microtrends have become increasingly normalized. This, of course, is dangerous in more ways than one. 

For example, with the increased cost of inflation still on the rise, many consumers have switched from buying pricier but more sustainable clothing options to cheaper and dangerously pollutive alternatives like Temu or Shien. Not only do these harm the environment and your wallet (because of the poor material quality) but they’re also extremely unethically made. 

“American consumers should know that there is an extremely high risk that Temu’s supply chains are contaminated with forced labor,” the Select Committee on the CCP said on ‘Fast Fashion and the Uyghur Genocide: Interim Findings’. 

Okay, so you stop shopping at Temu and Shien for your fashion needs, does this make you an environmental and human rights activist warrior whose latest conquest is the capitalist microtrend? No, because unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as switching brands. Unethical sourcing happens here as well, probably more often than you realize.

“More than half of the scorecards on H&M’s website claimed that a piece of clothing was better for the environment when, in fact, it was no more sustainable than comparable garments made by the company and its competitors. In the most egregious cases, H&M showed data that were the exact opposite of reality,” Quartz in an investigative article titled ‘H&M showed bogus environmental scores for its clothing’ said.

Billy Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally', edited by Olive Miller.

Back to the drawing board. New approach; You stop shopping at department stores and decide to go to the ethical safe haven: Your local thrift store. I mean it’s cheaper, you’re buying secondhand (economic warrior status obtained) and how cool is it to brag about finding a hidden gem at the thrift store? Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. Even the thrift store, which I once considered a sanctuary for clothes that predated the iPhone, has been completely infiltrated by Shien and Temu.

For starters, how hard is it to find a good sweater nowadays? I’ve been on the hunt for the sweater that Billy Crystal wears in When Harry Met Sally for what seems like ages now and every time I think I’ve spotted a high-quality, vintage sweater I’m conned by a Shien sweater that looks like it was worn simultaneously once and 17 times.

This is an issue that’s unsolvable which is why we must turn back to the origin: TikTok. TikTok pushes microtrend after microtrend, gross overconsumption and tends to boost content related to fast fashion in general. The easiest solution would be to remove yourself from TikTok and microtrends entirely, you’re only contributing to the problem if you participate in apps and trends that center themselves on fashion that moves at the speed of light.

But now what? How will I find new styles that suit my needs as they shift and change with the seasons and my personality? For that, my prescription to you is to turn back to older decades and form something called a capsule wardrobe.

An example of a capsule wardrobe.

“A capsule wardrobe is a limited selection of interchangeable clothing pieces that complement each other. These are often classic pieces that do not go out of style and are primarily composed of neutral colors,” said Sustainably Chic.

With a capsule wardrobe, you can have basic outfits and occasionally give into a microtrend or two with a couple of statement pieces that can serve as a focal point for your outfit, but you may have to be willing to splurge a little to get pieces that will outlast the next couple of iPhones.

While this may not reduce your fast fashion footprint entirely, in my book this will definitely make you more of a cool girl than participating in any microtrend.

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About the Contributor
Olive Miller
Olive Miller, Howler Co-Editor In Chief
Hello! My name is Olive Miller and I'm a senior at Santa Fe. This is my third year on staff and my third year as Co-Editor-In-Chief! I love Vampire Weekend, traveling and I'm happy to be rejoining the staff for my final year!

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