What makes fashion so great is its wide-ranging roster of styles to suit everyone regardless of your preferences. Amrit Virdi evaluates how much autonomy and choice we have over our style and what affects it.
Whether you’re partial to a bucket hat or a flower crown, everyone has their own individual sense of style. I’m the first to admit that my style is ever-changing – the phases I have had range from wannabe-emo-tumblr-girl-aesthetic, to bright block colours, to all-neutrals.
Especially in an era dominated by fast fashion attempting to serve people’s demands with quick turnarounds in the content available on their websites, I personally am finding it harder than ever to keep up with trends whilst also trying to maintain my own style.
It can be tempting to ditch what you truly want to wear in an effort to mirror what is prominent in the fashion world at the time. But what actually influences our own style, fashion trends, and what we choose to wear, and does this matter at the end of the day?
Recently, reality TV star Kim Kardashian revealed in Hulu docuseries ‘The Kardashians’ that following her divorce with rapper Kanye West, she is struggling to find her own style after he styled her for so many years. Episode Five titled ‘Who Is Kim K?’ reveals Kim stating: “Even now I’m having panic attacks, like ‘what do I wear’?”. Early seasons of ‘Keeping Up The Kardashians’ show Kanye clearing out Kim’s entire wardrobe and replacing it with only designers he approved of, which Kim had never heard of before.
And looking through Kim’s social media exhibits the extent to which the Yeezy founder had an influence over her fashion choices. Circa 2000s pre-Kanye Kim embraced the bodycon dress, and the glitz and glam of the Hollywood nightlife scene, never seen without a pair of stilettos on her club appearances. Fast forward to the ‘Kimye’ era, and stone, black, or khaki-coloured baggy tracksuits paired with sleek straight jet black hair were her daily go-to.
Being one of the most famous (now ex) couples in the world, the way that Kanye used Kim as his muse and his subsequent model truly shows the power that these celebrities have over fashion and fashion marketing.
Questionably styled red carpet looks, which ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ documented as them portraying Kim being stylistically in sync with her partner at the time, are also symbolic of the huge impact that Kanye’s influence had upon Kim’s style.
And right now, post-divorce, Kim has empoweringly taken it upon herself to find her own style. The return of bodycon has been a staple, as well as bright colours like the hot pink she donned on Saturday Night Live.
However, we aren’t all living like the Kardashians. The Kim K case study is a clear example of even celebrities themselves lacking full autonomy in their fashion choices, like everyday people.
After speaking to people of my own age, it is also clear that us regular people out of the spotlight face the same pressures sometimes. ‘’I do find that the media influences my style a lot, especially with the number of fashion-dedicated accounts on TikTok and Instagram,’’ said my housemate when I asked her what influences her style.
The rise of social media has led to an innovation in the way the world of fashion works nowadays. Slowly going are the days of being inspired by the mannequins on the high street, as commerce is becoming more accustomed to online means. Along with the unsustainable fast fashion brands perpetuating the ‘need’ for constantly keeping up with trends, leading to single use buys, TikTok shops and Instagram boutiques are becoming increasingly more popular. Even I find myself subconsciously being influenced by the clothes I may see on the ‘products’ page of my Instagram, which I have come to find mirrors what those in the public eye may wear.
This does not have to be your traditional celebrity in the form of a singer or actor; the rise of influencer culture has more impact on trends nowadays than the glitz and glam of red-carpet glamour.
And influencers are, quite literally, everywhere, even walking the red carpets of the BRIT Awards as we saw this year. More and more we also see them wearing more affordable brands than those on the A-List at the Met Gala. Motel Rocks is one of these.
By consistently partnering with the likes of Flossie and Olivia Neill, both of whom I am a loyal viewer of, brands big and small have seemingly mastered the art of getting their clothes out there and bought.
The influencer marketing strategy has clearly had a profound effect on lessening the autonomy that we have over our fashion choices.
I must admit, I do on occasion end up buying the exact same pieces that I see on Instagram. My ‘Amrit’ necklace, bought from Lucky Eleven as a clone of the one Olivia Neill has, is now a daily go-to in my jewellery box.
Motel Rocks even have a ‘Shop Insta’ section on their website – on which the majority of items sell out extremely fast.
If this doesn’t convince you enough of the profound effect that the media and influencer culture has had on the fashion world, just look at the carefully curated feeds of fashion-based Instagram accounts. Almost every item of clothing is carefully matched to their aesthetic, and is tagged so viewers know where to buy it from. Who needs TV to tell you what to wear when you have Instagram?
For those unplugged from the media-driven world, and summative of the human tendency to compare and copy in general, our upbringing and the fashion of those who we spend time with is highly influential upon our style choices.
Culture, country, continent, and even music taste has subconscious effects on our style. After all, bucket hats and festival wellies at Reading and Leeds are far from the fashion you may see at Coachella. Fashion is a form of expression and varies around the world in beautiful ways, and using it as a way to reflect your roots can be a form of art.
Having said this, feeling pressured to change your style to fit in with a group or even to match trends at the time is a feeling some of us may know all too well, yet it is a feeling that needs to be curbed. Fast fashion plays on one’s innate need to ‘want want want’ whatever is popular at the minute. This is incredibly unsustainable and leads to huge wastages, and unethical conditions for workers trying to keep up with demand. Yet given the fact that this may be the case, even walking around the streets reveals that everyone has their own spin on their sense of style, as the 21st century has led to people feeling more and more able to express themselves.
If we had no autonomy over our fashion sense, then arguably everyone would look exactly the same; embracing your own style and individuality is key, especially in a world where the ability to personalise your look is at your fingertips.
At the end of the day, what does it mean if we lack full control over our fashion choices? As mentioned before, fashion is an integral part of everyday life, and mirrors what we see in society, and who in the media has the most influence over us.
On her quest to find ‘who is Kim K?’, Kim Kardashian based her journey around her clothes after being styled by someone else for so long. While the media and those around us can be great for fashion inspo, keeping true to who you really are is essential – it is great to admire the fashion of those you may see, but copying it for the sake of it if it isn’t you is not beneficial at all.
Though the fashion we see around us may be easy to be influenced by, maintaining autonomy and your own style is essential.
You can read more of Amrit’s work via her portfolio, amritvirdi.journoportfolio.com, or by following her Instagram @thevinylwriter.