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Style on TikTok: Self-expression gone sponsored

Although it began as a platform that inspired experimentation, TikTok’s style content material has been taken over by company pushed “microtrends.”

by Alexandra Surprenant
| 4/21/22 2:05am

Like many, I joined TikTok initially of the pandemic — virtually jokingly, maybe, but in addition as a result of I used to be craving some actual semblance of neighborhood. TikTok provided an efficient (albeit dystopian) approach to connect with my friends over a various vary of content material: dance movies, comedy, make-up. I used to be instantly drawn to the countless stream of style movies — produced not solely by the everyday “influencers,” but in addition by regular folks. I’d watch an outfit video made by a university scholar caught at residence adopted by one by an eccentric grandmother. 

When clothes shops closed, folks turned to their very own closets, experimenting with the clothes they owned somewhat than shopping for new ones. For each the patron and the creator (roles typically uniquely blurred on the app), TikTok supplied a technique of escape. A non judgmental house emerged, poised on the intersection between an incapacity to depart residence and a necessity for self-expression. 

Sudden outfit combos flourished: clashing patterns, home made tie-dye shirts, previous cowboy boots paired with lengthy clothes. Some creators even introduced again the development of “upcycling” by repurposing previous gadgets: denims had been reduce and sewn into tops, whereas outsized button downs had been reworked into skirts. Folks experimented with style from the protection of their very own houses, with out the specter of judgment from schoolmates or colleagues. Stylistic freedom was discovered by way of restrictions, not regardless of them. 

This previous weekend my TikTok feed was overwhelmed by a flood of influencers at Coachella — all wearing glitter and designer garments. The previous creativeness of TikTok’s style content material felt absent as I scrolled by way of a stream of sponsored posts and brand-new, costly ensembles. How did an app initially praised for its relaxed authenticity devolve right into a parade of consumerism and superficiality? 

One thing has shifted. The app has largely grow to be a car for commercial, with huge style firms corresponding to Shein and Revolve realizing TikTok’s unbelievable promoting energy. Sponsored posts (marked by a refined “#advert” within the caption) are typical, with influencers giving stilted endorsements of manufacturers. 

My feed accommodates a gradual stream of unsustainable clothes hauls. A brand new time period, “microtrend,” has materialized, ascribed to the transient model traits that repeatedly course by way of the app. Over a pair weeks, clothes gadgets will surge in recognition, after which plummet to insignificance. 

Stephanie Lee ’24 mentioned how rapidly “fashionable” gadgets lose their relevance on TikTok. 

“It is simply actually fascinating how briskly the traits transfer on the app,” Lee stated. “It is a lot harder to parse by way of the traits and discover extra long-lasting model inspiration.” 

 In line with some college students, TikTok’s microtrends haven’t noticeably impacted model at Dartmouth.. Lee stated that some Dartmouth college students have  integrated smaller points of web style — corresponding to child tees and low-waisted denims from the latest Y2K revival —  into normal campus model, somewhat than observe a development in totality. 

Sadie Weil ’25 famous that climate situations, like snow and freezing temperatures, maybe inhibit “Dartmouth model”— an idea  tough to outline as a single class. 

“[Dartmouth style is] much more dressed-down and informal,” Weil stated. “Folks adhere to traits however they do not sacrifice their very own consolation.” 

Weil famous that the informality of Dartmouth model is usually relieving. Fortunately, sweatpants and leggings are by no means discouraged. Although elaborate outfits pervade TikTok and Instagram, there’s no stress to dress-up on campus. Each Weil and Lee highlighted the presence of athleisure — informal athletic apparel — on campus, influenced by the big presence of student-athletes on the Faculty. 

However, Nate Gordon ’25 stated that this laidback, extra homogenous model atmosphere could make it intimidating to take style dangers at Dartmouth. 

“Lots of people [at Dartmouth] do not actually make the most of style as a lot of a type of self-expression,” Gordon stated, “model does not appear to be that huge of a deal right here, which might discourage folks from experimenting with style.” 

For a lot of, it’s a tenuous steadiness between embracing model and recognizing sure constraints, corresponding to climate situations or campus model norms. On-nights current a uncommon alternative to put on brighter colours and aptitude, significantly for themed occasions. With these campus-specific issues, Lee defined that her model has shifted since coming to Dartmouth from Los Angeles — although she nonetheless seeks inspiration on the web. 

“On the finish of the day, I’m a Dartmouth scholar. That influences my style essentially the most,” Lee stated. “I’ll collect influences from TikTok, Instagram and all kinds of social media. I’ll discover traits that approach. What actually guides my purchases is what I’ll really put on on campus.” 

Does TikTok’s style content material have any relevance amongst school college students? It appears TikTok, as soon as an anomaly amongst different types of social media, has fallen sufferer to the identical destiny as Instagram: an over-curated, modern platform fueled by model sponsorships and envy. Beforehand, TikTok’s style movies largely inspired creativity. I might return to my very own closet with pleasure. Now, they encourage a definite wanting. A need for extra garments. Unique holidays. A weekend at Coachella. 

With model, it’s admittedly tough to separate self-expression from materialism; maybe they’re at all times linked. I hope to recollect TikTok’s unique spirit — a momentary flash of funky outfits and unbridled resourcefulness, with limitations forcing experimentation. With a return to this angle, I need to think about new prospects with my very own closet, and maybe (shockingly) the New Hampshire winter.

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