Photos by Hana Mendel
Story by Sara Radin
Within a few seconds of opening up my Instagram app each morning my feed quickly fills up with fashion imagery that feels vaguely familiar. From oversized scrunchies to fanny packs and tie dye everything, I can’t help but double tap and save all of it to my growing style inspiration folder – a safe space hidden inside my screen where I like to save the most outlandish outfit inspiration I see on the Internet to help me dress myself as my most a̶u̶t̶h̶e̶n̶t̶i̶c̶ weirdest self. The thing is, none of these items or styles are really new at all. In actuality, many of them I once wore as a small child growing up in suburbs of New Jersey in the nineties and early aughts—some remind me of hot days at summer camp while others remind me of my outfit from my first middle school dance—and since those times, many of these trends been recycled, repeated, and reused throughout the years.
As a trend forecaster and culture writer, I can tell you that nostalgic fashion has been emerging and re-emerging for sometime now but in late 2018 it became a full-blown epidemic (but you know, the good kind — at least I think?). In fact, Google revealed that its top fashion searches of the year were, in order: 1980s fashion, grunge style, 1990s fashion and 2000s fashion. Why is this happening though? What is so deeply alluring about the fashion of these earlier decades?
The answer is pretty simple to deduce but not something we might easily consider when we hit the “buy” button on our favorite vintage items on Depop — as our current age has become quite dismal due to global sociopolitical conflict and our never-ending technology-driven burn out (it’s the age of ghosting and swiping right and left, so it’s no wonder we’re depressed and anxious all the time), we long for what we remember to be a seemingly lighter, happier time so we buy our way back into those emotions. Dressing ourselves in the clothes of our earlier days makes us feel like we’re living in a different era (one that was pre-social media and less iPhone obsessed but maybe just as dismal politically). With this, it’s important to remember whenever we shop or “<3” a nostalgic pic on Instagram, that us humans tend to look at the past with rose colored glasses, and as much as this fashion is seriously cool right now, it could be sending us a deeper message that we should probably pay attention to—that maybe it’s time to really re-invent ourselves.