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Fashion and fluidity: Exploring style in 2021

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Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava / Pexels
Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava / Pexels

In the last year, the fashion world has witnessed immense transformation. Sustainability initiatives have taken center stage, with large brands such as GAP, Yeezy, and H&M conforming to more eco-conscious consumer demands. Gen Z is constantly testing new aesthetics and developing highly influential subcultures via digital platforms like TikTok. Just three weeks ago, Balenciaga released a short episode of The Simpsons as a part of its Paris Fashion Week show.

Things are getting adventurous, to say the least.

So what do we do with all of this newness?

As daring new style concepts begin to hit the streets and upcycling becomes standard in garment production technology, 2021 fashion begs us all to reimagine our closets and try new things along with the familiar. And what better setting than a stormy Seattle fall?

Photo by Wendy Wei / Pexels  

Themes of metamorphosis
We are in the midst of a collective shift, largely considered the consequence of changing lifestyles during the pandemic. New hobbies and work from home emerged hand in hand with the unrest and upheaval of last year.

Trend forecasts indicate an exit from the pandemic, and with it, the potential for positive change. This has been the catalyst for the emergence of an ultra-adaptable fashion industry. For both the high-end designer and the everyday Seattle shopper, this means creative doorways are open wider than before when it comes to conceiving the "outfit of the day."

Designer Raf Simons said, "There is a feeling we all have about wanting to be in the world again. We are in the mood for fashion. We are in the mood for sharing with other people."

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny / Pexels  

Sharing yourself
Sharing ourselves with other people, that is. Fashion has always been a form of personal expression, and now that previously inflexible boundaries are bending, a fluid state of fashion is expanding the norm.

In application, sharing is also receiving, so do your research. Identify someone in your life — influencer or friend — whose fashion sense you admire, and find which aspects of their style pique your interest. Is it the tight pants, the big shoes combo, or the loosely unbuttoned way they wear their shirt? Detach the outfit from the person and look at it like a Tumblr collage. Every outfit is but a mixture of textures, colors, and shapes.

Look deep into your closet for a similar vibe, and if you don't see anything to work with, turn it upside down. Any tank top can be a mini-skirt, according to one bold (and now-viral) TikTok idea by @kalechng.

Along those lines, large scarves and small blankets have been tried as shirts and full ensembles. Take A$AP Rocky's Met Gala quilt, for example: not only does it meet at the intersection of preexisting trends such as primary-color mixing and the shape-shifting puffer coat style, but it is also a handmade, upcycled piece that showcases the endless possibilities of fabric.

Photo by Alex Sever / Pexels  

Whether or not you've already indulged in experimentation after seeing someone on TikTok in extreme platform loafers or you're just beginning to conceptualize your personal style, there are no faux pas in today's fashion climate. A diverse set of subcultures has arrived on the internet this year, and communities are forming around them. While some refer to these as "microtrends," the truth is that the mainstream is proving too narrow, and we are fluid beings.

Some subcultures are more daring or extreme than others. From Bridgerton fangirls sharing in pastoral "cottagecore" dreams (think "Love Story" by Taylor Swift) to the return of the emo-scene kid, there is truly a place for all.

Photo by Christian Luis / Pexels  

One subculture dominating the web and even influencing the runways right now is Goth style. Publications report that today's social disruption and digital escapism have led Goth style to inspire even celebrity fashion, from Marc Jacobs to Travis Barker. Black might be the new black, once again. A simple pair of combat boots or a plaid piece with edgy jewelry could surely do the trick. Already visible in the streets of Seattle have been corsets, patterned tights, and leather jackets, and how you wear them is up to you.

Fashion experts are not surprised by the trend's growth, perhaps an indicator of collective grieving. W Magazine's Kristen Bateman recently reported that "for many, experimenting with an extreme sense of style is a form of escapism."

Photo by Salomon Byuma / Pexels  

While we've all been social distancing, more isolated, and online, subcultures have almost seemed to spring into mainstream trends, and boldness is in the air. This year has proven that style can be more than a tool for self-expression. It has brought people together virtually over the past year and continues to be a creative outlet for many. Be bold and wear big shoes!