Tumblr Revival and the Return of the Alt Girl

More fashion trends are making their comeback. But is it too soon?

Livia Pica (he/she/they) // Contributor
Alina Sandu // Illustrator

To the joy of some and the horror of others, the early 2000s have officially come back in fashion. Low-rise jeans, baby tees, mini-skirts and loud accessories have been dominating Instagram and TikTok. Y2K was the undoubted main character of the 2022 Spring collection, Vogue reports. Now, we find ourselves in a bright, new 2023. Britney Spears is finally free, we have thoroughly explored all that scarf tops have to give, and it’s time to look forward. The new year will certainly introduce us to new concepts, and we are left wondering what they will be and how long they will last. 

The two major candidates are the two trends that followed Y2K. As the enthusiasm over the new millennium that had fueled the early 2000s ran out, people longed for a calmer and more introspective style. Enter twee, characterized by ballet flats, oversized collars, and colourful patterns. Feminine, delicate and retro, it represents the opposite of the loud, chaotic Y2K style. Zooey Deschanel (a.k.a. Jessica Day from New Girl) and Wes Anderson movies were the fundamental icons of this era. Twee competed for relevance with the Tumblr-era alt girl. This second current was defined by ripped tights, messy liner and black-and-white stripes. The TV series Skins was its uncontested inspiration, together with artists like Lana del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds and Arctic Monkeys. Between the early 2000s and the 2010s both Twee and Alt fashion were widely popular, but what do people think about them now? 

Public opinion here at Capilano University is divided. Some look forward to fashion trends whose fundamental pieces still lie somewhere in the back of a closet. Others cite how much clothing compatible with Twee sits in thrift stores, and what a feast it will be. Others grimace at the mention of Tumblr and point out the toxicity of the sad-girl aesthetic, a trend that started as simple sharing of hardship online, but became an unhealthy glorification of mental illness. These sentiments are complicated by a nostalgia for pre-COVID times which makes us yearn for when we had no idea what the years to come would bring. Even so, the conclusion of the pandemic has created a hunger for the future and innovation.

Among all of this discourse, a belief united all of the different voices: whatever happens, it’ll be over soon. Trends, by their very nature, are fleeting. Yet, the pace of the fashion world seems to be changing. We’re not even a decade away from the styles that we are reminiscing about as if long gone. Tumblr’s loss of users and the release of the last season of New Girl both happened in 2018.

 Brian Raftery argued in Wired that cultural nostalgia — and, therefore, fashion — arrives in 20 year cycles. He explained that, “art-absorption metabolisms have been sped up by the web”. This phenomenon has escalated, and now 20 years is far too long to wait to rediscover old favourites. Instead of retracing the steps of the generation before us, we are imitating ourselves from five years ago.The culprits of this acceleration are TikTok and fast fashion. TikTok is a social media app based on short videos, rather than photos. It’s wildly addictive, presenting its users with a selection of content incredibly compatible with their interests. Eugene Wei, in 2020 wrote, “when you gaze into TikTok, TikTok gazes into you.” Its algorithm is built to make virality more accessible than with many other social media apps. TikTok creates and extinguishes trends in a matter of weeks, rather than years. Think of the strawberry dress or bucket hats or the infamous VSCO girl and her scrunchies. It’s also uniquely fitted for the promotion and advertisement of products, which benefits big companies that sell cheap, low-quality clothes. 

The result is a rapid succession of trends that don’t establish the same social and cultural significance as the eras they are inspired by. Twee and the Alt Girl, therefore, might vanish before we even realize their presence. So, don’t worry too much if the idea of putting on either a pair of fishnets or patterned tights hurts your soul. All you need to do is to signal to your TikTok algorithm to sell you something else.

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