Expression through Fashion at Groves

By Mecca Terrell

Senior Izzy Parker poses in one of her favorite outfits on top of a parking structure in Birmingham on December 16, 2020. Taking inspiration from elements of styles such as goth, emo, and 90s grunge, she shows off distressed tights, a bedazzled crop top, a denim mini skirt, and a red zip-up. Parker wears silver jewelry to complement her platform, studded sneakers.

Fashion worn by students at Groves High School has taken a turn. Starting the early 2020s with a bang, students have been experimenting with their styles in unexpected ways. Now, instead of seeing leggings, sweatpants, and oversized hoodies, there has been a resurgence of stylized denim, customized shoes, and funky accessories.

Why the sudden abundance of creativity? The rise of social media apps and their influencers. Senior Izzy Parker is one of many students who consider social media a significant part of her style influence.

“Social media inspires me in a lot of ways. I often admire other people’s creativity when it comes to fashion on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tiktok,” Parker said.

Platforms such as these have paved the way to how students think about styling their clothing on a daily basis. As popular influencers shift their content from being purely comedic or informational to content that shows off their lifestyle, they have started to heavily emphasize a focus on displaying the clothing they wear. This, in turn, encourages teenage audiences of these influencers to follow in their footsteps by either adapting style influences from these existing users or even starting their own accounts solely dedicated to fashion. Therefore, the popularity of these apps continues to skyrocket, which causes more users to create and explore fashion-related accounts, further contributing to an endless cycle of new styles and trends waiting to be discovered.

Covid-19 made social media apps become extremely prominent, more noticeably last year and this year than in any others. As teens were forced to quarantine in their homes in early March 2020, with no required schoolwork and workplaces shut down, they found alternatives to occupy their time. Many turned to their phones, and subsequently social media, others got in better touch with their unique identities and pursued hobbies and trends that they previously had no time to explore and express.

“Over quarantine, I started experimenting and trying things that I never had the chance to try before,” Parker said. “Since I was alone so much in lockdown, that was the chance that I had to go thrifting. I just had more time on my hands to try new makeup looks and try new styles. I would literally just model in my room and walk around and do my own fashion show, just to have fun and go for new types of outfits. And the more I’ve tried on different clothes and paired things that I didn't usually pair together, the more I saw my style bloom, so II feel that being in quarantine, being by myself, definitely led to a lot more creativity in general.”

Parker is just one of many students who have experienced the unexpected benefit of being locked down due to the pandemic. Sometimes all it takes for teens to develop a passion is in a comfortable and judgement-free environment. And in relation to social media, once they fall in love with certain styles and the clothing they wear on a daily basis, it becomes easy to flaunt that style to the rest of the world. In return, students receive inspiration from other creators, contributing to a limitless cycle of creativity.

Parker found noteworthy inspiration from social media. As the styles she saw other students adopt and adapt, her style continued to morph, adding to her wardrobe from an eclectic sources and themes.

“I honestly try to mix up my style as much as possible, instead of sticking to one theme. I really like more edgier styles now, like dark colors and fishnets. I get some inspiration from even emo, goth, or scene culture on social media. I’m not fully into any of those things, but I like getting little inspiration from them and putting that into my style,” Parker said. “I really like the early 2000s style, which I know has been really trendy. Even 90s and a lot of 70s styles too. I try to pick from a lot of different things, but the thing that makes dressing up and experimenting with fashion the most fun for me is not trying to stick to one style specifically. Now I shop more like ‘I’m going to pick just what I like, not what fits one aesthetic.’ So I try every style possible and just pick what I think will suit me instead of just sticking to one aesthetic, which I did before.”

The motive among students like Parker to make their outfits as interesting and individualized as possible also began with creators on the app Tiktok, where according to there are about 689 million users. Such a multitude of people showing off their favorite fits causes creativity to spring with the challenge of trying to develop styles that are one-of-a-kind, mixing and matching a generous amount of accessories: whether necklaces, big earrings, headbands, or stylized rings. Parker said this is her way of standing out and making a statement, and she enjoys how it makes her outfits look much less plain than they used to be.

Another student who enjoys new fashion trends this year on social media and now enjoys experimenting with her style is senior Lily Paul. Voted “Best Dressed” by the rest of her classmates in this year’s yearbook mock election, she holds a perspective similar to Parker.

“The main thing that made me want to start expressing myself through clothes would just be to stand out,” Paul said.

Over her high school career, Lily Paul has developed a definitive style. Some of her favorite trends at the moment include how influencers have normalized showing off more skin in the outfits they wear every day and the throwback to looks reminiscent of the nostalgic Y2k/Britney Spears niche style. But what makes the clothing she wears stand out amongst the crowd is how she creates modern interpretations of these older styles, which adheres to the goal of finding new ways to make normal outfits more interesting. Wanting to set herself apart from the rest, Paul created a unique interpretation of the trends plastered across social media.

“The Y2k style that’s coming back in is really cute, like the early 2000s pop star kind. Baggier clothes and streetwear have become a lot more popular and you see more people wearing it. And some DIY trends have become more popular, in the sense that I more often see people trying to make their own clothes or I’ve noticed a lot of people paint on jean jackets,” Paul said. “Some things I’ve noticed are corset tops and low-waisted pants. I’ve seen a type of fashion that applies more to our generation that plays along the lines of Y2k, something I would call ‘kid-core’, such as Paul Frank baby tees and Hello Kitty accessories.”

This nostalgic trend has triggered a positive response from teens everywhere. Whether it’s the subtle incorporation of the oversized sunglasses and the color brown, or a full blown Paris Hilton-inspired tribute, teens keep continue to bring back the fun-filled era’s fashion statements. Teens today, born primarily between the years 2000 to 2008, were too young to fully take advantage of the first wave of popularity this style had during that time, and the glamour and luxury associated with the lifestyle and culture of that time has caused them to reinvent the highlights of this style in a modern way.

Senior student Lily Paul sports a trendy outfit on a trip to Chicago she took on April 2, 2021 during her spring break. She pairs a brown, cropped tank top with mid-rise, bootcut Levi’s and emerald green Converse Chuck 70s. Topping it off with a large pendant necklace and beaded bracelet, she shows us less is more and proves simplicity can still be stylish.

Competing with the Y2k trend is mass-production, which threatens teens’ search for individuality in their clothing. Clothing producers are aware of the uptick in newly emerged styles and trends and responded to this by producing them in stores, such as Shein, Romwe, and Zaful.

What makes this occurrence a concern for fashionable teens? Monotony. Although the clothing produced is relevant to today’s trends, their current overproduction causes them to go out of style. Slightly different versions of the same styles are created over and over again, causing consumers, particularly teens, to crave something new.

To combat this, a surge of thrifting, repurposing older clothing items, and learning to create clothes from scratch has taken social media by storm. Thrift stores have become the most recent and even the cheapest way to accessorize and elevate outfits in refreshing ways. Thrift stores offer a unique variety of items: rare jewelry pieces, vintage and distressed denim, and random fabric scraps. These stores are the essence of creative potential when it comes to constructing outfits unparalleled by anyone else across social media. The new trend is turning something that was once old, dingy, and discarded into something that aligns with today’s trends.

“It’s cool that it’s the first time that our generation has had a nostalgic trend. Like we went through the 90s grunge era, but we weren’t alive during that, and it’s interesting to see pieces that we kind of grew up seeing become popular again, like low-waisted jeans, which weren’t popular for a long time. I also really like that the color brown is trendy again. I’ve always liked brown so I’m glad that’s a thing,” Paul said.

As this photo screams 90s grunge, senior Lily Paul displays one of her favorite outfits on March 6, 2021. This super-cropped green and red tee really pops against the black accents of her long sleeves, low-waisted pants, and Converse sneakers. It’s a great representation of the 1990s nostalgia style that has come back full force over the last year.

Thrift stores inspire teens to bring back clothing items and generate entirely new genres of style. By repurposing outdated brands and rare vintage finds. Paul strives to recreate older clothing in ways that complement the trends seen today and learned how to sew her own clothing from her purchases.

“I recently bought a sewing machine, and I constantly find myself trying to find ways to turn the ugly things I find in thrift stores into something that I would consider cute and trendy. One of my favorites is an oversized t-shirt I found in the men’s section. The fit wasn’t right at all, but I loved the pattern, so I cut and hemmed it. I turned it into a stylish two-piece set as a cropped t-shirt with a cute mini skirt,” Paul said.

Paul exemplifies the impact that thrifting and repurposing old clothing has on teenagers. Outfit ideas are set into motion, making way for endless possibilities for modern day fashion.

Speculating on the future of today’s fashion and what could be seen in the school halls next year, teens may find it hard to predict what is going to be next season’s big fashion trend. As fashion in today’s age has become extremely fluid, these trends are heavily tied to what social media influencers showcase on their accounts. As social media becomes more popular, so does the evolution of new styles.

Paul is excited for fashion's future, and believes that without social media platforms, there’s no way the most popular trends would be able to cover as much ground as they currently do.

“Fashion trends and social media have become so dependent on one another. It’s to the point where, for a style to become popular, that style has to be showcased on these platforms, or else it’s nearly impossible for something new to gain exposure and catch on with other people,” Paul said. “Teens are especially the ones who set the trends, so it’s almost like the future of fashion is in our hands.”

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