top of page

We Need A Fashion Movement

Why Cottagecore & Other TikTok Trends Can Only Take Us So Far.

By Sofia Butler

Photo by

Thanks to TikTok and Instagram, fashion for Gen Z has steadily morphed into what we call “aesthetics.” Even if you’re not savvy in the fashion world, you’ve likely heard some terms like “cottagecore,” “‘90s whimsigoth,'' or “baddie.” Some of these trends are taken very seriously, while others playfully make fun of them. No matter the trend, in any given moment, the pattern for much of Gen Z fashion can be traced back to these key aesthetics.

In the last few years, I have caught myself feeling frustrated about this pattern in fashion. There is a shortage of unique creative expression. But, more importantly, these large-scale aesthetics are moving fashion away from its subtle, yet powerful role as a political tool.

All throughout U.S. history, we can trace fashion’s critical role in political movements:

In the 1900s, the Suffragists wore pure white dresses accented by purple and gold sashes to unify their cause and signal what their aim was– acquiring the right to vote.

In the 1950s, Civil Rights leaders deliberately wore their “Sunday’s best,” to signal their worthiness of respect to the dominant white culture and create a horrific contrast between their image and the violence white people were inflicting upon them.

In the 1960s, SNCC donned all denim looks with natural hair and no make-up to emphasize their ties to the working class and demand respect without adhering to dominant group norms.

Today, there are so many beautiful examples of powerful fashion choices calling for change, but many are operating on a smaller scale. With the interconnectedness of media, we are perfectly poised to generate a revolutionary fashion movement. Yet, we are caught in the limitations of aesthetics.

Gen Z and all the subsequent generations care about the planet. We are sensitive to the destruction of our world, and the COVID-19 pandemic helped many of us see that clearly. We are inspired to enact change to our broken systems: education, prison, police, government, environment protection, capitalism. Fashion is a tool. It is time for a unified shift toward a world we want to live in and a full embrace of all means that enable us to get there.

This shift won’t happen in a single election. It might not even happen in our lifetime. But the work needs to begin. Fashion has the power of holding promise, potential, and imagination all within its scope. It’s time to stop recycling old trends, old patterns of being. It’s time for a unified call; we need a fashion movement.

As French fashion designer Oliver Rousteing says,

“Let’s embrace change. It’s how you make new history.”

bottom of page