When it comes to fashion, we women can have a mixed response to trends. On the one hand, trends keeps us looking current. On the other hand, they can also look dated in retrospect and make us feel bad about ourselves when we don’t look good in whatever is currently popular.
Trends are nearly impossible to escape completely because they last for years—sometimes even a decade. A trend in one area will also influence many other types of clothing and will even affect how we view style and design. Thus, trends are often, if you will, the “water” that we swim in without even realizing it.
Unless you sew all of your own clothes, you will always be influenced by trends simply because trends permeate the industry that creates the items you buy. Low-rise jeans, for instance, were a 2000s–2010s trend that was so pervasive that it was tricky to find mid-rise and nearly impossible to find high-rise pants during this period. And because these were trends and not fads, it wasn’t just jeans that were low-rise and skinny. All women’s bottoms began to have lower rises and skinnier cuts. This trend included everything from swim suit bottoms, sweatpants, jeans, and chinos to trousers, suiting, and tuxedo pants. These cuts influenced other clothing, as well. Around 2000, slightly short, form-fitting tees were popular. When paired with low-rise, flared jeans, these tops exposed a sliver of one’s lower midriff. Later, when skinny jeans exploded, tops became longer, billowier, and more flowy in order to balance out our fitted pants. The ubiquity of skinny jeans with flowy tops shows that these two trends are still going strong.
[Blake Lively in pants in the 2000s vs. 2010s.]
While we like trends because they keep us looking current, they can also work against us when we follow too many of them, follow them too closely, or try to force our bodies to conform to certain styles. Many women have at some point had that exasperated moment in front of the mirror while trying to tease and curl their thin, flat hair into a luxurious mane, or squish their curvy selves into ultra-low hip-huggers. But when we follow trends in moderation, we can look current and classy without futilely trying to change our bodies’ shapes or qualities.
Here’s how to look natural and timeless by making trends work for you:
01. Approach trends as ideas.
If you can approach trends less as rules about what unequivocally looks good and more as ideas about what could look good, then you can dabble in said trends without feeling like you have to force your body or face to imitate a specific look that just isn’t you.
Maybe you’ve experimented with ankle boots or tunic tops and they just don’t work for
you. That’s okay! They are beautiful on many women, but you can keep wearing your skinny jeans with combat boots or riding boots. Tunics are easy and comfortable, but their length and volume can add too much fabric to the middle and lower half of the body for some women. If you love the look of tunics but don’t feel comfortable in them, you can look for tops that are also easy and comfortable without the extreme length of a tunic. A soft, relaxed sweater that stops at the hip can produce a similar casual vibe, and an open-front blazer can create a similar lengthening effect.
On this model, the length and looseness of the tunic creates long, lean lines that make the outfit look both polished and relaxed.
These simple black jeans paired with the clean lines of this blush blazer also create an easy, polished look.
02. Make the trend fit your body, rather than trying to force your body to conform to the trend.
No trend is going to work to everyone’s advantage. Each fashion or beauty trend will look better on some people and less good on others. But if a trend isn’t working for you, don’t fight against your body to try to make it look the way everyone else looks at the moment. Remember that the problem is with the trend, not with you!
For example, ruffles became very popular in 2016 and 2017. Many blouses had ruffles along the hem, on the sleeves, on the shoulders, or across the bust. These various placements each look better on different body types. When you know what you like on yourself and what you enjoy accentuating, you can focus on having fun just with hemline ruffles, or just with ruffles that cut across the bust. I have soft shoulders and a pear shape, so ruffles along the shoulders work best with my figure, whereas peplum or ruffles on the sleeves obscure my waist and draw the eye too far downward.
Another example: Thicker, more manicured brows have now been the trend for the last few years, but in the 1990s and 2000s, thin eyebrows were popular and even women with average-sized bows often plucked a lot and frequently. Taking a middle-of-the-road route—which might have meant cleaning up stray brow hairs in 2000, and darkening them within the borders in 2018—is a way to look current and let your natural beauty shine through.
Drew Barrymore in the 2000s vs. Cara Delevingne in the 2010s—both cute!
03. Look classy and timeless by wearing trends in moderation.
You can look up-to-date and also timeless if you wear trends in small doses and stick to ones that offer a new take on classic pieces.. When experimenting with a new trend, avoid going for the biggest or brightest version of it. Some trends look cool at the time because everyone’s wearing them, but with the perspective of a few years, they may seem extreme and dated. You have probably seen photos from the early 2000s in which celebrities wear all the trends all at once: extremely low-rise, flared, bedazzled jeans with big platform shoes, a short hot pink shirt, a bolero, and a newsboy cap over highlighted hair. I love me some platform shoes and low-rise flares, too, but all of these trends at once can look too trendy—both in retrospect and in the moment! You can avoid this problem by aiming for one or two trends at a time, or by wearing trendy versions of classic pieces. Classics could include a white blouse with a small ruffle, a cotton button-up in a popular color, or a classic leather moto jacket with trendy hardware.
Both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Michelle Trachtenberg sport low-rise, flared jeans in this Buffy the Vampire Slayer still, but Gellar's outfit is timeless because it incorporates fewer trends. While Trachtenberg's ensemble includes low-rise jeans, a wide belt, a spaghetti-strap top, a bare midriff, and a velour track jacket, Gellar's outfit mixes low-rise, decorated jeans with a funky purse. These two trendy 2000s items are mixed with a classic red flutter-sleeve blouse and a long pendant.
The most important thing to remember is to wear what works for you, whatever that is. And if what works for you is not “in style” at the moment, don’t stress about it—all trends change, and fashion is often cyclical. Styles will bend your way again, and you can say you were ahead of the curve the whole time.