‘Unhinged fashion girlies’ and the rejection of trends in favour of radical self-expression: How Gen Z are embracing maximalism

by Eleni Papachristodoulou
Gen Z Trends

It’s safe to say Minimalism is so far out you can barely see it. Instead, fashion influencers and models alike, such as Iris Law and Bella Hadid are embracing a more maximalist, ‘anti-fashion’ aesthetic. Think fuzzy bags paired with oversized bows, Miu Miu micro mini skirts with patterned mesh tops, clashing textures, and pattern mixing. And it’s not just fashion. Seemingly every trend under the sun is getting a dose of the Maximalism special, particularly in regard to interior and graphic design.

“Are people just trying to look ugly?”

This question was posed by Twitter user @KAIAGEBER in a viral tweet that brought the internet’s attention to an interesting phenomenon lovingly dubbed: “Weird-Girl-Core”. Weird-Girl-Core can be defined as a colourful, dramatic aesthetic that embraces not only pattern mixing, but pattern clashing, texture mixing and over-accessorising. Put it all together, and you’re left with an outfit that would’ve landed you on an episode of What Not To Wear just five years prior.

What’s so weird about Weird Girl Aesthetics?

In the great tradition of the 20-year trend recycle, this obsession with weird is certainly not anything new or radical. With Y2K aesthetics still dominating Pinterest and YouTube search bars, it’s safe to say that this aesthetic is a natural development from the Y2K resurgence that’s been around for the past three years.

Weird-Girl-Core however, takes this a step further. Many fashion commentators and content creators such as Mina Lee argue that this aesthetic has clear influences from the Harajuku girls of the late 90s.

Harajuku, subversion and the parallels between modern teens 

Given an increased interest in activism that can be seen in Gen Z — particularly in regards to social justice — it makes sense that fashion amongst young people would evolve from the rigid structure of the “how to dress for your body type” fashion of the 2010s, into a more subversive “wear what makes you happy” attitude. This sentiment is closely mirrored by (arguably) the original ‘weirdcore’ enthusiasts, the Harajuku girls. In an observational study on the fashion, sentiment, and culture of Harajuku, Amelia Bloom states  “[Harajuku girls] use experimental dressing to communicate with wider society their disillusionment with it. [They are at times] questioning the very meaning and function of dress. With this in mind, it’s clear that Harajuku does not only exist as an aesthetic influence to Gen Z, but rather acts as an interesting parallel between subversive fashion, rebellion and increased disillusionment with societal norms.

The TikTok influence

So, how did we get here? One could blame the rise of Tiktok and the fact that our lives are lived increasingly online. After all, experiencing an over-saturation of influencer fashion content is bound to push the pendulum into weird-dom, purely just so we have something else to see.

While TikTok, thrifting and the rise of DIY/upcycling all play a role in Gen Z becoming more comfortable with maximalism, one can’t ignore the impact that being indoors for the better part of two years has on the global psyche. In an article written by Judy Bergman for Time Magazine, Bergman states that “our collective Long COVID of the soul [has] converged in a tidal wave of tackiness.” There’s certainly some truth to this. Post covid, ‘Dopamine Dressing’ is set to be the biggest fashion trend of 2022, and as Bergman states once more, “[after 2 years of being indoors and dealing with the numbness of doing very little] nothing kills numbness like a sensory onslaught — color, sound, hedonism, melodrama, sleaze.“

Fashion and beyond

It’s worth noting that this obsession with maximalism is by no means tied to fashion alone.

Hashtags such as ‘#goblincore’, ‘#maximalism’ and ‘#cluttercore’ dominate interior design-tok. Young people far and wide are rejecting conventions of simplicity and traditional interior design in favour of grand displays of… practically everything they own. In the graphic design world, this trend is manifesting in a way that sees designers rejecting conventional ideas of what “good design” can be, eg, scandi minimalism and helvetica posters. “More is more” currently seems to be the aim of the game. This is often in lieu of “good design” pillars, like contrast and legibility.

Some questions to mull over re: the Maximalist life

Are we witnessing the death of good taste?

Is this even a new thing at all?

Does this shift represent a conscious movement into a new sense of collective consciousness or will this just be a dying fad?

Should brands embrace this aesthetic shift or stick to what they know works?

Let us know your thoughts!

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