Trend Anxiety: The interconnectedness of fashion and the world

Slow-fashion, fast-fashion, sustainable fashion, timeless fashion, upcycle, resell, in-season, out-of-season — an endless supply of words to give meaning to the clothes we choose to wear.

At first glance, they seem to be buzzwords, ultimately deeming some clothes “good,” and some clothes “bad.” But more than buzzwords, these terms provide a direct correlation between our clothes and the world around us.

Most of us have now experienced our first large trend cycle, with the return of Y2K fashion. But we are also experiencing trend cycles on a ridiculously smaller scale, one with a timespan of two months, instead of 20 years. Trends cycle so fast it actually induces my anxiety.

I went into H&M on Saint-Catherine St. for the first time in years last week, and felt completely overwhelmed. The fluorescent lights highlighting this season’s neon psychedelic trends, the seemingly infinite amount of clothes, the intensity of shoppers searching for something that will undoubtedly be out of style before they even return home. Not to mention the EDM blaring over the sound systems making me feel even more off-kilter, which only aggravated the situation. I couldn’t help but question, when we buy clothes, what are we buying?

As consumers, we must acknowledge the relation between clothes and the world around us — they don’t just represent your stature. We must understand the direct effect of the fashion industry and fast-fashion on the environment, on its involvement of child labour, and on the society in which we participate.

Once we understand the factors that go into our clothes, it’s important to buy and wear them in a way that is responsible and adheres to our beliefs and morals about the world.

As someone who has loved clothes and fashion from a young age, I have always considered my clothes as a representation of myself. My style fluctuates, which presents to the world my personal growth and changing environments. Moving to Montreal from Halifax influenced my style the most in recent years, with my wardrobe becoming more of a collection built from various trips to the thrift store and less from stops at my local Lululemon. It reflected the culture of Montreal youth and my personal endeavors, mainly that of caring for the environment.

That’s the thing with clothes. They tell others something about you which often remains unsaid. It is a signifier to the world; this is who I am because this is what I wear. But if what we are buying is an extension of ourselves, what do trends have to do with it?

In this case, maybe trends are a signifier to the world simply that we know what is trending. For lack of better terms, wearing a trend makes us cool. It’s not an inherently bad thing. Trends have been around as long as fashion itself has, and it’s not wrong to want to participate in them.

But many of us fall into the trend trap, in which we buy something only to wear it once or twice and never reach for it again. We all remember those early pandemic era trends of 2020 — namely cow and zebra print on literally everything, whether it be pants, tops, hats, shoes or furry bags. I couldn’t scroll through Pinterest without seeing some rendition of the alternative animal print trend, and now you’d be hard-pressed to find them anywhere.

Trend anxiety doesn’t just manifest itself in the chaos of fast-fashion shopping, as it also implores us to keep buying new clothes in order to retain the perception of being “trendy.” In today’s social media-driven world, trends have made fashion more about others than about ourselves.

Maybe you feel really comfortable in a certain trend, and you know you can source it in a sustainable way. You’ve already done the hard part by acknowledging how your clothes make you feel regardless of the perception of others. From here, we can wear trends in a way that respects the interconnectedness of fashion to self and the world around us.

When you’re shopping, choose pieces — regardless of their trend status — that you believe will last a long time. This means assessing the quality and durability of the garment, and questioning whether the piece will stand the test of time in your wardrobe, even when it may no longer be trending. This eradicates the disposability of clothes.

I used to go to the thrift store and purchase every trendy item I found because I thought I’d get the chance to wear them all. Realistically, so many of those pieces went unworn because they’re too hard to incorporate into my daily wardrobe. It’s helped to really consider before buying each item, how will I style this in numerous ways to really get wear out of it? If my style changes, will I no longer care for this item? Is it comfortable enough?

We should all try to buy clothes mainly out of necessity. If you actually need a new pair of jeans, think twice before buying a new skirt or dress. Realistically, clothing is an investment. Buying clothes you know you’ll wear helps the environment, and saves you money in the future.


Visuals by James Fay

My new favourite winter accessory — the balaclava

No, I don’t mean the delicious snack baklava, I mean balaclava

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve also noticed the revival of a knit ski mask-like accessory in the fashion scene. The balaclava, a fun, multi-purpose scarf/hat hybrid, has quickly made its way onto the heads of all the cool kids around Montreal, New York and Copenhagen.

If you aren’t familiar with what a Balaclava looks like, picture a ski mask, tight around the top of your head with an opening for your eyes or face that extends down around your neck like a neckwarmer. Unlike your typical ski mask, a balaclava is knit and can adopt many different styles — thicker or thinner, soft yarn or thick cotton, sometimes even mohair to give it an airy look, or the all-important devil horns and bunny ears if you want to stick out.

Balaclavas were first invented in the 1800s when soldiers fought in the Crimean war, specifically the battle of Balaklava — a port of support for the British, French and Turkish against the Russians during an indecisive battle. The tightly-knit wool hats would help keep soldiers warm and slowly made their way into popular culture and fashion. By the 1970s, fashionable balaclavas with fur trimmings and opulent details started popping up.

Today, the resurgence of the warm winter accessory is attributed to the avant-garde and high fashion community, with most of the viral balaclavas coming from designers like Miu Miu, Rick Owens or Isa Boulder — most retailing for more than $400.

Funny enough, the current resurgence of the northern hood came hand-in-hand with the uptick in knitting and crochet as hobbies. During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, many started to pick up needles and yarn and make all sorts of creations. We saw the rise of granny squares, hand-knit blankets, and even checkered bags all driven by our favourite guilty pleasure: social media, and TikTok in particular. I’ll admit, I too fell victim to each trend.

This is an accessory with many functions — warmth, fashion, and even anonymity. Historically, many protest groups have worn ski mask like hoods to disguise their identities from the police. However, these efforts have been criticized due to the intimidating nature of the all-black look.

One example of balaclava’s cultural impact is their specific protest aesthetic, rocked by many anti-fascist and anti-white-supremacy groups. The balaclava, combined with the head-to-toe black outwear, and military accessories like gas masks, represents activism and protesting against fascism and racist ideals. While the look can be intimidating, the safety in anonymity it gives to protesters is an important use of the balaclava.

But you don’t have to look intimidating in a cagoule — I would argue many look very endearing in them. The variety of colours and shapes we are seeing emerge in fashion create a sea of wandering specks of colour walking around in the cold, grey weather, and I’m here for it.

I have recently started knitting my own balaclavas and, as with all crochet projects I take on, I recommend everyone try and learn how to make their own — it’s so rewarding! 

When considering what kind of balaclava you should make or buy, ask yourself: what kind of feel do I want on my face? What colour scheme is my wardrobe, and what balaclava could best compliment that? And lastly, what type of shape am I looking for?

Finding the right yarn for your skin is important, because no matter the style, the balaclava will touch and brush against your face. I know that I have acne-prone skin, so wearing balaclavas can be a big risk factor in making my skin act up if I don’t pick the correct material.

When thinking of what colour balaclava to make or purchase, it’s important to consider your wardrobe: do you wear a lot of neutrals? Or more bright colours? Are you the type to only wear black, grey and white?

If you wear neutrals, maybe pick one that stands out slightly more — like burnt orange or khaki green to bring in a pop of muted colour. If you wear lots of colours, stick with a staple: yellow, blue, red, white or black. You want something that will complement any outfit without clashing.

Finally, the shape. The main consideration is how tight you want it — think of your hair and skin again. Do you have a tendency to get frizzy? Do you lose volume easily? If so, maybe a little looser.

If you want a specific cone shape or specialty ears, it’s pretty straightforward. Find someone who can do that on Etsy, or even try it out yourself! You can always knit stand-alone customizations that can be woven in and out of your balaclava.

No need to freeze for fashion — you can now stay fashionably warm all winter long. You’re welcome! 


Feature graphic by James Fay

eBay: the *hardest* resale platform in town

Depop, Poshmark… been there, done that! Time for a challenge

It’s not a secret that I love to thrift. I will make it a point to tell everyone I come across that my “entire fit is thrifted.” In March 2020, when the pandemic hit and thrift stores closed (hold for dramatic pause), I, like everyone else, went online and tried to fill the void in my heart with second-hand clothes.

First was thredUp — I spent the first lockdown scrolling through endless pages of some housewife’s old clothes. Then, like everyone, I turned to Depop. Hot take: I hate Depop. It is, in my opinion, a platform that seems filled with posers and people who overcharge every time a certain item becomes a “hot trend.”

Now that thrift stores are open, shopping online seems like an expensive alternative to my neighbourhood thrift. But the pandemic also exacerbated the amount of people looking for vintage, thifted, unique pieces which will fit their aesthetic. Sometimes, that means thrifting in stores is a little harder, since you can’t “filter” like online, or maybe don’t have five hours to go through all the racks of your local Value Village.

Well I have a solution for you — if you’re brave enough to try! As a commerce platform, eBay has always overwhelmed me. The bidding, making offers, receiving offers, not to mention the expensive shipping costs. However, the advantage with eBay is the abundance of vintage stock, which will often end up cheaper than if you bought it in a consignment store.

So here are my tips for navigating eBay. They may seem standard to some, but I’m going to assume everyone is as intimidated by the outdated website as I was when I first ventured into that dusty corner of the internet.

Know what you want

This isn’t the place to browse for clothes — there needs to be a specific brand or item you are looking for. I recommend looking through Pinterest and finding vintage brands you like, or even looking in your closet to see what brands you gravitate to when thrifting. I asked my mom where she shopped in the ‘90s to help narrow down some options.

You can look through the standard eBay categories for jewelry or home decor, but clothes need to be found manually.

In terms of items, sometimes you can start broad — “vintage womens pants” is a good start. If I find a pair of pants I like, but they are too expensive or not the right size, I add a specific keyword from that description, and add it to my search bar.

In time, you will have 14 tabs open with different searches — in sizing, colour, style, fit, or even decade. After all, there’s no one way to categorize a listing on eBay, so it’s important to adapt with the platform. It’s not an exact science; there’s no one keyword or brand that unlocks all the great treasures.

The watchlist

Unlike other online retailers, eBay adopts a “watchlist” versus the overdone “wishlist.” Here, you can watch items that interest you, but the best part about the tool is that sellers can offer you discounts based on the items in your watchlist. Typically, you’ll get 48 hours to respond to an offer.

For example, I had my eye on a vintage white ‘90s crewneck cute baby lions sweater that was way out of my price range — by which I mean the shipping was way too expensive (which is probably the platform’s only downfall). Out of nowhere, a notification appeared up at the top right corner of my screen — suddenly, the sweater was affordable!

You bet your booty I’ve been wearing it every day since it arrived.

It’s important to check your emails or the notifications on your eBay account to keep track of offers, but this is easy once you get addicted to going down the eBay rabbit hole.

Now you have the tools to navigate the treacherous eBay landscape… let the bidding battles begin!


Feature graphic by James Fay and Catherine Reynolds

Perfume – (In)conspicuous consumption?

If you spent $425 on a bottle of Baccarat Rouge 540 but didn’t get a compliment, did it ever really happen?

I never used to be someone who cared much about fragrance — I probably owned three Bath & Body Works body sprays my entire teenage life, and since then, I’ve pretty much been a shower and out-the-door kind of gal. But, while others were baking bread or practicing their French in the latter half of the pandemic, I was starting down a much less productive, and much more expensive, road.

Recently, I’ve been falling deep into the spending hole that is perfume. Ever since stumbling on the #Perfumetok hashtag on TikTok, a new consumption-based hobby has taken hold of me, and I can’t say I’m mad about it.

I do largely blame TikTok for this (among many of my other ills). The platform is nothing if not amazing at selling you a very specific aesthetic goal over and over again. If Emelia, aka Professor Perfume, tells me that all I need to do to radiate “femme fatale” energy is to wear Mugler’s Alien — well, she makes a good point.

In this way, fragrances function just like any other branded commodities — you buy them for the name and bottle as much as you buy for scent. According to Allure, in some cases, the perfume is actually developed with the bottle’s shape and colour in mind before the scent inside is even formulated. Fabien Baron, the designer, photographer, and filmmaker behind Calvin Klein’s CK One fragrance told Allure that a perfume’s image is generally more important than the scent itself when determining the success of a fragrance launch.

Further, with the perfume industry being largely dominated by premium (ie. designer and niche house) perfumeries, there is a lot of money to be made from a good branding strategy to go along with your product. 

However, as the consumer, once you leave Sephora and actually begin to wear the perfume in your everyday life, are you actually communicating this expensive purchase to anyone else?

Sure, I could clock a sniff of $166 By the Fireplace by Maison Margiela walking down the street, but I admit that my perfume nerdiness is not the default. Even when wearing the most famous and luxurious perfumes, to most people, you’re just someone who smells nice, not someone with $210 to throw at a bottle of Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford. With that being said, is perfume necessarily a conspicuous consumption? 

It’s hard to say. When I think of why I like to buy perfume, it’s difficult to find a distinct answer. If it was just about smelling nice, surely I would be okay with just buying some essential oils off of Amazon and calling it a day, right? But I don’t, I have to buy Glossier You.

It’s not that I even like Glossier as a company. I find many of their makeup products to be overpriced and underperforming, and their corporate governance has been marred by controversy. I know that the millennial pink branding and Instagram full of cool influencers’ impossibly “clean” glowy skin is simply a marketing strategy. Yet, I still paid $60 USD for their Glossier You perfume.

Despite the fact that maybe one out of hundreds of people would know that when I walk down the hall smelling of a faint, powdery, peppery musk, it is in fact due to Glossier, I still feel trendy wearing it. And that’s tied to the name more than the scent itself.

So here perfume becomes both conspicuous and inconspicuous — you’re always influenced by the bottle and marketing strategy, even when you are not outwardly advertising your purchase to anyone. 

While I pat myself on the back for being a conscious consumer, aware of branding strategies and the power of influencer marketing, this recent trip down the financial rabbit hole that is a perfume addiction has shown me that we’re all a bit susceptible to the hype. But, that’s not going to stop me from visiting now is it?


Feature graphic by James Fay

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