For the most part, last year began like any other. Most of us celebrated New Year’s Eve with large festivities, dressed in our best outfits to ring in the exciting year ahead. No one could have anticipated that our daily wardrobes would soon turn into a sea of loungewear as we began working from home and spending more time indoors than ever before. Despite the fact that we spent the majority of days in leggings and sweatpants, one could still argue that fashion thrived in more ways than one—and this, we’ve come to accept, is largely due in part to TikTok’s impact on setting trends in the fashion industry.
Whether or not you’re actually on TikTok, the minute-long videos that make the app what it is have spread like wildfire across all other social media platforms, so you’ve probably seen a few clips on Instagram or Twitter regardless. The app’s impact was so prominent, in fact, that Instagram launched its own knockoff version called Reels. At a time when most of us were home flaunting our less-than-stylish sweats and PJs in Zoom meetings, TikTok was flourishing with millions of users scrolling through videos that provided them a sense of normalcy.
I spend most of my 2020 binge-watching TikTok users like @oliviabeeeee from the comfort of my bed. As I watched her try-on hauls and styling videos, I often found myself thinking, “Oh, this would be the perfect outfit for a date night when lockdown is over!”. Then, I’d add the top she mentioned to my online cart and order it immediately. In a time of extreme uncertainty—when exactly would lockdown be over??—online shopping became my source of comfort, and I made a new hobby out of waiting for my packages to arrive. As a result, I’ve since amassed a pile of clothes with the tags still on them, each piece begging to be worn.
Of course, influencers are nothing new to social media. We’ve all seen bloggers and fashion gurus use Instagram to finesse extravagant brand deals and promote lavish lifestyles. But TikTok is a platform that promotes an entirely different kind of influencer—one that’s far more relatable.
Absolutely anyone could appear on your For You Page and present you with a series of Pinterest-worthy outfits. It’s rarely perfectly-posed influencers with idealistic backdrops; it’s everyday users, their clothes, and (more often than not) their bedroom walls. Maybe a ring light, if they’re really fancy. Something about seeing regular, real people posting these clothes makes the items feel more attainable—and thus, easier to justify buying. Because of this, these smaller creators have been able to radically shape the trends that thrive.
Olivia Bolish (TikTok’s @oliviabeeeee) is a student at the University of Utah, one who never imagined she would find an audience on TikTok. “I was so bored cooped up in the house. I made all the bread that I could make, I watched all the Tiger King that I could watch, and I was just over it and I needed to do something,” she shares. “I had already been trying to do some influencer fashion on my Instagram, but I didn’t want to leave my house, so I was like, ‘Okay let’s just try and make this work.’” She’s currently amassed 454K followers on the app, compared to an Instagram following of 17K.
For novices or experts in the world of style, TikTok has made fashion accessible through an unfiltered lens. “For me, a lot of my inspiration comes from things that are trending, and I try to make it personal and put my own spin on it,” says Bolish. 2020 provided an entire generation with the opportunity to devote time to improving themselves and focusing on the lives they could live after the whirlwind of a year would eventually end (which, fortunately, it did). For many, this included simply ditching the sweats and dressing up at home—even if no one but themselves (and their potential TikTok audiences, of course) could see.
For Bolish, doing just that helped her to discover and embrace her own unique, personal style. “Whenever you’re just at home trying stuff on the mirror for yourself, it’s easier, right?” she offers. “Instead of test-running it and running around in a new outfit on campus, you can just look at yourself in the mirror.” Getting used to seeing herself all dressed up inspired Bolish to take more fashion risks. “The more comfortable I got wearing it at home, the more comfortable I just am wearing it in general,” she explains.
It’s easy to rattle off a list of 2020 trends made popular after they sparked on TikTok. A flurry of Y2K fashion, Vivienne Westwood pearl chokers, sweater vests, tennis skirts, turtleneck dickies and more have made their way from our For You Page to the New In tabs of all the largest online fashion retailers, and it’s no surprise they’ll continue to gain popularity as users post about them in 2021.
Yes, fashion shows and professional models still have impact, but one could argue that the impression left on the lips of 2020’s fashion culture was made more heavily by content creators than designers. My friends and I are not looking to emulate looks we saw on the runways; we’re sending one another TikToks to serve as fashion inspo.