Beautiful Hadid. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

This whimsical trend will have you rethinking the boundaries of personal style.

In theory, clothes can never be ugly. I mean, at its core, style is about self-expression. So what makes us think that some things are trendy and others aren’t? This is the question that surrounds the new “strange girl aesthetic”.

Earlier this week, a tweet that shared photos of different women in eclectic outfits with mismatched patterns, childish color combinations and fuzzy accessories went viral. “Is it anti-fashion? Do people try too hard to look ugly? Does it only work on Bella Hadid? it read. (The answer to each of these questions is “no”, and I’ll explain why.)

Bella Hadid’s street style has become an object of fashion fascination. Her café outfits, often made up of re-worn pieces, lots of layers and cute hair accessories, are put together without the help of a stylist. In fact, unlike most A-list celebs, Hadid hasn’t had a full-time stylist in two years.

“When I leave the house in the morning, I think of this: does this make me happy? Do I feel good in it and do I feel comfortable? she told the the wall street journal in a recent interview. And that’s the philosophy behind the “weird girl aesthetic.”

Colorful patterns, mixed textiles and playful accessories like chunky rings and fuzzy bags are randomly mixed together to create a sensational #OOTD that is delightfully random. And while mismatched socks and cartoon heart patterns may seem weird to one person, they’re the epitome of fashion to another. That’s the beauty of it.

This type of kitsch and inventive dressing room is nothing new. It goes back to the street style of the late 90s and early 2000s in the Japanese neighborhood of Harajuku. In the early 1980s, Harajuku became a shopping mall where experimentally dressed teenagers and street performers congregated in unique and expressive outfits.

Popularized by the photographs of Fruit magazine, Harajuku fashion was led by young people rejection of societal norms. And thanks to the variety of subcultures within the rebel fashion movementthere was room for endless creativity and diversity.

The West has long been inspired by this Japanese style. In 2004, Gwen Stefani named her first solo concert tour “Harajuku lovers“, and Nicki Minaj’s famous alter ego”Barbie Harajukuchannels his imaginative attitudes. Influencers like Sara Camposarcone, Clara Perlmutter and Rowan Blanchard sporty maximalist wardrobes reminiscent of movement. Contemporary clothing brands also use this playful quirkiness in their designs, like Marc Jacobs Paradise and small labels Minga London, Tunnel vision and Unif.

The colorful kitsch of the expressive dressing room is taking over the fashion world. And the original tweet’s suggestion that this aesthetic only works on someone who looks like Bella Hadid overlooks the communities that first popularized it. Fashion can be fun for everyone – that’s Harajuku’s enduring message.

The more-is-more style aesthetic is a welcome rejection of the helplessness and restriction we’ve all felt during the pandemic. With so much of our lives migrating online and remote working becoming the new norm, we are going through a new style revolution. As such, the lines of what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fashion have been blurred – leaving us to wonder if we really need these labels.

The “weird girl aesthetic” is shaking up the repetitive wardrobe born of the explosion of micro-trends (like the Miu Miu micro-mini-skirt featured on the Instagram feed of many influencers). It encourages wearers to seek out unique and special pieces that can be worn again as part of a capsule wardrobe. And by promoting a unique personal style, it’s the antithesis of fast fashion and overconsumption.

Cute for some, ugly for others, this new wave of dressing leaves room for interpretation and encourages total freedom of style. It’s not anti-fashion. It’s super fashionable.



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