The Rise of Ugly-Chic Fashion, in defense of being ugly and proud - Hypebae

If you’re on the fashion side of TikTok, chances are you’ve heard the audio jokingly poking fun at Gen Z’s mismatched and quirky style. Informing its listeners that the outspoken generation will “wear a top and a skirt that don’t go together with cowboy boots” and call it an outfit, the playful viral sound captures the carefree attitude we’ve adopted towards getting dressed.

Since the start of the pandemic, questioning the status quo has become the norm and with it, “ugly-chic” fashion has been on the rise. While younger generations were raised on Disney Channel and thus accustomed to seeing Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez wearing long neck ties with tank tops and gloves, there has been a collective shift towards abandoning what’s flattering for what’s fun.

As nostalgia has reignited a love for the early aughts’ trademark ostentatious style, nearly a year spent indoors has given many the courage to be more adventurous when choosing an outfit from their closets. Without the pressure to perform and adhere to stifling beauty standards, many of us began to dress in a way that truly made us happy, trading business casual for dopamine-inducing ensembles. Clashing patterns, shaved eyebrows and ironic dad shorts are common staples in today’s streetwear, signaling a wider desire to experiment with aesthetics rather than simply looking “hot.”

It girl Julia Fox can attest as she recently admitted her motivation for returning to the bleached brow look is to repel men, namely her baby daddy. A slew of TikTok videos proves that abandoning dressing for the male gaze and opting to put on your best fits for your inner 13-year-old inevitably leads to more freedom of expression and thoughtfully curated one-of-a-kind outfits. TikTok trend forecaster @oldloserinbrooklyn routinely discusses not dressing in a flattering manner, opting to play with patterns and voluminous silhouettes instead. While the “dressing for the male gaze versus dressing for the female gaze” videos may be a serendipitous coincidence it’s impossible to not notice that most recent trends prioritize creativity over conformity.

Content creator Adrienne Reau is at the forefront of the ironically tacky fashion trend as the uber-trendy influencer is absolutely unafraid to wear what she wants. Her 80,000+ followers on Instagram and over 500,000 followers on TikTok can confirm as the former dancer’s infectious styling videos showcase how she effortlessly blends different aesthetics to create a look that could never be duplicated. Hypebae chatted with Reau for insight into her fearless fashion. Keep scrolling to learn more.

How has your personal style evolved over time? Do you think the rise in freedom of expression through fashion is related to the pandemic and how has your way of dressing changed since then?

I think my personal style is constantly evolving and ever-changing, just as I do as a person. The older I get, the more I discover who I am as a person and the more confidence I gain, and that reflects in my style. The pandemic was a pivotal point for all of us, especially with the rise of TikTok. I think we all started experimenting with our style during the pandemic out of sheer boredom and seeing that communal shift has really encouraged me to be fearless with my style choices and explore who I was always meant to be.

Do you think dressing in a “tacky” way or in a manner that’s just for you is a way of dressing for the female gaze rather than wearing things simply because they’re flattering or make you look attractive?

I definitely dress for the female gaze because your average straight man would take one look at some of my crazy, tacky outfits and run away, and by all means, let them. But let’s not confuse dressing for the male gaze with dressing sexy because you can have one without the other. My outfits always have a sexy twist to them, even when I’m in a polka dot scarf or have wrinkly boxers on, but it’s solely because that’s when I feel most confident, and most ME, not because I’m trying to score some male attention.

How do you navigate negative comments or feelings about the way you dress?

Nothing says jealousy like a hate comment. They actually motivate me to push my style boundaries even more. Oh, you don’t like my green tights? Hold my beer.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to find their own unique voice through fashion, but may not live in a welcoming environment like New York?

Don’t rush it, start with accessories and slowly start incorporating funky pieces into your everyday looks. Once you start to build your wardrobe and your confidence, you will realize that the feeling you get from dressing for yourself overrides the feeling of being embarrassed. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, my schoolmates would tease me about all the weird stuff I wore to school. I remember I saved up and bought these $250 studded leather combat boots from Steve Madden, and everyone was so confused and would tease me about them, but I didn’t care, I felt so badass. Slowly, my confidence in my style kept growing because people started to see that I was confident wearing them and now those people wish they were in my shoes, literally.

by Collette Grimes

The Rise of Ugly-Chic Fashion

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