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How The Instagram Explore Page Changed My Relationship With Fashion

My outfit: I’m wearing the Reformation Honor Top $148, the Urban Outfitters Square Double Prong Belt $19, the Forever 21 Knotted Block Heels $28, a necklace from Buffalo Exchange (similar here) and Urban Outfitters pants that don’t fit right and are out of stock: similar here.

Face frozen in the hovering box of illuminated dust particles, I explored the interests of my teenage self. Fancying myself an edgy lass within the safe confines of my living room, I reblogged one Tumblr male-gaze photo after another: a half naked woman with a gun, a young couple making out in a tossed-up linen bed — photos now so mainstream, they populate Pinterest.

I had many little lives at this time, each interest compartmentalized among different platforms. I’d open a new tab for my Polyvore and then I was a stylist, grabbing photos of garments, newspapers, lips, and mashing them together. Logging into Lookbook.nu, I gained inspiration for my Polivore life. I hearted photos of outfits, excited by the variety I couldn’t find at school.

Then the internet, like me, went through growing pains. Without meaningful updates to their sites, Tumblr and Polyvore went out of fashion, fashion blogs gained popularity, simultaneously losing their authenticity, and Lookbook.nu began to resemble the pages of a magazine.

After this fashion wasteland, came the algorithmic Instagram explore page. No longer discombobulated by independent websites, all of your interests could live on one page. Rather than intentionally seeking out inspiration, we became inundated with our addictions when our aspirations were simply to use the search bar. Tapping the bar, your strength fails you and you press “cancel” with a furiousness because, in an emotional fog, you feel a desperation to see exactly what necklace that gingham dress was paired with.

With this constant connectedness to fashion, I have become much better at style (partly because I shop more often), yet felt the clasp of conformity. With Instagram has come the realization that you are not unique. As a high school student, I found myself reaching for all of the things that were different than my classmates, because they were more “fashion-forward” and not many others were into that. This need for difference became part of my identity, so imagine my shock at realizing that I now want the same vintage Fendi bag and Orseund Iris top as everyone else.

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