I really like taking mirror selfies in the morning because I know that in the precise moment I snap the photo, it’s the best my outfit will look all day. It will begin to deteriorate the moment I start moving around in it, at which point wrinkles and sweat stains and post-lunch waistband adjustments ensue. I know that by the time I get home, no matter how much I liked it initially, it will have lost a good chunk of its luster — a diamond dragged through the dust of utility.
There’s no denying that an artfully snapped photo can paint an entirely different picture (pun intended) of how an outfit appears. When you’re posing in front of a camera, with or without a mirror, you can arrange yourself in such a way that the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of the ensemble are on display while essentially ignoring the practicalities involved when you’re actually inhabiting it.
Nowhere is the “good in photos but tricky in practice” outfit phenomenon more apparent than with Instagram style trends, a category of the zeitgeist defined solely by what is eye-catching in two-dimensional form. I often find myself eager to try them, only to chicken out at the thought of what it would be like to really wear them for a whole day. As much as I love dressing up in something that gives me a thrill, I hate feeling constricted. Most of my outfits are happy compromises in that sense, answers to an equation that factor in both aesthetic appeal and comfort.
“There’s no harm in TRYING, though, right?,” my bookmarks folder whispered to me seductively during a recent scroll, to which I replied, “You’re right!!!!!!!” Which is how my legs found themselves inside a pair of snow-white bike shorts, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Keep scrolling for the test-drive of the century: What it’s like to wear three Instagram style trends IRL.
1. The Aforementioned Bike Shorts
When did bike shorts become such a thing? I’m not sure, however I do remember Leandra wearing plain black Spanx in this story last spring and being intrigued but also very decisively writing them off as “great for her, but probably not for me.” Fast forward to spring 2018 and I started seeing them all over Instagram. I have a sneaking suspicion that Princess Diana had something to do with it, plus the looming reality that athleisure outfits featuring leggings were on the cusp of reaching oversaturation point and were therefore begging for a jolt of something that served the same purpose but also supplied an element of newness.
I loved how they looked on other people, but my desire to try them was coupled with reservations about where exactly it would be appropriate to wear them, not to mention an unwelcome dose of body-conscious angst. As for location, I settled on brunch with friends because the rule about getting dressed for brunch in New York is that there really are no rules. When choosing what to pair with the shorts, I opted for contrast: a ruffled pink top and a tweed blazer. When I arrived at brunch, one of my friends jokingly asked me where my pants were, but other than that there wasn’t much commentary. Turns out consuming a substantial meal of avocado toast with poached eggs is quite pleasant when your bottom half is clothed in stretch cotton.
As for my unease regarding the notion of wearing something short and skin-tight around my gluteus maximus, well, that didn’t go away, but I’ve reached a point where my love of fashion and my penchant for experimenting with it trumps the majority of my qualms over whether or not something feels “flattering” to me. If I wear something and I don’t like it, I can simply decide not to wear it again, which is probably what will happen with bike shorts. I had fun trying them, but ultimately they aren’t what makes me feel best in my body. And that’s okay!
2. A Shirt Unbuttoned the Weird Way
By “the weird way” I mean in reverse of how you would usually unbutton a button-down shirt. Reese Blutstein is the queen of this Instagram style trend and I’ve admired it on her from afar on many occasions, but I’ve seen it trickle into my feed from other accounts as well. It seemed, in theory, like an enjoyable twist on a classic garment, but in practice, I was worried it would require a lot of babysitting to have it look “just so.” A small sliver of abdomen could easily turn into a fully bra-out, belly button akimbo situation when moving about, and as I mentioned previously, I hate feeling restricted by my clothes, but I was excited to give this one a shot.
Full disclosure: It definitely required some babysitting. I wore a variation of the above outfit to the office, and while I liked how it looked when I was standing up straight, I had to monitor the shirt whenever I was sitting down or reaching for something lest I accidentally flash my coworkers a little too much boob. I would definitely wear this trend again, but probably to the beach or somewhere I’m more comfortable handing the microphone over to my sternum.
3. An Enormous Straw Sun Hat
The origins of this particular trend were not difficult to identify: Jacquemus’s stunning Spring/Summer 2018 campaign featuring dusky beachside tableau and hats big enough to shelter an army of hermit crabs were unsurprisingly shared all over Instagram, and outfits inspired by it have reverberated across the platforms for months. It makes sense why enormous sun hats would turn into instant Instagram like-bait considering their innate sense of drama, but would that same drama translate offline?
I wore this deliciously large topper from Lola Hats on multiple occasions over the course of the week, and each time I felt both slightly absurd and extremely content. This is an Instagram style trend you really have to COMMIT to, but once you do, it’s quite enjoyable — not to mention wearable in the sense that you can easily take it on or off depending on where you are and what you’re doing. The only major downside is a reduction in peripheral vision, so if you’re planning on dabbling I would advise being careful when crossing the street.
Ultimately, my guinea pig journalism leads me to conclude that Instagram trends are, indeed, better suited for Instagram than for real life (at least more often than not), but it also totally justified the overarching impetus for this experiment: navigating the ever-evolving terrain of personal style is way more thrilling when you occasionally nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and into the absurd. At the end of the day, there’s most definitely no harm in trying.
Photographed by Edith Young at the Kip’s Bay Decorator Show House. Rooms by Pavarini Design, Sasha Bikoff, Philip Mitchell, and Alexa Hampton.