5 Ways to Follow Trends Responsibly

stylish neon yellow square toe feminine shoes - Ways to Follow Trends Responsibly
A pair of lime green sandals that are trendy and that I would never wear (Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com)

Since my coursework is finally over for the semester, I have spent a lot more time scrolling Instagram.

And what I’ve noticed is how uniformly people dress when they’re part of the same lifestyle niche. They pose in just such a way. They have just the right smattering of houseplants in the background.

It can be very easy to fall into the trap of “doing it for the ‘gram” when it comes to trends. Removing myself from the #ootd rat race has been a very helpful way to assess my actual taste.

Over the last few years, I’ve become very methodical in the way I follow trends. 

Trend Dressing is Unavoidable

Sustainable and ethical fashion bloggers will tell you to think of your purchases in terms of timelessness – and this is great advice – but most of us are still impacted by what’s in now and purchase accordingly.

We’ve also entered a trend moment where both minimalism and maximalism are trends. It can be very confusing to dress according to others’ expectations when the full spectrum is represented!

But, dressing like others is unavoidable at some level. We are social animals, after all.

So, it’s worthwhile to admit that we are going to want to dress like others, whether we’re influenced by Instagram, TikTok, runway shows, regional scenes, or global trends – and that the best way to do this responsibly is to set some ground rules.

Is this item versatile enough to wear even when it inevitably goes out of fashion?

This is the most important question to ask, because there are plenty of of-the-moment items that I might enjoy for the season when other people are wearing the same thing, but as soon as they all move on, will I still feel comfortable wearing them?

To pin down my style, I like to use Pinterest. You can see how I use it for inspiration here.

Is it constructed well and made with high quality materials?

There’s no sense asking the first question if the item I end up buying will fall apart after a couple seasons. If I’m going to make a purchase of any kind, I need to check fabric quality, breathability, care instructions, and seam construction.

This is the key to making a responsible purchase, whether the item is trendy or timeless, because poor quality excuses us from having to really live with our purchases.

Can I justify the price point within my current budget?

When it comes to fashion, there are everyday things and then there are things that just speak to us. In my book, it’s ok to occasionally buy something that isn’t inherently practical as long as it meets the first two qualifications and it fits within my budget.

If I really needed a sturdy pair of jeans but I splurge on something whimsical, I haven’t really made a responsible choice.

Is there a way to follow this trend in a low or zero waste way?

There are lots of ways to add trend elements to a preexisting wardrobe without buying more stuff. For instance, if I’m looking for a particular item, I like to check my local Buy Nothing Group before buying new.

You might also discover that you have old accessories you could reuse, or use in a different way. For instance, if you have scarves, there are ways to incorporate them into an outfit that draw on different trends.

Sometimes, making your look feel fresh can be as simple as changing your nail polish, makeup look, or hair style.

Is it time to embrace a signature look?

Finally, following trends responsibly might mean not following them. It takes work to build a sense of autonomy and confidence to wear something that isn’t in style.

But having a signature silhouette or color – or even accessory – can be a really fun way to stand out. And people will probably admire you for it.

I’ve found that making these questions a habitual part of my shopping process helps me avoid impulse buys and keeps me far far away from the temptations of fast fashion stores. And, it helps me solidify my personal style, which is much more gratifying than mindlessly following trends.

Do you have any advice on trend buying? Is there a current trend you love but know you shouldn’t embrace?

More in Personal Style | See more in Capsule

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

May we recommend...


  1. Alyssa | waywardblog.com

    Love this list! I read a tip recently (unfortunately my memory doesn’t serve me well, and I can’t remember where I read it!) that suggested considering whether or not you would have worn a garment a few years ago before purchasing. I think it’s a great way to be brutally honest with ourselves, because for me at least, it’s easy to imagine a future in which I will wear something (sometimes aspirationally), but my proven track record is hard to argue with!

    1. That’s a really good tip. It’s hard to be honest about our future selves, but we can’t deny our past selves. If I really think about it, my core style hasn’t changed since, like, middle school (except, at the time, only low rise jeans were available and I won’t wear those now!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.