How Social Media Affects Fashion & Our Buying Decisions

The other day I was strolling down the streets of Manhattan window-shopping and people watching with one of my girlfriends. We got on the subject of fashion and started talking about how we dress and what we like to wear the most. We laughed about how I always wear neutrals and how she loves color. She made me feel better about my lack of color when she told me that she loves all the things I wear and would “pin” all of my outfits on Pinterest. She thought I was Pinterestable! That got me thinking about the relationship between fashion and social media. Has social media become a crutch for fashion and without it would people still dress the way they do? Would our buying decisions be different if we didn’t see perfectly complete outfits on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook? I think yes.

I have never really been able to figure out why I love wearing white, black, tan, and grey. By the sound of my color palate you would think I’m an unhappy, dark individual but, I’m actually quite the opposite. I’m outgoing and bubbly, yet I love wearing no color at all or even all black outfits. So what is the deal? I realized that I wear almost all neutrals because it is what the celebrities and fashion bloggers wear. Tell me the last time you saw Kim Kardashian, the Olsen twins, Kanye West or Cara Delevingne in bright colored clothing…? It would probably be pretty hard to do. I am very intrigued by fashion and so I follow a lot of fashion bloggers and fashion icons on social media. It is natural to want to dress like celebrities and wear what they are wearing and when social media is constantly advertising their looks it begins to affect our buying decisions. We start to gravitate toward the top that looks like the one Lauren Conrad was photographed in or the jacket that Jay Z wore during his On The Run Tour. Seeing what celebrities are wearing has never been easier than now.


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The fashion industry has greatly benefited from the expansion of social media, as it has been able to grow bigger than ever before. Fashion and social media have coalesced together to become one powerful conglomerate. Designers and brands are finding new inventive ways to use social media to boost their business and exposure. For example, many fashion shows do live Tweeting to instantly showcase their lines and generate hundreds of ‘favorites’ and ‘retweets’ that create hype for the brand.

Twitter has also allowed fashionistas across the globe to get an inside look into Fashion Week through live Tweets. Last year, designers, brands, writers and celebrities provided live Tweeting insight on Fashion Week that made it simple for people to stay informed. Some trending hashtags included #NYFW (New York Fashion Week), #MBFW (Mercedes Benz Fashion Week), #OnlyOnTwitter and #FNO (Fashion Night Out). By checking out these hashtags and keeping up with live Tweets people were able to see the hottest looks on the runways only seconds after they were debuted. The US wasn’t the only one who picked up on this clever marketing strategy. London Fashion Week (Otherwise known as #LFW) utilized live Tweets to help brands gain exposure and followers. Burberry, TopShop, River Island, and Toni & Guy were only a few of the brands who gave fans access to the clothes, hair and makeup trends of the Spring/Summer 2014 season. According to Topsy, there were an astonishing 180k Tweets mentioning #LFW!

When your Twitter feed is cluttered with floral prints, Birkenstocks, crop tops, and metallic accessories you may feel like you need to dress in those clothes in order to fit in or look “trendy” and fashionable, that is, if you choose to look trendy. If I am being honest I am guilty of owning most of the things on that list. If I think about it though I would never have gone shopping for them and picked them out on my own because, quite frankly, most of them are strange and off the wall. The only reason I wear them is because Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr have told me they are in style, since I’ve seen them all over social media.

Pinterest is perhaps one of the most influential social media sites when it comes to fashion. If there is one board that nearly every single girl has on her Pinterest it is a style board. Whether it is named, ‘My Style,’ ‘My Closet,’ ‘Dream Closet,’ ‘Fashion,’ or anything related to fashion, you know it exists! Pinterest has fueled social medias influence on our buying decision with its thousands of adorable outfits that get pinned again and again. By the end of the week the same Jimmy Choo shoes will have been pinned by every girl you follow because one girl sees it on your board, pins it and then her friends sees it and so on. We all end up pinning the exact same things, which drives us to desire and buy very similar merchandise.

Another reason why Pinterest is especially persuasive in our clothing buying selections is the frequent links to the clothes, attached directly to the pin. When you see a great shirt or bag that has a link to buy it, it is far too difficult to pass up. Pinterest can be like a trap pressuring you into buying certain clothes. It is just too easy!! Pinterest helps you put together fashionable outfits and allows you to purchase nearly the whole look at the same time. You can even get special early viewing privileges if you follow the right brands. Badgley Mischka and, the popular department store, Bergdorf Goodman were some of the first companies to co-preview their collections on Pinterest.

Many women, including myself, use Pinterest as a fashion inspiration site. We pin outfits that we like then we try to recreate them. Whenever I am having one of those moments when I look in my overfilled closet and think, “I have NOTHING to wear” I look on Pinterest for some help. I wouldn’t have thought to pair the floral skirt with a striped tank but on Pinterest it looks so cute! And just like that, I am swayed into wearing something I would not have thought about wearing on my own. That is how Pinterest works. It subliminally gets us to dress the way the models do in the pictures. Seeing multiple friends also pin the same outfit reassures us that it is a good look and it makes us think we should dress that way too.

Songofstyle, eatsleepwear, sincerelyjules, and happilygrey are only a few of the admired fashion bloggers on Instagram. With some having as many as 1.6 million followers, their style is sure to be mimicked and admired by many people. The whole point of their account is to post pictures of their day-to-day outfits for followers to see and take notes on. When an outfit gets 46,337 ‘likes’ it makes you believe the look is cute, even if you may have been second guessing it at first. What you probably do not realize is that by seeing a large amount of likes on a picture of an outfit it makes you want to dress that way, or in a similar way. You may think, hey all of their followers thought their outfit was great so my friends and family will think mine is great too if I dress like the fashion blogger! Although, remember that this is all coming from the mind of a fashion crazed girl, so, maybe you don’t think this way at all, and maybe you don’t follow any fashion bloggers but I sure do and I know there are at least 1.6 million other people who do too!

Fashion bloggers are not the only ones with inspiring fashion accounts, celebrity Instagram accounts have huge followings and are immensely influential in the world of fashion. Rihanna, Nicole Richie, Rachel Zoe, Miley Cyrus, and Miranda Kerr are huge fashion icons with extremely popular Instagram accounts. Their looks are showcased on their Instagram for all their fans to see. The outfits pictured in posts inspire us and since they are not unknown models, but admirable people, their fashion influence is much stronger. I love Blake Lively, so if Blake Lively were to wear cuffed jeans with platform sandals I am going to be on the hunt for cuffed jeans and platform sandals. You can pretty much swap in any celebrity that you like and the scenario works. It is natural for people to want to dress like who they marvel at, especially if that person is a celebrity or is as beautiful as Blake Lively or Mila Kunis. We are easily persuaded to wear certain colors, cuts and styles by celebrity Instagram accounts.

In addition to fashion bloggers and celebrities, fashion brands are quickly earning a strong presence on Instagram. L2 Think Tank, a digital-focused intelligence service, surveyed 249 high-standing fashion brands in 2014 and concluded that 93 percent of them had Instagram accounts. When we follow these fashion brands on Instagram we become familiarized with their products and style, which then further sways our buying decisions. If Michael Kors posts a camouflage print wristlet and it receives 74,773 ‘likes’ you may think, “well if over 70,000 people liked it then it must be cute and I want one too!” Seeing the enormous number of ‘likes’ is similar to getting your best friends approval in the dressing room. Those 74,773 people tell you that yes, it is cute and you should buy it!

Shopping through the racks would be much more difficult if we didn’t have social media feeding us the latest fashion trends and looks. There would be a lot more uncertainty in your purchases of crop tops, metallic accessories and camouflage print purses. But, because we are exposed to fashion on nearly every social media platform we are told these things are trendy and appropriate to buy. One example of how social media has impacted our buying decisions is the thing I like to call the Birkenstock phenomenon. It almost reminds me of the UGG boot days when at first no one wanted to wear the “ugly” UGGs. One may imagine Birkenstocks to be worn by their world traveling eccentric aunt, hippie colleague, or camp counselor neighbor. But no, these shoes have been seen on fashion icons and on the runways of powerhouse designers like Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Celine, Marc Jacobs and Chloe. At first I believed the headlines that were calling the sandals an ugly shoe trend and I wanted nothing to do with the shoes. However, after seeing countless pictures of Birkenstocks on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and online fashion blog posts I slowly became a fan, a big fan in fact! Social media made Birkenstocks go viral and after being faced with them so many times I began to like them. It is like listening to a song. At first you don’t really like the song but then the radio plays it so many times that by the end of the week you are blasting it on repeat and singing your lungs out to it. I recognize that some people still hate the shoes but not me; I am on the hunt for a pair of cute white ones! In my case, the Birkenstock phenomenon is the prime example of how social media affects our buying decisions.

I ask myself, what would our closets and the fashion industry look like without social media? For one, there would probably be considerably less daring, super in-trend outfits worn by us everyday people. Without the reassurance of ‘likes’, pins, and retweets we wouldn’t be as confident about wearing bright blue mirrored sunglasses or floppy wool hats. I also believe that we would dress much differently from one another. Our outfits would illustrate a greater amount of individuality. Tell me if I’m wrong but, I think every college girl has at least one pair of Nike sneakers, Ray-Ban aviators, white skinny jeans, cutoff high-waisted jean shorts, and a Tobi dress. One of the reasons why this happens is because at the end of a week an entire sorority will have pinned the exact same outfit. If social media and fashion were not as imbedded in each other we would also have to go back to reading magazines to find out the new cutting-edge trends and styles.

I personally like that social media has taken on such a big role in the fashion industry. It keeps me up to date on everything fashion, gives me outfit inspiration, and assures me that my floral print trousers are in style. My only wish is that people dressed more uniquely. I sometimes make a point to buy things that I know others wouldn’t because I like to be different and stand out from the crowd. I think that following trends and blogs are great but don’t forget that each one of us is an individual and our selections of clothing should be a reflection of who we are as well as what society dictates.

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