Unpacking the Twee Fashion Craze Taking Over TikTok

If Tumblr defined an entire generation with ripped pantyhose, messy slippers, Dr. Martens and the idolatry of icons like Skins‘Effy Stonem, then twee was his feminine and artistic sister who peaked in 2014. Oversized collars, printed A-line dresses, Mary Jane ballet flats, colorful tights and layered cardigans built most of the twee, with Zooey Deschanel serving as an unofficial queen as Wes Anderson’s indie movies and music flew as high as unofficial flags.

Twee was the girl whose favorite class in school was art, the girl who was thrifty before she was cool, and the one who wore fake glasses for aesthetics before it went mainstream. Some also associate twee with hipster culture.

But why is twee making a comeback now? In addition to the fact that trends have been moving at breakneck speeds from decade to decade, the runway recently predicted the return of the twee even before the trend went viral on TikTok. Take Coach’s Spring 2022 collection, which was heavily inspired by American sportswear designer Bonnie Cashin, who designed for Coach in the 1960s. “Sure, it was a little twee, but the sweet sincerity is shaping up to be the vibe in New York this season; even the most embittered of us can’t help but feel happy to do it again ”, wrote Steff Yotka of the A-line silhouettes, houndstooth prints and oversized minidresses that dominated the collection. Since Cashin has been credited as the founder of layered fashion, it makes sense that anything inspired by her ties into all things twee. At the Dior and Miu Miu spring 2022 fashion shows, miniskirts, another humble Twee staple, dominated.

However, many associate twee with the return of the Tumblr era, which has steadily gotten closer to us over the past year. But even more fundamental to the twee’s aesthetic is the art of thrift and second-hand shopping, which has hit the mainstream like never before. Websites and apps like Vestiaire Collective and Poshmark are making it more accessible, and Generation Z is focusing on second-hand shopping. At the base of it all, twee is synonymous with a retro aesthetic that recalls the mod culture and the classic shapes of the 60s and 70s, with dresses, caps, miniskirts and buttoning being the fundamental pieces.

“When twee entered fashion more than 10 years ago, it was in the wake of Y2K’s sexy, hyper-glam, over-the-top, party-girl aesthetic,” explains Anna Pompilio, senior strategist and trend forecaster at the LPK agency. “Twee has characterized himself as cute and nostalgic: we’ve seen the transition from low-rise jeans to retro cardigans, from label obsession to thrift-core.”

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