The Problem with “Wearing” vs “Styling” Outfits & Why This Trend is The Worst

I have a bone to pick with the internet today; there’s been a TikTok trend of “wearing” vs. “styling” an outfit that really rubs me the wrong way.

While I feel like it’s well-intentioned, it totally misses the mark.

If you haven’t seen this trend, they’re all characterized by the same concept: A beautiful influencer shows a pretty basic outfit, let’s say jeans and a T-shirt, or maybe leggings and a sweater. But, this isn’t good enough.

@bobrownn Wearing or styling? 💗 SAVE FOR LATER GIRLS (the cropped bodysuit hack) ✨ #stylingtips #stylinghacks #wearingvsstyling #fashionhacks ♬ original sound – ALTÉGO

No, it’s just wearing the outfit. Styling it is what makes it better.

Then she goes on to style said outfit.

Typically, this involves a lot of layers. And yes, the end result does look better.

So, what’s my beef?

Well, it just makes people feel bad.

Making People Feel Like Crap Isn’t Fashionable

First, head to the comment section of any of these posts: they’re flooded with women saying things like “Oh, I guess I’ve been doing it wrong” or “Oh, I guess I have to step up my fashion game.”

While I’m all for providing helpful fashion content—I try to do this myself, obviously, this is, after all, a fashion blog—I’m not in the business of shaming people or making them feel bad about how they dress.

And that’s the number 1 problem with this trend—it makes women feel bad.

Like even the minimal effort they’ve made in putting together a cute outfit isn’t good enough by influencer standards.

It’s giving “I’m better/more fashionable than you” but showing it in a “helpful” light.

No One is Actually “Styling” Anything

There is very minimal, if any actual, creative styling happening in these videos.

@candidlychan Wanted to do one with a super easy sweater + legging combo✨🖤 #wearingvsstyling #outfitinspo ♬ samsinclairfx on instagram – samsinclairfx

Let’s go back to the basic outfit of jeans and a T-shirt. You know, the outfit that wasn’t good enough…

“Styling” this outfit looks like adding a hat, a cross-body bag and maybe some outerwear.

Does it look better? Sure. But these are accessories, I would hardly call this styling.

Not to mention, these are generally temporary accessories that you’re going to take off the minute you get somewhere.

So sure, it looks good taking a photo in front of that restaurant. But once you get inside, you’re going to take off that crossbody your sunglasses, any outerwear and maybe even the hat, depending on the situation.

And what are you left with? The basic jeans and T-shirt that you started with from the get-go.

You know….the outfit that wasn’t good enough to begin with.


Here’s another excellent example with a pretty basic outfit: leggings and a sweater. But make it cropped.

Does the end result look better? Yes. But again, this is all accessories.

The first outfit looks like she hasn’t left the house yet; no shoes, socks, hat, handbag or sunnies. The second looks like, she’s ready to go.

Sure, she cropped the sweater. But if you’re hanging out at home, you probably wouldn’t crop your sweater anyway. So perhaps this is more “Before leaving the house vs. actually leaving the house” comparison.

So What is Styling?

This kind of leads to an obvious question….if these people are simply adding sunglasses and handbags to everything, what’s the difference between that and styling?

Styling, to me, is a bit more nuanced than simply adding a crossbody bag to an outfit.

chambray button down with shorts linen

It’s doing a half-tuck or full-tuck instead of just leaving your shirt out.

It’s strategically undoing some buttons to show off a chic layered necklace.

It’s knowing when to roll up and cuff your sleeves a bit vs. leaving them undone.

It’s adding a signature brooch, scarf or belt.

It’s a lot of layering with basics to create an entirely new outfit.

And maybe this is an unpopular opinion but:

Not every outfit has to be styled.

You can just wear your outfits without having to stress about adding cute styling to every little thing.

If you have a cute matching set, wear it. Don’t stress about having to improve it even more, it’s a done-for-you-outfit.

Styling becomes more important with basic outfits, like these examples show. If you want to put together a bodysuit + blazer + jeans outfit then great, go for it!

But there’s also nothing wrong with just wearing the bodysuit and jeans. You can accessorize with a cute necklace and be done with it.

black bodysuit jeans outfit

These videos would be much better framed as “ways to wear this basic outfit” rather than putting down the original outfit formula, which is fine as is.

Ways to wear is super helpful, it helps you get creative and reimagine how to make new outfits with what you already have. It shines a positive light on the outfit, rather than putting down one look in favor of the other.

Disclaimer, Because It’s the Internet and I Have to Have One

I do want to point out that I’m not trying to criticize other influencers or bash anyone—that’s not my intention. I do think this little “trend” was meant with good intentions.

Participating in trends is important for creators; they’re a way to join in on the conversation and grow your reach, helping you reach a new audience.

And that’s great!

I just think it’s important to keep in mind that oftentimes, these are just for entertainment. And you shouldn’t feel bad about just wearing your clothes without also having to stress about making it look good enough. Wear the outfit!

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  1. Amen!! Although it may be unintentional, this new, mini trend does make us, non-influencers, feel like simply wearing an outfit is not enough. It is also true that what they are showing as “better”, is not “styling”. Personally, as a 70 year old woman who has always been stylish and enjoyed dressing, I am more than fed up with anyone telling me what I should or should not wear, and how to, or not to, wear whatever it is they are telling me to wear. At my age I certainly know my body shape and my personal style. I am also learning how to transition myself from professional and more social wardrobes to one that fits the REAL life I am now living. I follow several social media fashion bloggers, not all of whom are my age range. I have been inspired by all of them to look at my wardrobe with a new and different perspective, to step out of my comfort zone, and ways to keep my wardrobe looking current. I appreciate that but I do not appreciate when those same influencers tell me what not to wear, that I must buy a whole new wardrobe every season, or try every new trend. I am discerning in what information I take to heart from the internet, in general, but that doesn’t mean I am not frequently discouraged from things I see there. I am also very aware that there are many, many women who are not as secure in their own skin as others, and that makes me particularly disturbed when I see so many posts that are telling women they are not doing, or being, their best, in any area. Sadly, we women have yet to see the true power in supporting and encouraging each other. Now that would be a trend we could all get behind, and should.

    1. Thanks for your insight, Jodi! Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. A new wardrobe every season is SO unrealistic. It is a bit hard when everyone wants to see “new, new, new” and you want to share that. But there’s a fine line between sharing exciting new things and pushing a totally unrealistic lifestyle of styling every single thing and buying new clothes for every event.

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