#MillennialProblems: The Politics Of Posting Outfits On Instagram

#MillennialProblems: The Politics Of Posting Outfits On Instagram

From getting on the property ladder to, well, not getting ‘on it’ during sober nights out, SL’s Features Writer Pascale Day is well-versed in #MillennialProblems. In the first of her new monthly column, she laments the importance of the Instagram outfit selfie…

A style guide I read recently claimed that if you’re not sure of an outfit, then you should just take a selfie of it. Personally, I find it hard to understand that logic. Excuse my stone age mindset, but what kind of selfie can provide a better representation of how a dress fits than an actual mirror? How you look in a selfie is never how you look IRL – hold it too high and you look too fabulous, all boobs and cheekbones; hold it too low and you look like you’re melting. Those are the only two variations of outfit selfie (it’s biologically impossible to get a picture of your whole outfit just by holding your camera straight out in front of you unless you have the arm-span of Slender Man).

As you can probably tell, I’m not keen on this whole selfie thing – hence why I’m a little confused on the logistics of it. I just didn’t think it would be this hard. I was always convinced that I didn’t need tips on how to take a good selfie – a literal monkey can do it pretty well, after all – but scouring the annals of Google, I see I stand to be corrected. Thousands of articles profess to have the key to a good selfie, most reducing it down to surgery or science. And while science can be applied to many things, taking a snap of my new T-shirt seems a bit of a stretch.

Turns out, I’m wrong about everything – there is an exact science to selfie-taking. Researchers have determined you need to look up, lean in, lit your chin, put your left cheek on show, keep the camera five feet away, and Clarendon the sh*t out of it. And voila! You’ve got yourself the perfect Insta shot.

Honestly? It sounds like a little too much effort for me. But for some, the Insta selfie is changing the way they brand themselves and run their businesses. Instagram has become increasingly vital to the fashion industry – ASOS is one such company that has reaped the rewards of its Insta campaigns, revealing that by utilising Instagram’s Stories function, it doubled the number of people viewing its content in only six months. 

So, good for ASOS, but bad for sustainability. Pre-Insta selfie, women wouldn’t think twice about wearing an outfit to more than one social event, especially when different friends were in attendance. But now – and I can attest to this – you could wear your new dress to something on Tuesday and to something else the following Thursday, but once those pictures hit the ‘gram, you look like the person who’s too obsessed with that damn dress.

And so ‘wear it once’ culture was born, and the fashion industry changed forever. Research by charity Barnardo’s found that one-third of women find clothes old after wearing them two or three times, and one in seven cited social media platforms like Instagram as the main influence for their shopping habits, noting they were uncomfortable being seen in the same outfit more than once.

But am I just being a buzzkill? Am I that person who sees people taking selfies in a public bathroom and asks them to move so I can wash my hands? I mean, I can see the allure of the outfit selfie – a selfie puts you in charge, ensures you get the shot you want and leaves you to make all the executive decisions. When you ask a friend to take a picture, they’ll only indulge you for so long before giving the phone back. And it’s not always the most comfortable thing to do, is it? Taking the time to pose the way you want to in front of said friend who’s dreaming of a latte and a sit-down but is instead crouching on an island in the middle of a main road so you can pose next to a phone box.

I’ve never taken an outfit selfie. This is for two reasons. One: my general vibe when it comes to clothes teeters somewhere between ‘unemployed skateboarder’ and ‘English teacher who has given up’. I simply cannot dress myself. Two: I can’t pose with the confidence and frenetic energy it takes to snap a reasonably decent outfit selfie without at least three espresso martinis in my system – and by that point, my make-up has usually shifted about two inches downwards.

But the more I think about it, and the more I scroll through my own Insta feed, the more I realise I actually am a fan of the outfit selfie – just when other people do it (Amy Poehler perfectly sums up my feelings when she says: “Good for you, not for me.”). I can, of course, see their worth. They have a purpose; they show us how clothes look on real people. And, above all, they can make us feel good – the comment sections on #OOTD Insta posts are the purest example of women lifting each other up. What could be more hashtag-worthy than that?

99 #MillennialProblems but outfit selfies aren’t one: the best apps to up your Insta game…

VSCO: Forget in-app filters, VSCO is what all the influencers use. Its huge range of pre-set filters and editing options give you far more creative control, and can make even the most basic of iPhone photos look like moody blogger shots.
FREE from the iTunes Store
A Color Story: Prefer your outfits bright and cheerful? A Color Story is the fresh alternative to VSCO’s dark, brooding tones. The app has over 100 filter options, focusing on bright whites and colours that really pop.
FREE from the iTunes Store 
AfterFocus: If you’ve been after the new iPhones purely for the ‘Portrait’ mode, this is the app you need. It gives photos that professional-looking blurred background effect, and for a tiny fraction of the cost of a mobile phone upgrade.
99p from the iTunes store
TouchRetouch: Taken the perfect selfie just to find a random person or plug socket has snuck in the back of your shot? TouchRetouch can remove them with, quite literally, the touch of a button.
£1.99 from the iTunes Store

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily