Why I’ve Decided to Embrace Normcore Fashion

Lara Stone, Meghan Collison, Daria Werbowy, Rachel Zimmerman, Suvi Koponen and Kate Moss looking very normcore in W Magazine’s September 2014 issue.Photo: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott / Art Partner

I’ve been thinking a lot about normcore and not just because the holiday break means retreating into the comforting embrace of ‘90s TV specials where every dad looks like Jerry Seinfeld. You see, when I first read about New York-based trend forecasters K-Hole and their fashion theory centered around “non-fashion,” I wrote it off as another internet meme. But normcore has persisted, surviving ironic hashtags and New York Times trend pieces—usually the death knell of any fad. According to Google’s annual A Year In Search survey, normcore was the most searched-for fashion trend of 2014. So while we laughed at the silliness of it all, fast forward to December and we’re still scrolling through selfies showcasing New Balance sneakers and stonewashed jeans, trying to figure it out. What’s behind this fascination with normcore, a philosophy that advocates “embracing sameness” and opting for bland, ordinary clothes? Is it possible that a concept created by a group of twentysomethings for the internet actually has some real, non-ironic emotional resonance? Well, as this twentysomething on the internet just found out: it’s possible. At this point, on the cusp of the new year, a turn to non-fashion may be the only thing that can save me from decades of too much fashion.

My so-called “lightbulb moment” started where my problem did: my closet. It was a snowy night and all I needed was to get dressed for a casual drink with a friend. But somehow staring into my closet, I fell into a deep existential crisis. Now, I am not unaccustomed to being The Girl Who Cried “I Have Nothing to Wear,” but this plight was something different. I had just realized that all of my clothing was utterly impractical. Frivolous, even. I own so many cut-off and cuffed things that one would think I just went through a very sudden growth spurt. I have a whole rainbow of caftans at my disposal. I can, at this very moment, pull something out of a drawer that a friend once called “very” Little Shop of Horrors meets Little House on a Prairie” yet I couldn’t find something to wear out in the snow that would keep me warm and wouldn’t be damaged in the process. I have ten — literally, ten; I just counted again — different variations on a sheer black blouse but not one pair of pants outside of the jegging species. My only pair of waterproof boots are platforms. How did this happen?

Somewhere along my journey from the stirrup tights and Old Navy tees of my youth to the bolo tie I bought on Etsy last month, I convinced myself that “style” was something arbitrary and ironic, something that can only be dry-cleaned. The clothes before me weren’t clothes that you could live in, they were clothes that you lived with; clothes that you shimmied and sucked yourself into, were careful not to get salsa on, and then lovingly—or was it anxiously?—folded away. There, on my bed, with the chiffon sleeve of a vintage secretary dress on my lap, I finally saw how far down the fashion rabbit hole I had fallen. In pursuit of “individuality” and “authenticity,” I had lost all sense of functionality.

Thanks to street style blogs and fashion Tumblrs I have amassed a wardrobe that is a bit precious, a bit fussy, and utterly indistinguishable from that of every other woman who frequents those same street style blogs and fashion Tumblrs. Here I am, sore from teetering about in platform booties and a leotard with a mind of its own, and I look about as different as everyone else. If I’m going to blend in, I’d rather do so comfortably. So I’m quitting fashion, or at least this fashion game of wearing outfits that are high concept. In my journey to express my “authentic self” through style, I’ve only become more divorced from my reality and my body. What do you when things become too cluttered? You return to minimalism. Let me tell you something: there’s no room to hide in mom jeans. Nothing is more grounding than slipping on a Patagonia fleece and the kind of baseball cap your dad would wear to the airport. Normcore seems to be the panacea for both my fashion frustrations and aching feet.

No one wants to be a basic bitch but there is a beauty in the basics. In a fashion climate that prioritizes irony, abstraction, and art, an unassuming chambray shirt has its appeal. In 2015, let’s all try to not try a little more.