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Notes on a Trend

Notes on a Trend


This fall, just as it was beginning to get cold at night, I saw this amazing sweater on a blog—I clicked through to the retail site and found it cost over $600 (currently, at 60% off, it’s only $248). For the next few weeks, it followed me around the internet via the cookie-based advertising technology known as “remarketing.”

I had no intention of purchasing this outrageous sweater, but I began to fantasize about finding a similar, less costly item. I Googled something like “big cozy ethnic print sweater” and discovered pages upon pages of images on Pinterest: oversized open cardigans with “Aztec” prints. So it was a full-on trend, then; not an isolated design.
It’s funny how trends work—the preference for whatever happens to be in fashion (whether it’s skinny jeans or boot-cut) feels organic, personal; it seems to originate inside you, and if everyone in your social circle agrees, it’s because you all came to see the truth at roughly the same moment.

Magazines know how helpless we are before trends, so they try to trend-ify things that have been around forever. Every year, the fall issues talk about the “menswear trend,” knowing you’ll want to hop on the supposed bandwagon (though pants are not a trend).

I know now that if I did buy one of those sweaters, I would hate it by next season. It would be too pinpointable, too “2014.” I’ve bought into these trends before; a few years ago I bought a dress with a high-low hem at Urban Outfitters and wore it three times tops before I gave it away. This is the way with trends; we latch on even as we begin to loathe them. Why are they so hard to resist?

Literature is as susceptible as fashion. There are trendy title structures, trendy cover designs, trendy subjects, trendy tones. In poetry, trendy details—blackbirds must have been hot in 1917, as hot as wolves were in the aughts.

Trends I have succumbed to:

  • Wearing a belt over a cardigan
  • Shorts with tights
  • “Arm candy”
  • A gigantic plaid scarf (this winter; still wearing it)

Trends I have resisted:

  • Overalls (this time around; I had two pairs in high school)
  • Patterned jeans
  • Those weird flowy culottes all the college girls were wearing a few years back
  • Epistolary poems

Some items I will always love, regardless of how trendy they may or may not be:

  • Turtlenecks
  • Wide-leg pants

Likewise, I will always loathe:

  • Similes
  • Sestinas

Is it harder to identify the trends we’ve participated in, especially in our writing? One wonders. When I started writing the pieces in my last published book, I had the distinct feeling that they would be easy to place in journals. Now, a year after its publication date, I find myself impatient with prose poems.

By the way—my dad gave my mom a big Aztec cardigan for Christmas.

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013) and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). She lives in Denver.

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About The Author

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013) and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). She lives in Denver.

  • liddlejane

    And sometimes you aren’t even aware you’ve succumbed to a trend, like a few years ago when I noticed four of my new cardigans were long in front, short in back (have since gotten rid of them). Or that I was ending every story with a fire.
    Fun column, I’m look forward to more.

    • “ending every story with a fire” I love that.

      • Elisa Gabbert

        I love that too! I used to have to fight the instinct to end every poem with some kind of death, a kind of “get it over with” move.

  • Melissa McDaniel

    This is so true! And sadly, it made me realize just how off trend I am, in both writing and fashion. I still wear clothes I bought 5 years ago if I think they look good on me. :[ But I think that trends are useful, too – they keep us hungering for something fresh.

    • Elisa Gabbert

      Be off-trend! That just means you have more personal style.

      • Elisa Gabbert

        Though one of my mottoes is “style isn’t personal”….

  • To avoid a trend, it seems tempting to seek its opposite or even the opposite of trends altogether. What’s the opposite of the trendy stuff? Is it the canon? I wonder: is “canonical literature” the stuff that has been trendy for a very long time? Even with the canon, there are occasional redefinitions and shifts.

    • Elisa Gabbert

      I think the opposite of trend is not canon but what’s actively out of fashion. Like bootcut jeans in the midst of the skinny jeans trend.

      • Caryn Lazzuri

        That’s why I’m just going to keep being a woman who writes love poems, and fuck-it-all! But then again, being off-trend is trendy. If you do it right. I never stopped wearing overalls, either, and now look.

        • Elisa Gabbert

          The exact same thing happened to me with Birkenstocks!!

  • Pingback: In the Media: 11th January 2015 | The Writes of Woman()

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