Subversive maximalism: 2022’s latest trend?

Another new trend has arisen among the FYPs of fashion TikTok – archive inspired styling. The subversive maximalist trend, first seen on our screens from students of New York’s acclaimed Fashion Institute of Technology, consists of unconventionally layering multiple basic, usually neutral, items of clothing using materials like string to create new silhouettes.

@n0rab0ra Monday fitttt ❤️ #fyp #fashion #school #nyc #outfitinspo ♬ masquerade x mtr – jovynn

TikToker Nora Gallagher is one of the originators of the trend on the video platform. She first shared her unconventionally styled looks in late October 2021 and immediately blew up. TikTok users reacted with mixed reviews, “it’s definitely… an outfit” @em.beanzy said on one video, her comment amassing 120,000 likes.

Another TikTok creator, Myra Magdalen, pushed the trend into an even more controversial realm, incorporating retro electronics into her subversive layered ‘fits. In one video, Magdalen puts together an outfit to wear to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. She styles an old computer keyboard, using Velcro and the keyboard’s cord to secure the item to her body. Though her take on the trend doesn’t always incorporate several layers of clothing, the theme of styling unconventional, non-traditional items is integral.

The trend is an extreme take on subversive fashion, it seems to take inspiration from archival styling and brands like Mugler, with their use of mesh and cut-outs, and pushes it to the extreme. Subversive maximalism, sometimes referred to as ‘homeless core’, encourages individuals to look at their clothes with a new perspective, how can a top be more than an item to wear on the top half of the body? It’s sustainable in its entirety– subversive maximalist looks tend to be made up of thrifted, second-hand pieces, and encourages wearers to re-purpose their clothing, through means of DIY or simply wearing an item in an unconventional way.

With its hyper-creativity, the trend has had its fair share of controversy. TikTok audiences couldn’t decide whether the styling was serious or not, prompting confused comments and meme videos. It almost became an ironic trend to post ‘get ready with me for fashion school’ style content, layering clothing just enough so audiences had to second guess if it was a joke or a genuine outfit.

@sissyhankshaw Getting ready for #fashionschool, I only wear my own designs ????#fashioninstituteoftechnology #nyc #fashionnyc #fit #grwm #fashionstudent ♬ Current joys – Skins Edits

User @sissyhankshaw pokes fun of the subversive maximalist trend, layering one too many jumpers


Because of its meme-ability, it’s difficult to understand whether the trend is an example of individual style or clickbait. We conducted a survey, asking over 700 people (the majority aged between 13 and 34) what they thought. 61% of people didn’t like the trend, with one participant saying, “it looks very messy and random, not put together”. Despite this, 70% still admitted that the trend was creative.

Instagram-based stylist Shanyah, 18, also known as @missmallz, is a personal fan of the subversive maximalist trend. “I think it’s amazing seeing how simplistic pieces can be layered, cut up, or even wore irregular to create a great look”, she says. When asked if the trend will become mainstream, she believes that “brands will aim to recreate aspects of the style”, “I can see parts of the style becoming mainstream, like fitted tops with cut out parts or utility trousers”, she tells _shift.

If you’re looking to take part in the trend, have a look through your wardrobe and try layering your basic pieces, don’t be afraid to grab a pair of scissors or use some string to add that little bit extra to the look.

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