Pinterest: Style guide or worst enemy?

Personal style is personal. Pinterest style is, well, Pinterest.

An+illustration+of+a+hand+holding+a+smartphone+which+is+displaying+the+interface+of+the+Pinterest+app%2C+with+graphics+of+a+pink+instant+camera%2C+a+green+cactus%2C+a+pink+vest%2C+a+pair+of+black+jeans+and+a+pair+of+flower+earrings.

Pinterest is a social media platform which allows users to curate and save collections of images. (Illustration by Victoria Liu)

For those of you familiar with Pinterest — the image-curating app launched in 2010, most often used for style inspiration — you know that once you search for something, even once, it becomes your entire feed. As a teenager obsessed with wearing what I thought was the “perfect outfit,” I spent hours scrolling through the website, filling my naive brain with insecure thoughts of changing my style to match my Pinterest feed.

In high school, wearing the “perfect outfit” had become synonymous in my mind with fitting in socially. I became irrationally jealous of the girls who could rock the quintessential school fit. I never felt as if I nailed down the balance between casual and presentable, which further fed into my Pinterest obsession. My mother would find me upset over not being able to select an outfit, as if anyone truly cared what a 15-year-old was wearing. She would tell me, “You need to stop comparing yourself to these girls.” But it was easier said than done. 

My NYU roommate, Madi Leadbetter — who has picked up on my incessant Pinterest habits — told me that Pinterest allowed her to fully realize her style.

“Much of my style was and still is derived from social media, but growing up in a largely conservative and static community, I didn’t feel comfortable wearing what I wanted because everyone dressed the same,” Leadbetter said. “Now that I live in a very liberal and dynamic city, I’ve become more comfortable dressing however I like, much of which is influenced by social media and Pinterest.”

Unlike New York City, the fashion in my Arizona hometown was more relaxed and casual. Of course, popular brand names existed and were well intertwined within my hometown, but activities such as finding the perfect thrifted pieces were simply not as important as in larger cities. At NYU, I’ve learned that simply walking down the street to class has provided more style inspiration than the screen in my hand ever could.

Our peers look like walking Pinterest boards with their sleek and unique fashion senses. No shade to Arizona, but I’ve grown to crave seeing distinct attire before my eyes every day — people wearing exactly what they want, not just what is deemed cool. Since moving here, I’ve realized that my obsession with perfecting every article of clothing in my outfit is downright silly. Whether this is through finding the perfect outfit for classes or daily activities, using Pinterest has become second nature to me, but the debate of whether or not this is helpful lies unanswered. 

During high school, I perceived Pinterest as my personal muse, but slowly it began fueling the voice in my head that urged me to change my personal style to fit in with the aesthetic I found on my page. I couldn’t go anywhere without comparing myself to the person with the “coolest outfit” I had seen that day, wondering why I hadn’t thought of that myself. 

Liberal Studies first-year Ava Yang had similar feelings to my own, and had to find her own sense of reality within the culture of Pinterest. 

“Since downloading Pinterest, I’ve definitely felt inferior to those on the app because their wardrobes are much more curated than mine,” Yang said. “Over time I realized that Pinterest is only showing their best moments and fits so I’ve begun to feel less insecure and more gracious for the guys and girls who carry the app.”

Thankfully, I began to tune out Pinterest and its undying hold on my self-confidence. Maybe it was from following the approach of Emma Chamberlain, who has said that she often sticks to her uniform of a pair of Levi’s jeans and a white t-shirt every day.

I realized that even the people I had literally cried over because I thought my style or clothing persona could never amount to theirs had gone through the same things I was — denial, insecurity and self-pity. I had been envying these girls not because they were wearing the latest and greatest, but because they looked genuinely happy in the photos they were posting. I had been making too much of a fuss over others’ outfits when I should have been focused on how my personality would transfer through my style. 

I’m not bashing Pinterest entirely, as long as it’s used healthily, it can be helpful for style and work inspiration. It is still alright to open up the app and search for pins to spark your fancy, but be careful to not let those falsehoods overpower your personal style. Pinterest, like all forms of social media, is a false utopia and we need to be strong enough to spot the inconsistencies in our own lives before degrading ourselves over the lives we think others may have. Personal style is not comparable; what makes you feel comfortable in your own skin and puts a genuine smile on your face should be cherished.

Contact Katherine Heglie at [email protected]

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