Skip to main content

How Music Videos Became a Substitute for Fashion Shows This Summer

Another relic from the ’90s is back: the music video.

This time, however, music videos are not only being revered as a medium for artists to visually bring their lyrics to life—often single-handedly with musicians self-filming and self-directing.

Music videos during the pandemic, it turns out, are also satiating consumers’ thirst for celebrity-driven fashion trends and aspirational designs. With no red carpet or runway to watch and most fashion magazines pivoting coverage to current events, music videos have been a source for fantasy and a peek into what fashion may have looked like in 2020 if most of the world wasn’t lazing in loungewear.

Music videos have already stirred up some of summer’s hottest trends. Thanks to Harry Style’s provocative retro romp on the California coastline for his video “Watermelon Sugar,” consumers were seeking out fruit prints and effortlessly cool tops like his crochet tank and slow-made Bode shirt. Meanwhile, animal prints have been gifted with the Midas touch of Beyoncé, as well as Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion—who each interpreted the exotic prints in ways as unique as a zebra’s stripes.

A new report by retail market intelligence company Edited divulges how musicians are offering consumers a sense of escapism through music videos and the looks that may influence their next purchase.

Pastel power

The collective power of BTS fans is on full display this summer.

Along with being an influential force on the U.S. presidential campaign trail—the group’s fans were credited with inflating the projected attendance numbers at President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla. by registering for tickets, only to never show up—they also helped their beloved K-Pop boy band break records. In August, the first entirely-English song from BTS, “Dynamite,” became the first video to achieve 100 million views in one day on YouTube.

The upbeat, positive lyrics for “Dynamite” play out in a colorful and nostalgic music video with fashion that keys into several Gen Z trends, including pastel men’s wear and back-to-basic normcore looks like double denim and bucket hats. Last week, global fashion search platform Lyst reported searches for ’90s-style Kangol hats spiked 128 percent after the video’s release.

Related Story

“Accessories and jewelry are rife with chains, retro sunglasses and drop earrings that lend to the E-Boy aesthetic,” Edited reported, referencing the Gen Z subculture that references skate, goth and K-Pop culture.

In the video, BTS also embraces makeup for men, which Edited lauded for challenging Western beauty norms and for pushing boundaries of traditional masculinity.

Disco fever

The influence of female rock icons Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett is evident in Miley Cyrus’ new self-directed video for “Midnight Sky,” a song that celebrates the former Disney’s star independence after her divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth.

Edited describes the video’s designer looks, bold colors and flashes of nudity as “a recipe for success,” but the video’s fashion is really a step away from the bohemian ’70s designs that have swamped the runway, making room for the decade’s glitzier and glamorous side: disco.

The bold red lipstick and glitter-ball purple eyeshadow combination worn by the star spurred a host of recreations from fans, with the singer reposting her favorites on social media, Edited reported. And the list of designers featured in the video—spanning Chanel, Saint Laurent, Gucci and Richard Quinn—puts occasion wear back on the map.

“Vibrancy and excess are key themes here—as is a major sense of nostalgia, with overarching references from the ’70s and ’80s,” Edited stated, adding that garments with heavy sequins and layered accessories may have the greatest potential for commercial success this fall.

Statement dressing

The wardrobe worn by Ciara in the music video for “Rooted” reinforces the song’s cultural and political message.

Filmed while the singer was due to give birth to her third child, the song and accompanying clip form a Black pride anthem, while visuals from the Black Lives Matter protests and tributes paid to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor serve as a reminder that justice has not yet been served, Edited reported.

In the video, Edited noted Ciara dons a leather jacket with her hair in an afro reminiscent of the Black Panther Party. The video also reflects current streetwear trends. Flanked by an all-Black supporting cast dressed predominantly in streetwear, Ciara sports black bike shorts for dancing scenes—a staple in at-home wardrobes.


With her pared-down songs and wistful lyrics, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Taylor Swift opted for a simple Cottagecore-inspired aesthetic for her “Cardigan” music video, the first single off her quarantine album “Folklore.” The video, Edited noted, serves as a “moody parallel to the candy-hued videos from her ‘Lover’ era.”

Cardigans—a surprise summer trend spurred on by David Beckham, Harry Styles (again) and mostly recently by Jaden Smith, who sported a color-blocked cardigan on the virtual red carpet for MTV’s VMAs—play a leading role in the music video. Swift has even added cardigans to her merchandise for the album.

The video also highlights another emerging pandemic trend: the house dress. Edited notes that Swift wears a dress reminiscent of Wendy’s airily iconic nightgown in “Peter Pan.”

“This is in line with the trend made popular during the pandemic of wearing dresses that can double as night or daywear,” Edited stated.