Culture

How A Strawberry Dress Went Viral And Caused Heaps Of Controversy

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If you’ve been anywhere near TikTok recently, it’s highly likely that you’ve come across this dress.

The hashtag strawberry dress has over 7.5 million views, Harry Styles and Led Zeppelin have been memed in it, the Insta-famous matching couple ‘Young Emperors’ have dressed up in it and The New York Times has dubbed it the dress that ate TikTok.

I want to understand the obsession over ‘The Strawberry Dress’. Where it’s come from, why it’s all-over social media, and what’s behind its fatphobia controversy.

The creator is a 24-year-old New York designer called Lirika Matoshi, who says the dress was inspired by her childhood.

She grew up in poverty during a time of war in Kosovo. A fair way from strawberry fields and pretty pink dresses.

But with the help of her sister, who’s part of a first generation of fashion designers from Kosovo, Matoshi has gone on to become a highly successful designer, creating clothing that represents innocence and happier times.

The strawberry dress is one of Matoshi’s most recent designs, and its popularity has been staggeringly huge.

Vogue described the dress as universally pretty, writing that it’s reminiscent of idyllic childhood fairytales and Disney princesses.

Which is perhaps why users on TikTok are obsessing over videos of people excitingly opening the packaged dress like little kids.

One user was even applauded for creating her own version of the dress after she couldn’t afford the real one.

In fact, fashion journalists are surprised by the dress’ popularity, given how expensive it is.

Although cheaper versions have popped up from various retailers, TikTokers are spending $490 US dollars on the real thing to be a part of the trend.

Matoshi even predicted a drop in orders given the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, but instead has seen a 103 per cent spike in orders since August.

New York Times journalist Isabel Slone says the dress taking off during a period in history where all formal events and social gatherings are cancelled, could be the reason more people want to get their hands on it.

People can’t go out anymore, but the dress acts a reminder of fun times, and gives people a sense of excitement for the future.

And often once influencers and celebrities touch something, no matter the price, a trend is set.

But the strawberry dress has actually been around for a little while, and it hasn’t always had the reaction it’s currently stirring on TikTok.

Plus-size model Tess Holliday wore the dress back in January at the Grammy’s, but when its boom in popularity really started to rise, no one really seemed to care or remember.

Some people are now calling out that double standard, claiming that despite the strawberry dress being praised for its inclusivity, it reinforces the idea that those with bigger bodies are treated as invisible by society.

Holliday herself tweeted about the irony of everybody going crazy over a dress because a bunch of skinny people wore it on TikTok, writing: “To sum it up: our society hates fat people, especially when we are winning.”

And she kind of has a point; her photos didn’t go viral and, in some cases, the strawberry dress even landed her on the worst dressed list.

The Takeaway

The virality of the dress on TikTok started out as a frivolous trend that celebrated inclusivity and was a source of excitement during the pretty bleak times of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it now has more serious implications, that both the fashion industry and wider society still have a long way to go in accepting all body types and seeing them as fashionable.