How Subversive Basics Became TikTok's Favorite Fashion Hack

How Subversive Basics Became TikTok's Favorite Fashion Hack

by Maria Poggi

The DIY method of ripping, twisting and cutting nylon tights into other pieces of clothing isn’t an entirely new concept. For many millennials who recall those early adolescent years, this trend took off well before it exploded on Tik Tok with over 93.1 million views under the hashtag #subversivebasics.

The term subversive basics was coined by fashion content creator Agus Panzoni, also known as @thealgorythm, who noticed the trend of plain items such as simple shirts, dresses and tights being reformed through cutouts, holes, layering and repositioning.

In her viral TikTok post, Panzoni defined subversive basics as “basics that rebel up to the point of them losing their utility.” By reforming a basic article of clothing like a white t-shirt into a shirt with holes, and playing with imbalanced symmetry, the shirt is rebelling against its original form and intent. This goes the same with a pair of tights that have been cut and reworked into a crop top. In many ways, it gives the wearer a reimagined, second layer of skin.

Content creator Vanessa Seurat is known for restructuring and disassembling tights into all sorts of tops. She even turned a trash bag into a simple going-out top. “I always loved the Adam Saaks fashions from the ‘90s and was really inspired by him,” she tells PAPER. “That got me to experimenting with all sorts of things, and I suppose TikTok just allowed me a little more of a laser focus to kind of materialize a theme.”

She’s also inspired by the aesthetic of Rui Zhou, a Chinese, New York-based designer known for her reworked knitwear and cut-up bodysuits. “I try to emulate designs like hers that I love and put them in an everyday women’s budget,” Seurat says.

She also makes tutorials for her audience and teaches them how to tie different elements of the slashed tights for a look that plays on symmetry. The majority of materials she uses to style her DIY sleeves, tights and tops are purchased from Target.

The styling of subversive basics isn’t only limited to DIY tights. There’s also many emerging designers on Tik Tok experimenting with loose knitwear and layering. Paletta Matievna-Titarenko makes handmade pieces in Montreal out of knitwear. “I think of the universe as my source of inspiration,” she says. “I like to imagine what a witch or goblin would wear if they suddenly got into knitwear.”

On the runway, the play on layering and outer texture is a concept seen in the Xuly.Bet Spring 2022 collection. As Lamine Badian Kouyaté says, “We’re talking abou a second skin here. The garment itself, the structure of the material, acts as a skin. It’s the fact of superposing things that can be seen as a protection on top of it. You can create an expression through the different colors.” Much of that collection utilizes patchwork, and outerlining through contrasting colors similar to the outer lining seen with subversive basics DIY trends.

Another collection that has largely been associated with these subversive, and even at other times brutalist styles is the Rick Owens Spring 2022 collection, which utilizes loose and cut-out knitwear as well as imbalanced layering to create optical illusions through symmetry and fabrics.

Indeed, the notion of sculptural styling, another term also created by Agus Panzoni, is an indication of the cultural shift in fashion. Panzoni defines sculptural styling in relation to how the DIY subversive basics hack is taking off. On the other hand, a look doesn’t need to necessarily utilize subversive basics to be considered as sculptural styling. “Sculptural styling is the evolution of DIY style,” she says. “It comes as a response to the ubiquity of fast fashion, giving style enthusiasts an exclusive alternative.”

Subversive basics and sculptural styling allow the creator to use the same fabrics and reimagine their form with each wear regardless if the two trends are always mutually exclusive or not. The creator becomes the mastermind behind their flesh when they take nylon tights and turn it into a sleeve or embellish the body with a sculptured look. The rules of fashion are being rewritten as consumers are now dictating how they wear their second layer of skin by becoming the sculptor of their own body.

Photo via TikTok