Over this past winter break, I took a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and visited the museum’s newest exhibition, “Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty.” Seeing textile after textile depicting lush floral arrangements and pastoral landscapes, I recalled the decorations in my own grandmother’s home. And I began to wonder — after all of the microtrends fueled by the pandemic, are we due for a return to a more “traditional” decorative style that resonates with generations past?
Morris & Co. belongs to the old guard of the British Arts and Crafts movement, defining what we consider a “traditional” mode of decoration. Founded by William Morris in 1861, the company was renowned for its textiles and wallpapers featuring dense vegetation and muted color schemes. Morris & Co. prides itself on its legacy and continued commitment to producing timeless designs for modern settings, regularly reusing Morris’ original patterns from the 19th Century.
This idea of timelessness has become popular on social media sites including TikTok, as content creators have begun to reconsider the rapid trend cycle that they perpetuated throughout the pandemic. A renewed interest in lasting quality and style has emerged, as creators emphasize the need to develop a “capsule wardrobe” filled with basics that will never go out of style. Now that the microtrends have come and gone, everything old is new once again.
We have already begun to see this resurgence through the “grandmillennial” style (think chinoiserie and pattern mixing) that gained traction during the summer of 2021. This decorative practice features the same aesthetics made popular by Morris & Co. — an affinity for the floral, the maximalist and the handmade textile. Beyond the living room, the grandmillennial style has expanded to the closet and become a fashion statement. Grounded by collars, frills and knits, outfits inspired by this aesthetic lean into their retro origins while still retaining a fresh quality about them.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a surge in the “alt” Tiktok subculture that incorporated brightly colored hair, wacky patterns and an overall sense of extremity in fashion. This fostered an equally extreme trend that fed into general overconsumption. With nowhere to go but the internet and nothing better to do than shop, people around the world devoured each fashion trend that made its way onto the “For You” page.
In response to this overconsumption, the grandmillenial style has emerged as an opposite trend advocating for thrifting and more sustainable practices. At its core, this style promotes not only the reuse of aesthetics, but also furniture. It is a trend that praises hand-me-downs, heirlooms and antiques. Derived from the same Arts and Crafts movement Morris and Co. was born from, the grandmillenial style shares the same anti-industrial anxieties in response to an increasingly technological world — promoting craftsmanship and tradition instead of mindless production.
As life begins to settle down after the initial shock of the COVID-19, we seem to be gravitating to safer, more recognizable forms of decoration: those that remind us of the comfort of our grandparents’ houses from when we were children.
After a year of nothing but pajamas and sweatpants, opting for comfort has become the norm. Why should this be any different when it comes to nostalgia? Embodying timelessness and comfort, social media’s promotion of the grandmillennial aesthetic makes adopting the style of our mothers and grandmothers a little less “granny chic” and a bit more “classic” in the eyes of the internet.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the diffusion of grandmillennial style across social media platforms and popular culture is its exaltation in the “Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty” exhibition. A museum is the perfect place to showcase the revival of antiques, as it is truly the greatest temple to trends that have come and gone.
Ashley Koca is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]