Perhaps, without noticing, you’ve double-tapped a Fashion Nova look during the hours you’ve spent mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Take a moment to remember the last time you saw an Insta-pal (whether a celebrity or a social-media influencer or a friend) pictured in absurdly high-waisted jeans with pre-made holes large enough to squeeze a cantaloupe through. Or maybe they were wearing a two-piece athleisure set so sexy it seemed meant for the club rather than running errands.
Fashion Nova sells fast fashion at its fastest — if you’re within 40 miles of their warehouse, they’ll have a Postmate deliver your online order — and specializes in styles that would make your mother ask you if you’re “sure” you’d want to go out in them. (There are five brick-and-mortar stores in California, in addition to the online business.) It’s a brand that has mystified and intrigued me in the year since I first noticed its social-media omnipresence. The more-than-5,000 Instagram influencers who work with the brand represent every level of modern-day fame: Danielle “Cash Me Outside” Bregoli, Baddie Winkle, and assorted members of the Kardashian/Jenner family have all posted pictures of themselves enjoying life in their Fashion Nova looks.
“A post from Kylie’s page is better than any Super Bowl ad,” Fashion Nova CEO Richard Saghian told me. And if she shares a photo of herself in Fashion Nova not just to Instagram but also to Twitter and Facebook, that, Saghian says, is an “apocalypse.” (He means this in a good way.) Most Fashion Nova influencers just receive free clothes, but Jenner is valuable enough to be paid, though Saghian declined to share the size of her fee. He estimates that one of her posts can drive upwards of $50,000 in sales.
It’s no surprise that plenty of people are willing to pay to look like Kylie, but sheer metallic slip dresses aren’t quite as wearable as lip kits. I wanted to know whether a normal citizen with a full-time job could navigate the world in Instagram clothes. How would Fashion Nova fare in the world beyond Calabasas? Would it be possible to dress like a Kardashian on a budget, while still feeling comfortable enough to leave my home?
The only way to find out was to try it for myself.
The biggest struggle in finding outfits that serve the purposes of my experiment was finding my size. What I didn’t realize until talking to Saghian was that Fashion Nova uses juniors sizing, offering the odd numbers between 1–15 (along with 1,2, and 3X options). Having not worn juniors sizing since elementary school, I had no idea what to expect, especially when it came to clothes shown on a model who looked like she had been gestated and born wearing a waist trainer. I consulted both their size chart and online message boards to determine what a size 28/29 jean means in the Fashion Nova world. For those wondering, it means a size 7/9. I went with 9, just to be sure.
Because I wanted to be on the safe side, I ordered a lot, and some of the clothes didn’t fit or seemed to be incomplete. One of the three pairs of jeans I ordered refused to budge past my upper thigh; a bodysuit couldn’t manage to accommodate both my boobs and behind; and a sheer, rose-gold sweater dress came without a garment to wear underneath. I was fine with tossing the dress aside, because just touching its synthetic and not-at-all-sweater-like material made me feel as though my body would turn into one giant hive. The jeans, on the other hand, could have become an integral part of my wardrobe, so that was a bummer. They fit my sister — a Fashion Nova size 1 — like a glove.
For my first look, I went the “casual, cool” route: a destroyed “band” tee featuring a fake band name that I personally could not decipher, and Fashion Nova’s most popular denim, the Glistening Jeans. Both the jeans and tee featured aggressive holes. I get all of my packages sent to work, so I had a chance to warn a few people about the Fashion Nova journey I was embarking on; however, not even they were prepared to look me in the eye like a contributing member of society when I walked into the office the next day in a top that looked roughly like this:
What I did love about this outfit were the jeans. The fit is amazing: It could be the Lycra, or the nonconstricting-yet-very-slimming high waist, but I don’t think I’ve ever worn more comfortable jeans. Tight in all of the right places, they hiked up my bottom, cinched my waist, and even offered a ton of mobility in terms of stretching and trying out squatting poses for the ’gram. The holes in both the top and the jeans did leave little to the imagination, though, despite the fact that I was technically almost 100 percent covered.
I love attention, but the gazes I got in this look almost convinced me to abort my Fashion Nova mission before sundown. Who knows if it was the V-neck top that was cut to my navel or the upper portion of my exposed thighs, but I had gentlemen part ways for me in the street like I was your boy Moses, offer me a seat on the train, and just full-on gawk. I also accidentally exposed my breast to my accountant. Like a proud 20-something who’s got her own and will use her money as she pleases, I dropped off my taxes in this look! Be grateful that you’ve never had to talk about write-offs while trying to shimmy your boob back into its proper position inside of your bra.
Insta-Influencer Vibes: 2 out of 5
After accidentally exposing myself in Fashion Nova, I waited until the weekend to wear the look I was most excited for: the dress worn by Kylie Jenner herself in this indelible Instagram image:
It’s simple — black, body-con, short, and perfect. The dress is also double-lined, which made it feel and fit like something higher-quality, and which made up for the fact that I couldn’t bend over or lift my arms above my head for fear of flashing yet another population of innocent bystanders. Kylie wore her dress with a strappy heel, but because I’m forced to live a more practical life, with public transit and actual encounters with weather, I paired my look with stockings, but added Fashion Nova’s boots. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but this bitch was bad in the dress.
I fully intended to take it to the club, but the closest I could get to one was my cousin’s 22nd birthday party at a bar. When I walked in, you would have thought I was North West in a corset by the bemused, intrigued reactions. I took it in stride. Before even making it to the vicinity of the bar, I was asked by multiple gentlemen if they could have the honor of buying me a drink, which is harmless, but I also noticed a trend of guys thinking it was perfectly okay to grab my waist or hip when trying to “squeeze” by me throughout the night.
The outfit proved to be both hot and comfortable, even if its tightness and shortness forced me to make miniature and well-thought-out movements, like royalty or a doll — basically my two favorite things. Even better, seeing me in Fashion Nova encouraged two friends and one family member to confess that they too had been secretly eyeing the brand. One of them had saved looks downloaded to her phone that she was too ashamed to purchase, but my example inspired her to follow her Fashion Nova dreams! And my cousin confessed to owning a Fashion Nova bomber jacket. Literally, I am changing people’s lives and wardrobes.
Insta-Influencer Vibes: 4 out of 5
Inspired by the weekend, I wanted to start the week on a Fashion Nova high, so I pulled the riskiest “work” look from my bag of Fashion Nova tricks. When I go to work, I typically wear a sweatshirt, jeans, and Adidas or Chucks: very casual, but I like to think I can “dress it up.” Which made this look — my uniform, but reimagined using Fashion Nova pieces — even more fun/terrifying. On a Monday morning, I got up and put on another (but very different) pair of ripped black jeans with this Justine top:
The look seems simple, but I assure you it is not. The sweatshirt was one big hole that took me 90 seconds to properly get into, and even with a thin tank underneath, I still got some raised eyebrows. I looked like I had made a pit stop before work in order to get properly mauled by a tiger. Basically, it was very uncomfortable.
I’m lucky enough to work with my sister, who spent the majority of the day shadowing me around the office, telling anyone that I tried to avoid, “She’s embarrassed, she’s wearing Instagram clothes.” I was also asked to stand and twirl for some office-mates so they could fully take in how bizarre I looked and wonder why I choose to darken the door of work in such an ensemble.
The jeans fit very well, but the holes were manufactured in a way that left tiny, thin strings cutting into my legs and drawing blood and causing marks that I’m hoping will one day leave my body. I went home solemnly that night, wishing Fashion Nova had never existed.
Insta-Influencer Vibes: 3.5 out of 5
Still, I had one more look. This look — a classic athleisure moment, if you will — was the pièce de résistance of my entire project. Having seen this Wanderlust outfit on both Kylie Jenner and Baddie Winkle, I knew I had to get it on my body.
For a day of self-pampering and walking around the city, I paired my look with Adidas to make it clear to the world that I was in no way working out, just bopping about town looking cute and comfortable in a monochromatic, crop-top leisure suit, hunnies! As I had learned Fashion Nova clothes are wont to do, the fit made me look terrific. Every part of my body was popping off in the most amazing way, and in public, no one bothered me, because they could tell that anyone wearing this sexy weekend look meant business and only cared about herself! It was ideal. I looked great and I remained unbothered by unwanted attention.
That is, until after my massage, when truly the unexpected happened. As one does, I undressed before I hit my masseuse’s table, and had calming visions of finishing my day roaming the streets in Fashion Nova. This was clearly a pipe dream: My already-cropped top shrunk about two sizes within the 90 minutes it was off my body! It wasn’t doing anything but sitting folded on a chair, yet still it was able to turn itself into a bandanna. So, instead of carrying on with my day, I had to walk to the nearest train and rush home to change. I used my purse as a shield because my entire chest was exposed. Despite this, I’m thankful for the few hours of good wear I got out of the outfit.
Insta-Influencer Vibes: 5 out of 5
Once my time wearing Fashion Nova clothes was done, I breathed a sweet sigh of relief. Finally, instead of Insta Mariah, I was Mariah Mariah, in Banana Republic jeans and plaid shirts. I can’t say that I absolutely hated wearing Fashion Nova, but I hated how self-conscious I felt wearing the clothes. I also can’t say that these clothes are not balled up in an eco-friendly bag in a corner of my apartment, waiting either to be donated or worn to the club with my girls, when and if we ever decide to go to the club. I will say, however, that I’ve continued to peruse the site — because after having a taste, no matter how sour, I’m still giddy at the prospect of wearing an item worn by my favorite Kardashian.
But really, it’s not my opinion that matters: It’s the opinion of middle-schoolers living on allowances, of athletic champions like Serena Williams (yes, she’s a customer, Saghian reports), and everyone else with bottled-up Instagram-influencer urges inside her.