Clutch Your Pearls, Millennials, People Are Calling Forever 21 “Vintage” Now

A Zillennial grapples with their mortality thanks to a viral Depop listing.

Online shopping screenshots of leopard print sequin shorts, displayed on Poshmark and Depop platform...

I turn 27 tomorrow, meaning I’m officially in the trenches of my late 20s. I remember where I was when a bouncer checked my ID and said, “Oh, your birth year starts with a ‘19,’ go ahead.” I was stunned and felt ancient. There isn’t much else that makes me feel like a victim of that pesky thing known as time. Still, when I logged onto X (formerly Twitter) and saw that someone was selling shorts from Forever 21 listed as “identical to Charlotte Russe” on Depop for — wait for it — $298 — I felt as aged as a gallon of milk left out in the sun.

As a Millennial-Gen Z cusper, I usually play devil’s advocate between the two colliding demographics. But this instance, these dang shorts, has me waving my proverbial cane from the front porch and telling the neighborhood kids, “Scram!” Get off my lawn! And take your outrageous secondhand shop price tags with you!

When the now-viral listing hit the TikTok FYP, the comments section quickly blew up with opinions. “Vintage bffr,” user @ngonyom wrote. “$30 and i was being ridiculous,” @beks7_ said of the shorts’ value. “It’s because the Charlotte Russe ones went viral around Coachella and everyone was looking for them,” @kacydahl explained. The Hills’ Audrina Patridge wore a similar pair to the music festival in 2013.

Dear reader, the mental image that popped into your head when you read “Forever 21 shorts identical to Charlotte Russe” is probably completely accurate. They’re micro-mini, leopard print, and overlayed with sequins. They’re the shorts you’d likely style over fishnet tights with a black tunic and statement necklace in 2008. They exude Season 4 Jenny Humphrey before she moved away to attend fashion school never to be seen again until Gossip Girl’s series finale.

Courtesy of The CW/Max

While the shorts are... fine, the staggering ask of $298 for them has me in shambles. Referring to them as identical to Charlotte Russe, the same, now-bankrupt store that used to offer two pairs of cork-wedged sandals for $30 — is apparently a selling point that validates that price tag.

It seems someone was able to talk the seller down, and the Forever 21 shorts eventually sold for $198. That’s still a hefty price when the most expensive pair of shorts available on Charlotte Russe’s website is currently listed at $15, on Forever 21’s site the most expensive pair is $45. There are only six Charlotte Russe stores left in the U.S.; the rarity might be part of the appeal to those who missed the brand’s brick-and-mortar heydey.

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The Depop seller went as far as to explain their pricing model by writing “I paid $200 for these if you don't like the price you don't have to purchase :)” in the listing’s description. It likely helps the seller’s case that Sabrina Carpenter wore a dress listed on their page for her 25th birthday party this past weekend. The pricing, albeit unbelievable, reflects that for the seller’s clothing supply, there’s a star-studded demand.

The ethics behind reselling sites like Depop, Poshmark, and eBay have been debated in recent years. There are differing opinions about who should benefit from shopping at thrift stores and how upcharging for items on reselling platforms affects the secondhand industry’s integrity. Yes, it’s eco-friendly and fun to hunt down cool secondhand pieces.

But how noble is it really, when sellers can assign a new value to products by using buzzwords like vintage, rare, deadstock, and even Charlotte Russe to scam buyers looking for something unique for their closets? While there’s no clear-cut right answer, shopping sustainably is a commendable practice when fast fashion’s environmental and human impacts and overconsumption plague the world today.

Perhaps, worse though, is that it works. Though I’d know better than to spend $200 on shorts that were probably originally purchased for $12, someone else had no problem coughing up that cash. It’s impressive, it’s infuriating, and it makes me feel like an old hag who doesn’t understand the same internet that I grew up native to.

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Of course, fashion aesthetics are cyclical. Everything comes back around. The indie sleaze aesthetic from 2014 has been making a steady comeback since 2021, but 10 years since its birth, 2024 might be when it reaches a fever pitch. These leopard sequin shorts are emblematic of that. While I can gasp over Forever 21 items being called vintage, I can rest assured that’s all a marketing ploy resellers are using to trap the right buyer like a stylish mouse.

To legitimately qualify as vintage, a garment must be between 20 and 100 years old; “true vintage” is anything older than 50 years. And while I’m officially vintage, my childhood threads still have a few more years, so I’ll save the conclusion of this existential crisis until then.