One of the biggest draws of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is collecting clothes and dressing up your villager. Creative players are answering a demand beyond what the Able Sisters can provide by putting on fashion shows, planning drops, and taking over the New Horizons fashion world.
There are advantages to New Horizons fashion that are impossible with other fashion ventures — for instance, the opportunity for quick iteration.
New variants for the Plaid Dress series are out!— Samael. (@SamaelOfAlympos) September 5, 2020
Colors include pink, purple, and a new inverted design that features a black/grey dress and red leather vest!
|Check my creator ID (in bio) for more|#AnimalCrossing #ACNH #ACNHDesigns #AnimalCrossingDesigns #ACDesigns pic.twitter.com/DUZWoEsPFe
New Horizons’ social media-friendly nature also boosted fashionistas, who could easily share their outfit of the day and style shoots with followers.
When the game launched, fashion shows were a popular activity to host on someone’s island. These have faded away; now, many players prefer smaller activities among friends. There are effectively networks of influencers across the fandom who set trends. Larger corporate ventures also exist in the space, in an attempt to capitalize on New Horizons’ success.
“The Animal Crossing fashion community can be intense,” says a designer named Riley. “There’s a lot of competition — not personal, or with each other, it’s just getting eyes on your stuff. There’s a lot of signal to noise.”
Some designers have adapted to this problem by picking up the practices of big, real-world fashion companies. Shiv is one player who spoke to Polygon through email after debuting a new collection.
Shiv has been involved with art all of her life. She’s a wedding and portrait photographer, and she was happily surprised when she received a sari from one of her New Horizons villagers. It sparked inspiration, and she spent a full day using New Horizons’ pixel art customization to recreate her wedding lehenga.
“I wanted to try my hand at creating something that truly represented the colors, textures, and patterns of Indian textiles,” says Shiv. Rangeela is her first collection — the name is a Hindi word that means “colorful” — and it allowed her to create a dream wardrobe.
Christine got into New Horizons because of the pandemic and lockdown, and started with simple 2D graphics. After she graduated from signs to floor tiles, her friends encouraged her to try clothes. She has since blown up twice on Reddit with her butterfly collection.
Now Christine’s real-life network has expanded, and she shares inspiration and designs with other fans via visits to their island. “I do talk to other creators that post island designs and fashion designs,” she told Polygon over Reddit DM. “Sometimes I go to people’s islands to take photos, sometimes we just talk about designing inspiration.” The platform has led her to a passion she had not discovered outside of Animal Crossing.
There are some issues with New Horizons as a fashion platform, however, and they can disrupt fan projects. “There needs to be more custom design slots,” says Riley. “Right now I’m constantly deleting things I like, and forgetting creators, so I can make space for new things or my own designs. That sucks.”
Shiv hopes that Nintendo will add more tools to help creators with their designs. “I would love the ability to use a stylus to draw designs, similar to the bulletin board. It would help for more intricate pattern work or shadow work. I also wish there was a tool like Animal Crossing Pattern Tool that allowed for us to use images we’ve taken or are online to create outfits.”
Ultimately, though, the fashion side of New Horizons remains a tight-knit community.
“I love all the artists out there, and I’m just glad I found something that I love to do,” says Riley. “At this point, I don’t even play Animal Crossing for Animal Crossing. It’s just a reason to hang out and do things with people I love.”