Aging myself with this sentence, but back in my day, there weren’t so many of these aesthetics! I wasn’t really in with the popular kids, so maybe there were more that I missed, but for the most part you had goths, horse girls, emo and scene kids, prepsters, and the Y2K crowd.
Fast-forward to 2021 now that the popularity of Instagram and TikTok are surging, and there are so many more that have become a dominant part of culture and fashion. I mean, cottagecore is a term that emerged recently from quarantine, and you can find millions of soft girl hashtags on TikTok.
There are some older ones listed here that have been around for a bit in case you needed a refresher, but below are 10 popular aesthetics if you’re looking to change up your outfits—or just brush up on your internet vernacular.
Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list (there are literally so many? Shoutout to this Wiki for enlightening me), but these can help get you started on your fashion vibe journey.
Borrowing its looks from anime, “e-girls” typically have dyed hair (mostly concentrated to the two front sections like Dua Lipa here) and hyper-stylized makeup that exaggerates their eyes and cheeks. Many even draw on tiny hearts or freckles on their faces and pile on the blush to give their cheeks an extra-rosy hue, although there are also those who opt for no or minimal makeup. Hair clips, mesh clothing, choker necklaces, and silver jewelry are some key items to pull off the extremely online vibe, and while gaming culture is part of it, you don’t necessarily have to be on World of Warcraft to partake. (But it does look fun?!)
The name comes from the photo-editing app (pronounced “visco”) and important outfit ingredients are typically white sneakers or Birkenstocks, high-waisted jeans or shorts, Hydroflask water bottles, oversized T-shirts, and scrunchies. Messy buns and seashell necklaces are also part of the equation here for that effortless, low-key, and yes, somewhat basic look.
This aesthetic is similar to VSCO girls, but fully leans into bright hair barrettes and pastel colors. The outfits look ultra-romantic and often include pinks and purples, pleated skirts, florals, sweater vests, and cardigans. Some iterations, however, also incorporate edgy contrasting items like chunky boots, black baguette bags, or statement sunglasses, but it can still be “soft” because it’s about the overall ~aura~ you’re giving off. Click for some soft girl outfit ideas for even more examples.
Think back to the late ’80s and early ’90s when bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam reigned and flannels were *the* fashion staple. Marc Jacobs also released a now-iconic grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 1992 that was inspired by the burgeoning music scene coming out of the Pacific Northwest. The fashion result of the aesthetic is loads of mesh, plaid, mixed prints, combat boots, and layered choker necklaces. A guitar or two in the background of a photo doesn’t hurt either, like singer beabadoobee here.
Imagine wearing a prairie dress or a breezy nightgown and living in a cute tiny cottage surrounded by a garden you tend to everyday. Sounds like pure bliss, right? The cottage and garden might be a stretch, but at least you can attain the illusion that you own both by wearing a floral or eyelet number reminiscent of The Little House on the Prairie. Brands like Christy Dawn, DÔEN, and Hill House Home (with its viral “Nap Dress”) can help you in this department.
As The Cut words it, this aesthetic is “letting go of the need to look distinctive.” Your outfit is usually simple and consists of basics. It’s usually not trend driven or loud, but is defined by normal-looking clothes. Jerry Seinfeld is typically given as an example of the normcore aesthetic if that reference helps visualize it more. The more plain your ‘fit is, the better.
This movement originated on Tumblr with the Black and LGBTQ+ community expressing themselves through art and collages.
While the term “hoe” can be controversial, the gender-fluid co-creator of the aesthetic, Mars, explained to The Guardian: “‘Art hoe’ or ‘art ho’ is a term used by me and my co-founder Jam to empower and uplift participants of color in this movement… it’s normally a derogatory way to refer to women–especially Black women–as being promiscuous, within the male gaze. Using the term in an arbitrary way diminishes its harmful origin in light of something better.”
The color yellow is often affiliated with this aesthetic as is a vintage-looking outfit that channels nature or art, like this adorable House of Sunny cardigan above.
This is that look that is made for the IG grid. A tight-fitting dress, full makeup, and designer pieces are giveaways for this aesthetic. Beauty bloggers and the Kardashian/Jenner clan are pros at channeling the vibe, as well as Lori Harvey here with her full Dior ensemble. Like, WOW.
Tweed blazers, sweater vests, and anything that reminds you of prep school or a fancy (and much-too-expensive) East Coast university are staples for this aesthetic. The “dark” wording though simply means the tones of your outfit skew on the darker side and typically include browns and blacks, like Bella Hadid’s blazer here.
The same but lighter colors! A very simple explanation, I know. Whites, creams, and beiges are the tones you should wear to get in on this vibe.