Social media is creating fashion trends, making all style feel like a #core or #aesthetic. But for young consumers, these microtrends represent more than just looks…
- Gen Z and Millennials use their style to express themselves and their values
- Looks like #Barbiecore and #Kidcore represent new definitions of femininity and masculinity, led by young consumers
- Young people are about to move away from “That Girl” and back to 2010s Indie Sleaze
If you keep up with fashion the way Gen Z and Millennials do, you’ll know that what they wear is no longer just about “style;” it’s about what’s trending on social media. Fashion microtrends reach young people’s FYPs via #core or #aesthetic hashtags, which gain millions of views and become the style du jour—and a new one does seem to pop up every day. In the last few months alone, we’ve seen young people go from #Whimsigothic, to the summery coastal grandma aesthetic, to the incredibly short-lived #regencycore, and that’s only to name a few. These shifts in style are about so much more than just clothes, though; each microtrend tends to represent a cultural moment which resonates with the values of those who make it their full-time look.
Cores began back in 2013 with the arrival of “normcore,” but as Vogue put it, “core” is now the new “chic,”—and we’ve seen many come and go since then. So many micro-trends now exist that few catch the attention of the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting millions of views from young people on the social media platforms they originate on. In fact, YPulse’s recent trend report, Fits For The Feed, dove into young consumers’ style and found that TikTok and Instagram are their main sources of fashion inspiration these days. Meanwhile, many say that their day-to-day style is different from what they wear online, and that some of their ‘fits are purely for social media. This is where #cores come to life, and according to our Fits For The Feed survey data, more than two thirds of Gen Z and Millennials consider themselves part of one of these aesthetics.
In our recent Fashion Preference and Style report, 79% of Gen Z and Millennials tell Ypulse their style is a reflection of their personality—which means understanding these #cores can tell you about more than just their outfits. Here are three aesthetics that are trending now—and what they may say about the young consumers taking part in them:
Barbiecore is a redefinition of femininity
The latest aesthetic to hit young consumers’ feeds is #Barbiecore, which is already “trickling up” from the fashion-forward younger gens to the designer runways—and has 18.1 million views on TikTok. This aesthetic is not actually all that new, however, and is just a new iteration of “Bimbofication,” which can be traced back a couple of years. Drawing from hot pink, revealing, and fit-for-a-Y2K- club looks, Bimbofication reclaimed the term “bimbo” for people of all body types, gender and sexual identities and represented a re-definition of femininity. As the name suggests, Barbiecore is doing something similar.
As YPulse told you two weeks ago, Barbiecore’s prominence in Hollywood comes from behind the scenes footage of Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie, which show Margot Robbie clad in many hot pink, ultra-femme outfits. Since it started trending, searches for pink mini dresses have seen an 970% increase, according to Klarna, and pink swimsuits have seen a 682% increase. Pinterest also reported that their site has seen a 75% search increase in the term “Barbie Outfit.”
But while the surface of the aesthetic seems to draw from the hyper-feminine looks of icons like Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, and obviously, Barbie dolls, it actually points to a rejection of the standard thin, white, blonde, cisgender woman as a symbol of femininity. Millennial influencers like Chrissy Chlapecka, who has created an image online of all-pink-everything, are emphasizing that their queer identity is not separate from their aesthetic, but in fact, quite integral. #Barbiecore has the edge of inclusivity that so many mainstream trends have not, and for that, young consumers are proud to embrace this look.
Chaoscore, maximalism, and Indie Sleaze are rejections of tight, professional styling
We know you’ve been hearing about “That Girl” non-stop, but what you’ll be seeing more of soon is the other side of the coin: Chaoscore. This aesthetic goes by many names, but is rooted in the aesthetic chaos that defines trends like maximalism and “goblin mode,” which “embraces hot mess of all kinds, never discriminates – and, crucially, completely rejects any and all notions of self-improvement.” In the era of “Hot Girl Summer” and aestheticized productivity, some young people are choosing to embrace a “feral girl summer” instead, which is about having fun and “going a little feral,” and is visualized with tons of layers, mis-matched patterns and fabrics, and lots of accessories.
This core often draws inspiration from the grunge looks of the 90s and even early 2010s—Millennials may remember these times well, and are going to hear a familiar name for it resurging: Indie sleaze. YPulse data shows that 13% of young people consider themselves part of the grunge aesthetic, and younger members of Gen Z are now having their first go around at looks to rival Jenny Humphry from Gossip Girl.
Fashion lovers on TikTok saw this trend coming, it seems, as #IndieSleaze already has 25.4M views. Get ready to see everything popular in 2014 on Tumblr make its way back to the mainstream, as the pendulum swings from tailored, neutral styling, back to chaotic, dark, and yes, even square-studded. In the last week, the audio for Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” has gone viral on TikTok as users upload their most chaotic photos from their teenage years, almost always dressed in indie sleaze, signaling a new romantic look at the hipster era that ended less than ten years ago.
Kidcore is all about wearing what makes you happiest
Though it may sound counterintuitive, #Kidcore is very much for adults. It reflects the freedom, creativity, and optimism of childhood through bright and playful aesthetics. And while it was dubbed back in 2020, it’s back on the radar this summer big time. On TikTok, this #core has 1.2 billion views, and dedicated followers who post their rainbow GRWM videos, thrift finds, and DIYs. YPulse predicted at the beginning of 2022 that “dopamine dressing” would be taking off as the younger gens begin to swap their covid uniform of neutral athleisure for maximalist, joyful, and colorful ‘fits, and Kidcore is the prime example.
Kidcore is especially prominent in the cosmetics industry as of late, with brands like Halsey’s af94,and drag queens Trixie Mattel’s Trixie Cosmetics making boldly colored products with a “made to play” approach to makeup. Anyone can be an artist with this core, as it emphasizes a no-rules approach to getting ready, as long as they’re having fun. But, just because it’s part of a makeup trend doesn’t mean Kidcore is only for girls—especially because the younger gens are inspiring more blurred gender lines in cosmetics and jewelry.
Vogue also sees this trend popping up in menswear as more than just another nostalgia trend, but also the signal of a cultural redefinition of masculinity. In contrast to Barbiecore turning tradition on its head, this aesthetic embraces “boyish playfulness,” which has long been excluded from the idea of masculinity. This shows that Kidcore, too, is trickling up from TikTokers to celebs and runways, highlighting what YPulse found in our Fits For The Feed report: that young people say people like them are creating the trends, and the fashion industry is following in their footsteps.
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