With the Coquette Aesthetic, it’s all about being hyper-feminine
It was in 2008 when Taylor Swift sang, “She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts” in You Belong With Me. I was eight years old back then. In my elementary years leading up to tweenhood, I was (unknowingly) rejecting femininity. I wanted to be boyish because it was all about being anti-feminine. The less feminine, the cooler. We hated the popular girl, and we wanted to be one of the boys.
I was a bookish kid. While other people grew up with Harry Potter and Star Wars, my pop culture companion was Rick Riordan’s books, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus series. My role model was Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite. She is described as a tomboyish girl with short and choppy brown hair, cut unevenly with plastic scissors; someone who likes wearing simple clothes and dislikes excessive makeup.
I didn’t want to be “like other girls.” I didn’t want to be like Sharpay Evans in High School Musical, all dressed up in pinkish glam and glitter. I wanted to be like Gabriella Montez—she was smart! She had substance!
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But maybe there was more to what I thought about myself. I looked up to the popular girl. I wanted to carry myself as well as her. She had perfectly styled hair each morning. She had the best fashion sense. She had dainty handwriting. I daresay I had feminine interests back then, but I was ashamed of them.
I didn’t realize back then that I was part of a system that dichotomized women. I pursued the ideal of being “not like other girls,” but what was so wrong with being them? My internalized misogyny ended up othering people who were just like me.
15 years later, things look a little different. In the world of fashion, trends like the Coquette aesthetic (also known as coquette-core) champions ways for those who identify as women to embrace their femininity.
What is Coquette-core?
The word Coquette stems from the unisex word Coquet, which refers to an “amorous, flirtatious person, one who seeks to be romantically attractive out of vanity,” until it evolved to Coquette, maintaining the same meaning, but now referring to women.
With the cyclic nature of trends and fashion, the Coquette aesthetic takes notes from the past, particularly the opulent Lolita fashion, which emerged in Japan in the 1990s and has Victorian and Rococo inspirations. Some say that this subculture takes its name from the controversial (CW: pedophilic) novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, while others say that the Japanese render refers to “cuteness, elegance and modesty.”
The coquette aesthetic also cites other -cores, such as ballet-core, dollette-core, regency-core and even nymphet-core, where nymphet means “a sexually attractive girl or young woman” (is a trope from the novel Lolita).
Despite the aesthetic’s—erm—*questionable* influences, the modern rendition, fortunately, stands for better things. Practicing the coquette aesthetic and perhaps even living their lifestyle means embracing femininity instead of fetishizing youthful innocence.
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What are the elements of Coquette-core?
The classic Coquette aesthetic focuses on stereotypically hyper-feminine elements. The color palette comprises pale pink, ivory, pastel and nude tones. It features silk and satin textures and has a lot of frills, lace and bows.
Typical Coquette fashion items include pearl jewelry, mini skirts, hair bows, sheet tights or knee-high socks, cozy cardigans, mary jane shoes, and lacy blouses and dresses.
For human inspiration, muses of this genre include Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl, Lana Del Ray (Born to Die era), Lily-Rose Depp, Marina and the Diamonds, and Nina Sayers from Black Swan.
The world of Coquette is vast, and this only scratches the surface. There is more to Coquette than what I mentioned, and if you’re interested in learning more, the Coquette aesthetic has subcultures such as the Americana Coquette, Gloomy Dollette, Dark Coquette, Fairy Coquette, Vintage Coquette and more.
Coquette culture in the mainstream
Now that the Coquette aesthetic has gone mainstream, people have integrated it in varying levels. Some have chosen to go full-blown Coquette-core, while others have integrated tiny elements of it into their personal style, be it a bow in their hair or a pearl necklace.
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Its influence has reached Fashion Week, with brands like Simone Rocha, Miu Miu and Sandy Liang integrating elements such as ballet shoes and bows in their collections.
Thomas de Kluyver’s work for Simone Rocha AW 23 (via Fashionista)
Personally, I don’t perceive nor display myself as hyper-feminine, but I no longer despise being seen as a woman: soft, feminine and beautiful. There is so much to being a woman, being feminine, that can’t be contained in a stereotype.
To quote Ruby from Anne With An E, “Oh, how I love being a woman!”
Words Gwyneth King
Art Macky Arquilla