Aesthetic – a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty, especially in art. 

An aesthetic refers to a specific fashion style that has colors, locations, and hobbies attached to it. Although there are endless aesthetics, popular ones these days include cottagecore, soft girl, grunge, Y2K, dark academia, minimalist, and old money.

Junior Victoria Van Cleave said, “I really like cottage core, just because it’s very pleasing on the eyes.” The cottage core aesthetic generally idealizes rural life. It celebrates simple living and hobbies rooted in traditional skills such as baking bread, knitting, and gardening. Van Cleave said, “There’s something about the idea of being in a cottage away from things in nature that seems really calming.” Senior Gigi Edwards said, “I can appreciate parts of nature that set a good general vibe for a person.” The aesthetic juxtaposes old and new, often featuring ultra-feminine dresses that are still reasonably comfortable. Its color palette mainly features solid earth tones, sometimes with floral patterns. Puff sleeves, flowy fabrics, and dainty headbands are popular accessories.

cottage core aesthetic moodboard

The soft girl aesthetic is based on a deliberately feminine, girly-girl look. Freshman Sophia Cole said, “I really like the clean girl/soft girl aesthetic. I sometimes wear outfits purely because they resemble an aesthetic I think looks really cool.” Although slip dresses, pleated skirts, and tie cardigans are some popular soft girl pieces, the aesthetic’s fashion does not have a set style. Cole specifically likes “butterfly patterns and light colors,” which fit with this aesthetic’s focus on pastels. The aesthetic does not have a hobby associated with it; instead, it focuses on visual aspects such as makeup, glitter, and cutesy accessories.

The grunge aesthetic is similar to street style. The fashion focuses on de-emphasizing body silhouettes and going for an “untidy” look, often with layered and overly baggy clothing. Junior Eduardo Sanchez said, “I wear a lot of big belts and baggy jeans with lots of dark colors like black, gray, and navy blue.” This aesthetic tends to be linked to the “skater” look due to its similar fashion. Junior Sophie Duda said, “I do everything for the aesthetic. Yesterday, I wore baggy jeans, a hoodie, a big belt, a skateboard, … everything just to fit a certain look.”

The Y2K aesthetic focuses on the major trends of the ‘90s and 2000s, often blending pop culture with bright colors and funky designs for a maximalist look. Cole said, “I have friends who really like it, but I think the colors are a bit too out there for me.” Duda said, “I think the aesthetic is visually pleasing.” Fashion pieces such as low-rise jeans, faux fur, and crop tops are most prominent in this aesthetic.

Dark academia, true to its name, focuses on dark tones and academics. This aesthetic is unique in that fashion is less important to it. Although dark academia focuses on casual formal wear, often in murky brown and muted, minimalistic tones, this aesthetic requires an interest in reading, literature, art, history, or learning in general. Duda stated that “sometimes I try to dress in dark academia, but it’s really hard to find clothing I own that fits the aesthetic.” They added, “It’s also not an aesthetic that’s very inclusive, just because of its origins, so I think it’s important to think about that.” Dark academia novels often tend to romanticize a life in academia that historically was only available to the wealthy. A lot of its imagery involves museums, old architecture, and old books that tend to detail the exclusive experience of the upper white class. This aesthetic has also recently been criticized due to its promotion of unhealthy work-life balance and lack of diversity.

The minimalist aesthetic generally involves neutral colors, clean spaces, minimal clutter, and general cohesiveness. Senior Arielle Appleby said, “I often go for a more vintage, minimalist look.” This aesthetic has been around longer than most, under different names but with the same general idea. The fashion is much more open and diverse than most aesthetics. Really, anything in neutral tones without crazy cutouts or design choices classifies as minimalist. The aesthetic also often involves a cohesive theme in layouts, rooms, and decor, which is often neutral tones such as white, black, gray, or tan.

Old money is a controversial aesthetic. Because this revolves largely around aestheticizing the elite class of people with inherited wealth, many have criticized its exclusivity, as well as the problematic class-conscious rhetoric. This aesthetic generally revolves around a “quiet” luxurious look. The fashion often involves preppy, monochromatic, expensive clothing items. It’s based around a classic style, but now seems to revolve more around shopping for longer-lasting clothing items and sustainability. The aesthetic often includes visuals of mansions, yachts, country clubs, and old architecture. Although this aesthetic has a lot of overlap with dark academia, it revolves more around the idea of quiet inherited wealth and status rather than the pursuit of knowledge.

These aesthetics don’t necessarily dictate how people dress, and some people enjoy jumping from one aesthetic to the next quite often, while others prefer to dress in one specific aesthetic. Van Cleave said, “My aesthetic is my own, and I dress more to blend in than to stand out, but I like the visual impact on others.” Edwards said, “It works for some people, but I’m just not one of those people. I dress for comfort.” Sanchez added, “It just seems like it takes a lot of work and effort.” Either way, with blog articles titled 52 Old Money Outfits That Will Make You Look Old Money and brands like Urban Outfitters creating aesthetic-specific sections such as y2k on their site, it’s obvious that aesthetics influence the fashion world. 

Malika is a senior and second-year journalist. In her free time, she likes to read and listen to music. Malika is also involved in soccer and website design.

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