Barbiecore is seen mainly as a youth-driven trend, but the aesthetic impacts the wider market in different ways. So what is Barbiecore? WGSN breaks it down.
The rise of Barbiecore
“Barbiecore is a go-big-or-go-home aesthetic,” WGSN’s Head of Womenswear Sara Maggioni tells The Independent. “It emerged from a number of influences, from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie live action film to recent collabs such as Balmain x Barbie, Zara x Barbie and Barbie as David Bowie.”
The trend is influenced by the ongoing obsession with nostalgia, coupled with the fact that we’ve been wearing loungewear for the past two years. Nostalgia is key, both for those who lived through the olden days and are seeking solace in that familiarity, but in particular for a new demographic who is romanticising those times and experiencing anemoia (nostalgia for a time you’ve never known).
Driven by Gen Z, the Y2K trend has elements of girl power typical of 1990s to early 2000s Bratz dolls, TV shows such as Lizzie McGuire, movies including Legally Blonde and Clueless, as well as of ultra-girly trends like baby tees, belly chains, butterflies motifs and Juicy Couture chenille tracksuits. And these are all manifesting in Barbiecore.
What is Barbiecore?
Hot pink is the most commercial and by far the biggest trend associated with Barbiecore. We forecasted this colour back in 2020, when we announced Orchid Flower as our Colour of the Year 2022.
Hot pink has an energising quality; it’s fun, it’s bold. It is familiar and is not inaccessible like other vibrant shades. Millennial Pink paved the way for this new kid on the block, which is more intense, tapping into 1980s nostalgia and metaverse realms. Pink is also generally a good seller and can suit different skin tones and demographics.
It is now taking over the market, led by Valentino with its monochrome collection for A/W 22/23, but also seen across other tastemaking brands such as Nensi Dojaka, Balenciaga, Jacquemus, Ester Manas and Loewe, as well as celebrities ranging from Kim Kardashian, Zendaya and Lizzo to Florence Pugh and Lil Nas X.
Barbiecore is also about a sassier aesthetic – think bodycon silhouettes, cropped tops, miniskirts, statement platforms and dopamine-boosting colours and prints.
A pink statement
Gen Z is the most diverse and inclusive generation to date. This generation grew up in a different world where racial and ethnic identifiers are changing, and interracial marriages and same-sex unions are becoming the norm. Aesthetic standards have changed, too, so even nostalgic icons (like Barbie) and what they symbolise are evolving.
This cohort took the aesthetic that is associated with hyper-femininity and expressed it in a new way. Barbie embodied the role of middle-class, thin, white girls; Barbiecore and its related aesthetics, however, are embraced by a range of body types, races and gender identities.
For young women, it’s about flipping the male gaze on its head, reclaiming and challenging the bimbo aesthetic, and showing that intellect and sensuality can go hand in hand. It challenges victim-blaming culture, reinforcing the message that the problem with unwanted sexual advances isn’t what someone wears; it’s the harassers. It’s is seen by many as a new form of feminism and an unapologetic way of being “feminine”, rewriting the rules and shifting biases.
For young men, it’s about self expression, embracing their true selves even if it goes against societal norms. It taps into the soft masculinity aesthetic made more mainstream by the likes of Harry Styles.
Many Gen Z are embracing sassier styles as a sign of empowerment; of owning their body and sexuality. It’s a new guise that has evolved from what we previously saw. It’s more inclusive and it questions stereotypes. Why should hyper girly girls be labelled “dumb”? Why can’t men like glitter, ruffles and hot pink?
WGSN subscribers can check out more hyper-pink design and styling inspiration via the Fashion Feed.