Mementos of girly youth are back — in the fashion world, of all places. From the hot Barbie-pink being worn by celebs on runways to the nods to ballerinas and American Girl dolls both on the street and in social media feeds, femme-first nostalgia is everywhere.
But what's fueling the resurgence? A yearning for youth, plus a desire to reclaim feminism in its purest form could be behind it, say experts.
"It's no secret that Barbiecore is the hottest trend of the summer,” notes Emilia de Poret, fashion director of the global shopping and payment service Klarna, referring to a look distinguished by bubbly, over-the-top incorporations of pink inspired by the iconic doll that has dominated the toy industry since its 1959 debut.
“While the vibrant all-pink aesthetic has taken over fashion week runways, celebrity wardrobes, and street-style fits,” she adds, “we can definitely credit the anticipation around the upcoming Barbie movie as one of the main reasons for the uptick in purchases."
The rise of Barbiecore is in part thanks to Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, who play real-life Barbie and Ken in Greta Gerwig's highly-anticipated film,, set to come out next year.
But they’re not the only pair perpetuating pink. One of Hollywood's most captivating couples, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, have hit several red carpets looking every bit of Barbie and Ken for the rollout of Machine Gun Kelly's Life in Pink docuseries.
Good American co-founder Khloe Kardashian has also been sporting the trendy shade, opting once for a metallic variation of the classic hue.
TikTokers everywhere have been putting their own twist on the trend, raking in more than 30 million view with internet darlings such as writer and comedian Ziwe sharing their own version of Barbiecore.
High fashion is another undisputed barometer of what trends will trickle down into everyday style, and heavy hitters in the industry have dubbed pink the IT color of the moment.
According to global fashion shopping app Lyst's Q2 index, Valentino, helmed by Pierpaolo Piccioli and one of the hottest brands of 2022, has its own Pantone-recognized shade of pink, the "Pink PP" hue, featured in March during Paris Fashion Week. The fall/winter collection featured a series of looks all in the signature shade, which could be another reason pink has been dominating Instagram feeds everywhere.
"[When] Valentino creates an entire collection in that color, the emergence of that color becomes in high demand," Blake Newby, former style and beauty editor at Essence magazine, tells Yahoo Life.
The brand even painted an entire catwalk a custom shade of hot pink — and if that isn't enough, it also tapped Zendaya, an undisputed pop-culture treasure with wide influence, as an ambassador, solidifying pink as a principle shade this season.
Beyond the Euphoria star's likely influence, the penchant for pink could also reflect a mass desire for jovial expression after dreary pandemic years.
"I have never gotten as dressed up as I have now, once the world kind of started opening," says Newby, adding that a more progressive outlook on fashion has contributed to the rise of pink not only for women, but men as well. "There are a lot [fewer] rules. People are just realizing, like, sexual orientation doesn't have to be 'aligned' with how someone dresses."
All of this has translated to consumers taking part in the trend. According to Klarna, searches for pink minidresses have increased by 970% from January 2022 to June 2022, with pink blazers and jumpsuits seeing a 142% and 115% increase, respectively.
While brighter pinks have been dominating these trends, lighter pinks are not completely obsolete, as seen by a spiked interest in an adjacent trend…
Balletcore, a fashion trend inspired by idealized ballet aesthetics —think Tessa Thompson at the Met Gala, Sydney Sweeney's baby blue balletic cardigan on Euphoria and Barbie Ferreira for ES magazine — has seized control of For You Pages everywhere.
Even Olivia Rodrigo paid homage to the art in the music video for her song "Brutal," wearing a pink corset, tulle tutu and black fishnets, and apparently inspiring many users on TikTok, where the hashtag #balletcore has accumulated nearly 40 million views from those sharing their ballet-inspired looks — or critiques.
But while Barbie-inspired fashion seems to be rooted in happiness, balletcore doesn’t have the same positive connotations.
"The rise of balletcore is inspiring people to start ballet lessons, so I love that, but on the other side, ballet in the media and just like in general can be infantilized by groups," says Liz Blair, a 25-year-old longtime ballet dancer who shared her thoughts on the trend in a TikTok viewed over 200,000 times.
She noted that this take on athleisure typically incorporates various hues of soft pinks, flowy skirts and exuberant bows, all of which, according to Blair, are typically reserved for younger students. "Some of the ways that I see balletcore being represented, especially by non-ballet dancers … is more, like, children's ballet-class-core," she says, stressing that much of what she sees are harmless expressions of style, though she’s still cautious of constantly associating ballet with the very young.
"What is that saying about ballet? It's saying that as a society, we see it as something for kids, or is it saying, you know, everyone who does ballet should be infantilized. I feel like there's damage that can come from that as well," she says.
American Girl doll fashion and memes
Another beacon of adolescence returning to prominence has been American Girl dolls, referenced by TikTok users for some modern-day style inspo.
In this trend, young women have been sharing videos of how they dress now, comparing their style to that of the American Girl dolls they grew up — and the similarities, often including school-girl looks like knee socks, penny loafers and uniform-inspired outfits, are uncanny.
Further, the videos often appear as irreverent social media memes, humorously addressing real-life issues such as Roe v. Wade or virginity.
"It's very ironic to see childhood-toys-slash-characters being put into sort of modern-day adult situations," says Barrett Adair, the 27-year-old behind one of the biggest American Girl doll meme accounts on Instagram, Hellicity Merriman, the name a play on American Girl's Felicity Merriman doll.
The memes typically follow a "We need an American girl doll who…" format followed by a hypothetical, borderline inappropriate situation.
Cognitive psychologist and author of The Psychology of Fashion Carolyn Mair says the anonymity afforded by these memes allows people to discuss more taboo topics without fear of judgment.
"We can say, 'OK, I need an American Girl doll who does this thing that might be outrageous or risky that I want to do. But obviously I don't have the courage or the opportunity to actually do that myself.' So it's a way of putting it out there but it's separated from us," says Mair.
Putting distance between such topics can be as cathartic as it is funny — and it also makes sense.
"Nostalgia, and particularly ’90s nostalgia, continues to be part of the zeitgeist, so it isn't surprising when our fans—many of whom grew up with us and are now parents themselves — continue to bring American Girl into the cultural conversation," American Girl's general manager Jamie Cygielman tells Yahoo Life.
And that, as with Barbies and ballerinas, goes for fashion, too.
Says fashion historian and archivist Doris Domoszlai-Lantner, "It tends to be comforting for people to see something from their childhood in the current, contemporary times."
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