Niche aesthetics are more prominent than ever before, especially with the rise of social media. Consumers are now in control of the types of fashion they want to see more of. Today’s consumers can now pick and choose what content they want to form deep connections with. Even though I have always been conscious that there was a mixture of different styles in fashion, it was not until the past couple of years that I have been made aware of the numerous aesthetic groups associated with a specific look.
Aesthetic groups have created club-like communities on a global scale in fashion as well as in lifestyle for people from all corners of the world to connect with based around the way they dress. In times when isolation and social distancing is encouraged and even necessary for one’s safety, these online ultra-niche communities offer people a realm to relate to like-minded people on a personal level through a common interest in specific fashion trends and ways of life.
During the pandemic, fashion might have been the last thing on people’s minds, with comfort being a priority. For most, fashion has been the least significant part of it all, however; people have reflected on the clothing they have been dressing themselves in. The changes people have made in regards to their fashion choices have evolved in the way that people have taken the time to rethink the clothing they wear and rethink how they truly feel about the types of clothing they have been choosing to put on their body.
For others, (including myself) this past year has been about experimentation with style. Many people have come to the realization that it is a struggle for them to pinpoint their fashion taste down to just a single aesthetic, so they decided to take time to figure out which ones they resonate with the most and try out as many as they can. When it comes to my personal style and the decisions I make in the different ways I dress, I have learned that it is hard for me to strictly stick to one type of style category. I personally prefer to mix my style up by dabbling in several aesthetics, which reflect the different sides of myself and my interests in many things.
To many, it might appear that there is a new aesthetic appearing every day, so I conducted some research, which included watching dozens of TikTok videos and I made the decision to go in-depth on some of the most popular aesthetics today. If you are in search of different styles to experiment with, new styles that could possibly interest you or have been focusing on one specific style and are just curious about what is out there, this list of aesthetics that are currently popular will help in your fashion journey.
Here are the 4 trends we’re going to discuss in this post:
1. Soft Girl
2. Ethereal Aesthetic
3. Indie Aesthetic
4. Dark Academia
1. Soft Girl (Softie) Aesthetic
The softie aesthetic is a collective of feminine-esque aesthetics dedicated to going for as girly of a look as possible, putting it in a trifecta of aesthetics, alongside VSCO and E-People. It consists of a lot of commonalities with some of the Kawaii-centric aesthetics in Japan, but with a more toned down look compared to how over-the-top some of the looks in Japanese based fashion tends to get.
Soft girl is a fashion style based on a hyper-innocent and a deliberately ultra cutesy, feminine look. It is popular among young women on social media at the moment due to its unapologetic embracement of all things feminine and not being afraid to show the world your love for all things super girly. When I think of a soft girl, Ariana Grande, the original soft girl comes to mind. Also, you don’t necessarily need to identify as a girl to embrace the softie aesthetic because it is for anyone and everyone. The super soft and sweet and judgment-free zone is for anyone who loves owning their feminine side. This aesthetic, alongside the E-Girl and VSCO Girl, has become increasingly popular on TikTok, which is notorious for the fast spread of fashion trends.
The elements in soft girl fashion includes the incorporation of pastel colors such as peach, yellow, lilac and others. Floral patterns and heart patterns are commonly worn. Oversized sweaters and cozy clothing play big parts in achieving the look. Plaid skirts, colorful hair clips and old jewelry are essential items. When it comes to wearing makeup, this aesthetic aims to portray a sweet or innocent persona. This look is often achieved with the help of pink blush and heavy lip gloss. Makeup with heavy blush, colorful eyeliner and even drawn on freckles or “faux freckles” help achieve the desired look.
The jeans that soft girl’s wear can range from a variety of colorful pastels to funky flares and simple light wash jeans. It’s all about what you pair jeans with, but no matter what you decide to wear, you want to be comfortable. Colorful crop tops with tiny embroidered graphics are a common staple. Knitted cardigans are a must right now in the softie aesthetic. White air forces have made a major comeback in the softie fashion community. Soft girl’s priorities are to focus on themselves and focus on ways they can become better versions of themselves, for themselves.
2. Ethereal Aesthetic
Ethereal is an aesthetic that is positioned around the feeling of being delicate in the highest sense of the word and light in ways that seems not to be of this human world. The ethereal aesthetic is by far the pinnacle of romantic aesthetics channelled with a mesmerizing sprinkle of otherworldly delicacy.
This aesthetic can be described as extremely heavenly and lighter than air feel. Certain things associated with this aesthetic are angels, angel wings, lace, floral patterns, chandeliers, royalty, cathedrals, cathedral ceilings, and lush rose gardens. It has a very fairytale and mystical aura to the aesthetic.
Ethereal elements in fashion typically include, white lace, champagne-coloured silk, diamond jewelry, gold accents, clear accessories, pearls, angel patterns, pale colors, white fur (faux of course), drop earrings, pleated skirts, white mesh, etc. When it comes to the color palette in an ethereal wardrobe, soft delicate shades are the only way to go. Some colors include lilac, skye blue, nude, blush pink, pearlescent white, baby green, cream, etc. Pretty much any shade that gives off heavenly undertones will greatly help in achieving this romantic style you desire.
The new hit Netflix show Bridgerton has brought a more royal and whimsical take to the style scene with corsets, pearl accessories, and lots of airy dresses fit for a stroll in a garden. To achieve a Bridgerton inspired ethereal clothing aesthetic that is practical for everyday wear includes the incorporation of silk scrunchies, light coloured and lightweight silk slip dresses, floral dresses and tops, corset tops paired with dresses and even jeans. This aesthetic radiates youthfulness and enchantment.
3. Indie Aesthetic
The Indie aesthetic is heavily based on individuality and independence. There are two subcultures of Indie, with the aesthetic originating in the early 2000s, the aesthetic recently underwent a modern rebirth in 2019-2021, which has been labeled as Indie Kid. Indie Kid consists of a bright, and colorful style that usually involves oversized baggy jeans, large hoodies, and small crop top shirts. This aesthetic climbed in popularity again through the viral app TikTok and is based around bright colors, early 2000s-style fashion, and a skater type of lifestyle.
This renewal is different from the original Indie style in several ways, such as the former Indie aesthetic did not include such a vibrant psychedelic color palette and was considered by today’s standards to be more “alternative” and dark. The Indie style also involved a variety of independent music genres, including alternative rock. This can also include the indie movie genre, as a significant amount of movies in this genre such as, 500 Days of Summer and Ghost World add to the original indie aesthetic.
I would say today’s updated version of the Indie aesthetic is a more relaxed and laid back version of the y2k aesthetic. The former Indie aesthetic conveys more of a darker, moodier tone. Photos in this aesthetic often consist of feelings of being sad and feelings of being misunderstood text overlaid to further communicate the mood. However, with today’s revival of the Indie aesthetic, and prominent use of social media there is also a specific type of style that videos and photos are edited. There are many filters to choose from that give off the Indie vibe. The filters give the specific look of being heavy on saturation and vibrance, and the contrast is lowered. These videos and photos are most commonly edited through photo editing apps on an iPhone and shared on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
Today, the Indie aesthetic fashion has a lot in common with the fashion trends of the 2000s. Typical clothing items in an Indie wardrobe includes crop tops, baggy pants, and jeans, oversized tees, sweatshirts and collared shirts. Typical shoe wear includes: Converse, Vans, Air Force Ones, and Adidas. The style of makeup is natural or bright, sometimes heavy blush, and hair is worn however they feel they are most comfortable in , although bright hair colors are common. Some notable brands where you can find this type of clothing are Princess Polly, Shein, Brandy Melville, Francesca’s, American Eagle, Vans, and various thrift stores which are my favourite when I’m experimenting with different styles and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
4. Dark Academia Aesthetic
Dark Academia is an aesthetic that is based around the romanticization of classic literature, the quest of self-discovery, and a general love for knowledge and learning. Dark Academia’s best-known visual variations stem primarily from European cultures as well as inspiration from Oxford University and Ivy League Universities in the United States. Originally based on European culture, dark academia style is based around classic literature, that contains a strong focus on history and self discovery. Oftentimes, this aesthetic is more moody, mysterious and “dark” compared to other academia styles such as light academia.
A main inspiration for Dark Academic clothing attire stems from 1940’s prep school uniforms. Clothing elements from the 1950’s suburban American prep school look are often incorporated, this includes sweater vests or sweaters worn tied over the shoulders. Clothing items associated with the dark academia aesthetic are; blazers, carigans, long coats, plaid skirts, knitted sweaters, oxford shoes, button up shirts, turtle necks, and plaid skirts/ trousers. There is a very specific color palette incorporated in this specific look, the colors include dark neutrals, black, brown, dark green,cream, ivory, dark green, burgundy, and soft yellow and different shades of grey.
Typical activities associated with dark academia life are; learning a dead language, sketching strangers on your daily commute, learning the piano and visiting art galleries or old cathedrals. Dark academia has the key values of intelligence, curiosity and existentialism among many others. The typical fabric choices are more upscale, such as cashmere, wool, and tweed, however; linen and cotton are also very common. Accessories are usually kept to a minimum, but when utilized bracelets, rings, pendants, watches, cuff-links, and other dapper add-on pieces are added to an outfit.
The four aesthetics I mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of niche fashion communities there are. Experimentation with personal style has been encouraged now more than ever before, and there are tons of content containing outfit inspo for each aesthetic that is being uploaded on a daily basis. The pandemic has unexpectedly elevated style subcultures like never before. For many, experimenting with an extreme sense of style is a form of escapism, an outlet for creative expression, and a way to find out who you are. In times when we are forced to spend more time alone with ourselves, we are forced to look inwards and really evaluate who we want to be, and starting our journey with how we dress ourselves is essential and has even led to communities forming over this common interest in niche styles.