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The Exclusivity of an Old Money Aesthetic vs. the Empowering Nature of Barbiecore

by Cherish Salami

Two trends are taking centre stage in 2023. Despite their stark contrast, all things pink and ‘barbiecore’ are seen alongside the re-emerged trend of 'old money fashion' - but, despite their apparent differences, both trends are underpinned by ethical and social considerations that reflect current societal issues. 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, a surge in maximalist fashion has emerged - fuelled by a yearning for stimulation and self-expression following a period of physical and artistic constraint.

One colour that has gained popularity during this time? PINK.

From esteemed high-fashion houses such as Valentino to the vibrant realm of 'Barbiecore', and even earning the title of Pantone's 2023 colour of the year, this vivacious shade has infiltrated the fashion landscape.

Moreover, the recent release of the highly anticipated Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig and featuring Margot Robbie, has undoubtedly propelled the momentum of the pink movement.

This vibrant shade also serves as a symbol of femininity, diverging from historical associations of passivity.

In the past, reluctance to wear pink stemmed from concerns of being pigeonholed as overly feminine, a ‘bimbo’, or unintelligent.

For many, embracing the vibrant pinks of Valentino and the essence of Barbiecore equates to a powerful act of self-expression. As hyper-femininity and the Barbiecore ethos take centre stage, individuals reclaim the colour pink as a badge of empowerment.

In 2023, pink seamlessly integrates with the rise of bold and 'in-your-face' fashion, a trend that is increasingly prevalent.

In stark contrast to Barbiecore, a parallel trend of 'old money fashion' has re-emerged, exemplified by influencers like Sofia Richie, whose TikTok rebranding propelled her into the style spotlight this year.

Though not a novel style, its recent resurgence, witnessed in figures like Matilda Djerf, the founder of Djerf Avenue, indicates a lasting appeal. The muted, neutral tones synonymous with old money fashion radiate an effortlessly chic and timeless aesthetic cherished by many.

Harmonising with the concept of a 'capsule wardrobe', in line with Gen-Z's commitment to combat global warming, the sustained allure stems not only from promoting stylish appearances but also from embracing eco-conscious choices that steer clear of fleeting micro-trends and fast fashion.

Some, however, contend that the old money fashion aesthetic verges on monotony and stifles individual style by rendering wearers reminiscent of cardboard cutouts, an impression accentuated by the pervasive beige colour choices.

The allure of the old money aesthetic resides in its understated elegance and subtle opulence, with clothing choices consistently evoking sophistication. This contrast prompts some to ponder the seeming paradox, as proponents of the aesthetic often embrace fast fashion - a departure from the traditional notion of 'old money', which is closely linked to inherited wealth and elevated class.

Prominent figures like Sofia Richie, exemplifying the old money aesthetic online, occasionally deviate from its conventions by embracing contemporary trends or even dabbling in shades of Valentino pink. This fluid interpretation underscores that the old money aesthetic transcends mere colour palettes, primarily centred around the individuals who embrace it.

Even Kylie Jenner, a notoriously 'trendy' celebrity, has been observed embracing this aesthetic. Critics suggest that this move caters to a wider audience and addresses the demands for eco-conscious choices, thus questioning the aesthetic's integrity.

However, it remains crucial to acknowledge the positive influence of the old money aesthetic: encouraging a broader audience to invest in timeless, classic pieces with enduring value. Essential wardrobe staples like a white t-shirt or black blazer perennially exude style, providing a stark contrast to the transient allure of trends like Barbiecore - or any 'core' for that matter. Does anyone even recall clowncore or goblincore?

As a result, the 'old money' aesthetic is likely to contribute less to the rapid fashion cycle compared to the ephemeral hot pink trend, reminiscent of the neon lime green trend, hailed as 'the trending colour of 2022' by Mayra Peralta in Teen Vogue.

The unveiling of the Barbie movie and the resurgence of Valentino pinks, among other shades of pink, evoke a sense of delight and nostalgia, rekindling a connection with one's inner child and celebrating femininity in an inclusive manner.

While the name 'Barbiecore' may eventually lose its allure as the movie hype subsides, it remains an adaptable colour that can seamlessly integrate into various future looks and 'cores', such as balletcore, Y2K aesthetics, and more.

Although there’s no issue with appreciating classic clothing, the old money aesthetic often seems to revolve more around the individuals adorning the attire than the clothing itself.

Perhaps, it's the title 'old money' that triggers scepticism, rather than the essence of embracing classic fashion and adopting a sustainable approach to acquiring timeless pieces - a concept that elicits genuine enthusiasm.

By evaluating how both aesthetics coexist, we can learn a lot about our current life. 

Fashion often is an indicator of society. For example. The intriguing concept of the hemline index unveils a correlation between skirt lengths and stock market fluctuations. 

This theory suggests that during prosperous economic periods, hemlines tend to ascend - exemplified in the styles of the 1920s and 1960s. 

Conversely, in times of economic downturn, skirt lengths tend to elongate, as witnessed in the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street Crash - and, arguably, now. 

This captivating index, when juxtaposed with the simultaneous rise of two contrasting fashion aesthetics, offers a unique lens into societal dynamics. 

The resurgence of 'old money fashion' speaks to a burgeoning sustainability consciousness, resonating with ethical considerations. 

On the other hand, the empowering 'barbiecore' movement aligns with the spirit of women's empowerment and the reclamation of self-expression following the upheavals of the post-Covid era. 

Fashion trends offer a glimpse into contemporary society, where style becomes a vibrant language reflecting our values and aspirations. So, dress as you please! But, perhaps take note of what ‘trends’ are telling us under the surface. 

Edited by Emily Duff


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