Ranking 2023's Internet Aesthetic Trends

Ranking 2023's Internet Aesthetic Trends

BYJoan SummersDec 29, 2023

In an online landscape where everything is aesthetic — is anything even aesthetic?

2023 hurried along the growth of a rather concerning trend in fashion spheres online, in which self-described "trend analysts" categorize every single expression of self on the internet. From there, users of various social media apps rush to fit themselves inside the parameters and marketing consultants hurry along fast fashion brands to churn out drops of clothing to match.

The effects of this extractive fashion cycle are most obvious in the wildly menacing articles that crop up online throughout the year, which proclaimed things like: "Europecore is summer's hottest trend for jet-setting coastal cowboys tired of Barbiecore everything!"

What, we found ourselves frequently asking, does anything even mean anymore? To suss out the answers to life's biggest questions, I sat down with PAPER fashion editor Andrew Nguyen with the original purpose of ranking 2023's biggest trends. From there, our conversation evolved into a sprawling dialogue on feminist literature, algorithms, the inherent whiteness of "Vanilla Girl" and so much more.



🎀🌸💗 #barbiethemovie #barbiestyle #pinkaesthetic #barbiecore #barbieoutfit

Joan: Let's start here, since it makes the most sense in terms of visible trends this year. The name, "Barbiecore," is self-explanatory enough and is almost entirely the fault of Warner Bros. marketing department in the lead up to its flagship blockbuster, Barbie. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this Andrew, since I'll probably have a slightly problematic take that will definitely start a fight.

Andrew: Barbiecore seems the most pervasive and like the one that I saw most IRL, probably because it's not that difficult to adopt. You just have to buy some pink and throw it all together. Although I have seen some really cute iterations of it. It makes me sad that it all started as a marketing ploy though, like you said.

Joan: Exactly. My primary problem with the "trend cycle," which is more like an out-of-control hamster wheel these days, is the flimsy nature of their origins. Instead of growing organically out of subcultures — and then sadly adopted by commercial vultures selling those identities back to people — more and more of these "cores" are just marketing gimmicks. Likewise, how many of the clothes that people bought to wear to the various movie theater events ended up in landfills or thrift shops? I have this same issue with the post-Renaissance tour metallic waste, to be clear.

Andrew: Literally! It was basically a themed party disguised as a trend. I hate to admit that it was fun, though, looking at people's interpretations of Barbiecore, but then it disappeared so quickly.

Joan: Disappeared as soon as Margot Robbie got back to her old Chanel tricks on the red carpet. (Which, to be clear, are actually quite good, and one of the few instances of Virginie Viard's design sensibilities I moderately enjoy looking at.) I'm thinking this lands at a solid 2nd, much as I hate to admit it. We've got some real stinkers on this list I'd hate to put higher. Do you agree?

Andrew: I do NOT agree with Margot Robbie looking quite good in Chanel or the ranking. I think this is solidly in 4th!

Quiet Luxury


Quiet Luxury from a Quiet Luxury Retail Buyer #quietluxury #succession #successionhbo #luxurybrands #quietluxury2023 #bestquietluxurybrands #greenscreen

Joan: I legitimately hate this. Typing it out made me want to peel all my skin off and crawl into a ditch until people read Fanon or Marx. Literally just pick up a book even.

The trend centers around the belief that the wealthy are dressing "quietly" luxurious and expensive, with designers like The Row or Loro Piana. My issue is that none of these brands are very quiet. It's the effect of fast fashion on people that keeps consumers from clocking them almost immediately. (Do I hate the clothes, though? Of course not. I'm a slut for Ann Demeulemeester.)

Andrew: Wasn't this one brought up also because of Succession? It really hits home the idea that just because you have money, it doesn't mean you have taste. You just buy the most expensive shit in the most expensive stores because a sales associate says so and then throw it all together. People on TikTok also seem to be confused with Quiet Luxury and minimalism, which is all about paying attention to tailoring and fabrics, whereas Quiet Luxury is like "Here is an average trouser paired with an average sweater that basically looks like a Banana Republic mannequin."

Joan: Yes, like most of these trends, the quietly luxurious aspirations are adopted not with thoughtful thrifting and upcycling vintage finds, but replacing more expensive clothes with cheap polyester.

Also, I found it most funny that the images they'd post of various Succession characters or the Olsens are also how the average fashion editor and/or publicist shows up to industry events and runway shows. I think you're on the money that they confuse wasp-y Banana Republic castaways with coats from something like The Row. Again, when you're in the room with them, you can TELL the difference! There's nothing quiet about it.

That said, I love a minimal trouser and boot and coat that I got for unbelievably cheap on a site I won't post here, because the prices are still reasonable. I'm willing to go higher with this placement. Like, above 5th.

Andrew: Can we agree this is 3rd and Barbiecore is 4th?

Joan: I'm willing to cede this, yes. Although I'm curious to see what gets placed higher.


Joan: I'm sorry, this one is so stupid. I really won't waste much time. It's another marketing gimmick tied to The Little Mermaid's release cycle that made less of an impact, even if the movies are of comparable quality. (Let's just hope those sisters put out another album soon!)

Also, I can't see mermaid adjacent things without thinking about this girl I knew who grew up to become a professional mermaid for like ... pool parties. No shade, of course. I just think about her sometimes.

Andrew: This one goes out to her! I hope she's doing well. I didn't see this one IRL so I guess it literally was just for TikTok?

Joan: It was literally just for TikTok, I think.

Andrew: Although I did see one girl style a cute look that she called Mermaidcore which was a bra top with a tight micro mesh maxi skirt pulled down to show her bikini bottoms. Still, I think this one is last for me.

Joan: Absolute dead last ... for now.




Joan: I am traumatized by the lifelong injuries women in their 30s gave themselves wearing ballet flats in the early '10s, and cannot see this trend as anything more than an attempt by Big Ballet Flat to reinvigorate a dying industry. (Mostly, the Payless Shoes sale section. Does that store even exist still?)

Andrew: I love this one! Black Swan is also a core memory that shaped me growing up, so maybe I have this weirdly dark sexual thing attached to it ... anyway! I've seen people walking around New York incorporating ballet flats and bows with their own personal style, and it honestly looks cool. Like this one guy was wearing Tory Burch black patent ballet flats with baggy trousers that sat low enough to show his red boxers with a white tee. It was cool.

Joan: As an aesthetic, it is quite interesting! I'm not above tulle, despite everything, and have a few babydoll dresses I deploy in the summer to great effect. I think I just have an aversion to cream as a color choice in clothing, especially on satins and fake silks, which this style relies heavily on. That said, I'm all for supporting balletcore if it leads to a revival of Betsey Johnson's old designs.

Andrew: Another thing about balletcore: brands like Miu Miu and Sandy Liang just do the girly thing so well, and we just live in an era of calling everything core now.

Joan: Yes! I think Miu Miu has been living in that niche for some time. I'll let you pick the placement, I have no particular feelings about this one.

Andrew: 6th, for now? I think we have much more balletcore to see in 2024.



No matter where you are, you can bring #EuroSummer home by channeling #Europecore summer fashion trends. Need help? We've got you covered with all the basics ❤️ #FashionTok #ellemagazine #summeroutfits

Joan: This feels like another TikTok psyop by grifting travel influencers.

Andrew: I don't get Europecore. It’s like saying Americacore or Asiacore ... like what? This one girl said it's giving two piece set or crochet top while drinking an Aperol spritz on a yacht in Positano.

Joan: Here's what Elle had to say when the trend popped up this winter, sort of adjacent to the ripples left behind by The White Lotus season two: "Not quite 'quiet luxury' or 'coastal grandmother' but sharing those trends’ aspirational qualities, Europecore has become so big even Target has a themed edit that suggests you 'dress to manifest travels abroad' with items like slip dresses and strappy sandals."

It's one of a few trends on this list that also seems to reach for the nostalgia of the "old world" without quite understanding what that world is, or why the rest of this planet has moved on. (Ahem, colonialism, anyone?)

Andrew: So it's basically the European version of American Quiet Luxury, which is more glamorous but still loves wealth.

Joan: It was cute on The White Lotus, sure, because The White Lotus had fabulous costume design. But I think this is a trend best left to Love Island contestants in Cult Gaia polyester knits, or that one influencer who never seems to leave the yacht she's trapped on in the Med.

Also, to your point about Quiet Luxury, the trend is glaringly white. It postures the consumer as a member of some globalized white elite on vacation with only people who look exactly like them.

Andrew: It also seems less like a -core to me and more like a timeless style, which is why I want to kind of place this last, which maybe leads me to believe Quiet Luxury should also be towards the end.

Joan: Yes, I find it quite asinine.

Andrew: Let's just call them Whitecore, or WASPcore.

Joan: YES, EXACTLY! At the very least, it's an interesting examination of what people consider the hallmarks of whiteness here and abroad. I'm cool with this being dead last. Although I'd reserve 9 for this next entry.



@ashley @linette 🎀 @lilybby @rian #pinkribbon pink ribbon #arthistory101 #medialiteracy

Joan: I know I already told people to read, but seriously people, this trend makes me believe the children were actually left behind by the Bush administration. It's interesting that it shares its name from Hannah Webster Foster's 1797 epistolary novel, The Coquette, which highlights the mistreatment and fraught social relations of women in 18th and 19th century American society.

The entire aesthetic, or -core, draws upon "traditional" feminine imagery, in what young people think is a reclamation of those things, or even celebration of them. While it definitely broke through in 2023, it's been around since at least the craze of pro-anorexia blogs on Tumblr when I was in high school in 2011.

Andrew: Do they think they're reclaiming anything or do they just think it's cute? All I know is that I've seen a ton of year-end trend recaps dedicated to talking about how 2023 was the "Year of the Girl."

Joan: I've also seen a few fashion archivists and writers get into scuffles with its adoptees online over this very matter!

Andrew: I agree though that it isn't anything new. If I went back to my old Tumblr I could find images of girls in corsets and lace and bows through the entire thing set as a backdrop to Lana or Marina lyrics.

Joan: I think like most of these trends, there's an element of mindless consumerism and TikTok trend cycling to it. But many of its more vocal proponents also have a devotion to its broader social implications, which place women in the role of the "divine feminine," with things such as softness, cuteness, etc. Like Europecore, it really capitalizes on the hallmarks of white, cis femininity specifically, which is probably where my revulsion to it comes into play. I know they don't teach feminist literature in schools, especially not now, but I'm begging these girls to at least pick up an introductory text, like Christine Delphy's Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women's Oppression.

The whole thing seems farcical to a bystander, though. I mean, wrapping Adderall prescription bottles in craft store ribbons? Let's wake it up.

Andrew: I've actually had conversations with friends about how for a couple of years everything was like androgynous and nonbinary and now it seems like people are presenting to the extremes of gender. Like I see gays trying to be hypermasculine and then seeing trends like this that are super girly.

Joan: Ok, let's really wake it up! Trans people have been on this beat, and I think there's always something regressive and exciting about my people playing with the gendered roles of clothes outside the more androgynous umbrella. But when I see cis people adopt these trends so wholeheartedly, it's hard not to think of them as reactionary!

Like, how do we square the rise of a trend that carves out a rigid view of "femininity" while they're literally trying to ban drag queens and destroy trans people's lives? That's what makes me the most sad, though. TikTok doesn't necessarily encourage a healthy engagement with what you see on the feed, and a lot of this boils down to, "Oh, cute, let me shop on ASOS for that look."

Andrew: But also if people are aware of these things and still adopting it consciously, is it regressive or is it an attitude of I'm just going to wear whatever even if it's seen as a traditionally feminine. Though I also think of my little cousins and my little brother who just see these trends and are like "Oh this is cute!" and then scroll to the next thing. But I think this is higher! It really has made waves in real life style and runways. Coquette, not Europecore, for the record.

Joan: I think it's more broadly reactionary to see what it might represent and choose it anyway, even if people might not square it as such. If we're going by impact, I'd say it's 1-2 for sure, much as I hate to admit it.

Andrew: I think like 5/6.

Joan: Thank god, I almost passed out. Let's go with 5th, for now, considering it had much more visibility than Balletcore.



@Mel 4Ever (and ever and ever)🔥 #PaperMagazine

Joan: Bimbocore, AKA PAPERMagazine.

Andrew: NUMBER ONE! It's giving tiny crop tops, teeny mini skirts, tight dresses and generally just showing body and acting dumb. I have a theory that Bimbocore practitioners are actually so intelligent and self-aware that it gets too tiring carrying that burden. They make a conscious decision to put it away to give their brains a little break.

Joan: I have such an affinity for Bimbocore. It's transcends trend for me. Any memory of and love for it is inextricably intertwined with the trans women who brought me up in 2013, when I first started hormones with any regularity. Even before that, it was when I was the only out trans person I knew in 2011 and cosplaying as a faggot at school, because the word wasn't yet in everyone's lexicon.

Long nails, short skirts, Britney and XTina and Danity Kane and Mariah Carey ... all my first loves! Bedazzled babydoll t-shirts and wigs down to my ass or the floor ... Mugler's "Angel" wafting through the club. That's what heaven is to me.

Andrew: That sounds like the bars and clubs in Bushwick and LES in 2023 also. I feel like the most powerful people I know are the Bimbocore trans girl. Like you!

Joan: Sometimes I hang my hat up though and run around in oversized black coats and baggy jeans. Only when I'm trying to manipulate men in a different way, of course. We agree this is solidly in 1st, right?

Andrew: Yes, number one for sure.

Coastal Cowgirl


Dont fix what ain’t broke, as they say 🤷🏼‍♀️ #wearwhatmakesyouhappy #coastalgrandmother #maincharacterenergy #nancymeyersaesthetic #nancymeyers #romanticizeyourlife #styletok #fashiontok #fyp #pinterestaesthetic #thatgirl #foryou

Joan: These two feel in line with the trend of quiet luxury and Europecore, although I have a few interesting observations about it. Mainly, every single image of the "coastal grandmother" — knits, boat neck sweaters, cowls, fishermen's jackets, blue jeans — is of Diane Keaton. Otherwise, the old white ladies who pepper Cape Cod. I'm sorry to keep banging this drum, but let's wake it up!

Likewise, Coastal Cowgirl feels like a broader ploy to link conservative women on the coasts to some imaginary, fictive version of "The West" (Texas and surrounding states). Hence pairing things like cowboy hats and boots with more "urban" everyday wear. I've even seen athleisure thrown into the mix. Like, "I may be from San Diego, but I promise I'm not like these transgender hippies with their weed and pronouns and baggy clothes!" I'm mostly kidding ... or am I?

Andrew: Is Coastal Cowgirl not just how girls legitimately dress in places like Nashville, Dallas, etc.? It's basically just pairing a straw cowboy hat and cowboy boots with any outfit. One of my old guilty pleasures was watching sorority girl YouTubers from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, and this was their style!

Joan: Crying picturing you deep in the 'Bama Rush TikTok mines. It is funny, though, because I'm from the part of the Bay Area where girls have always paired their PacSun threads with boots they bought at Boot Barn.

Andrew: I grew up around people from rural Missouri so it gives me a weird sense of nostalgia.

Joan: Not us being literal cowgirls. This is our fight song. Why don't we put this after Mermaidcore, around 8th? Together I think they made more of an impact than Mermaidcore or Europecore!

Andrew: Yes! You’re gonna be so mad at me for how much I love tomato girl.

Tomato Girl


It might be 12 degrees in Melbourne but that doesn’t stop us from dreaming of a #tomatogirlsummer • #fashiontiktok #tomatogirl #fashiontrends2023 #styleinspo #fyp

Joan: I'm talking way too much. Since this is apparently your niche, why don't you take it away? It's just like, red with everything, if I'm understanding that correctly? Mixed with Italian nostalgia and picnic skirts.

Andrew: Yeah, I think of like, ‘60s Italian starlet. Gwen Stefani in the "Cool" music video is THE tomato girl!

It was the summer of the tomato girl. In spirit, it's living la dolce vita. Eating fresh produce with your summer fling in the park with a spritz or martini or negroni. In style, it's relaxed silhouettes, colors (red!), and prints. Did I dress like that at all this summer? No. But I just love a romanticized lifestyle and tomato girl represents that for me.

Joan: When I chose our designer for the wedding, there were other options. But that one felt really authentic to me, 'cause we go there every summer for five years. It's the life that I live, living la dolce vita! With ice creams, and paparazzi, and all the things that was like, eventually your campaign! And you stole that from me Andrew, when you copied my “la dolce vita” lifestyle.

I'll forgive you though, which is something Kourtney couldn't do when Kim confronted her on their little Hulu show. I don't mind these! I've been preaching the message of using red lipstick as blush for about 100 years now.

Andrew: Andrea Bocelli is MY favorite male singer of all time.

Joan: Maybe we can compromise, then! This ones in 2nd, maybe?

Andrew: Yes, 2nd!

Vanilla Girl and Latte Girl


vanilla girl clothing essentials you need!! 🤍👼 #vanillagirl #inspo #vanillagirloutfits #famous #foryoupage #fyp #viral #foryou

Joan: I don't even have to say what I'm thinking about aesthetics that traffic in all white and cream imagery, do I? We're all thinking it simultaneously, right?

Andrew: This one is dumb

Joan: It's indescribably dumb, Andrew.

Andrew: Can we just leave it at that?

Joan: I'd at least like to leave the Today Show's official segment on it up, for posterity!

"She’s minimalist, wearing primarily white and cream shades [...] But this new aesthetic goes beyond clothing — it’s a whole lifestyle that leans into the joys of comfort and luxury. nFrom wardrobe essentials in a neutral palette to make up must-haves that achieve a barely-there look to scented candles and cozy bedding, the trend shows vanilla doesn’t always have to be boring."

I feel like it's more asinine than the coastal subset of trends. Why don't we put this one in 8th, and shift them down.

Andrew: Yeah, fuck this one. I think it makes sense to put Mermaidcore above Vanilla, since at least it’s fun. Where does that leave everything else?

Joan: Is that your official decree, so we can never think about anything but Bimbocore and your Summer 2024 tomato girl plans ever again? I’m all for putting the vanilla girlies in 9th. With that in mind, here's PAPER's official ranking, until next year when we get a new crop of horrors to talk about.

  1. Bimbocore
  2. Tomato and strawberry girls
  3. Quiet Luxury
  4. Barbiecore
  5. Coquette
  6. Balletcore
  7. Coastal cowgirls and grandmothers
  8. Mermaidcore
  9. Vanilla and latte girls
  10. Europecore
I'm quite happy with the ranking, if you are! As PAPER's fashion editor, I feel like you should have the final say here.

Andrew: I will be a bimbo tomato for as long as I live.

Joan: Here's to whatever fresh hell 2024 cooks up! I'm calling it now, the keffiyeh is this winter's most important accessory.