Internet subcultures such as gothcore, clowncore, and honeycore have all enjoyed their days in the sun, imprinting their signature style on For You Pages (FYPs) and themed ASOS orders. Soon, however, these trends are bound to fade into the peripheral, shifting from a viral hashtag on TikTok to an obscure subreddit thread—except, of course, for one: coquette. Is this an established aesthetic that celebrates female empowerment? Or is it yet another problematic members only club that fetishises hyper-femininity?
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the coquette aesthetic, let me walk you through the style’s origin. Imagine that it’s 2010, Gossip Girl is humming along in the background, you’ve logged out of MSN and you’re sitting down at your laptop, prepped and pumped to dive head first into your favourite online rabbit hole: Tumblr.
While scrolling through selfies of Kylie Jenner with dip dyed hair and varying sexual content, you’d probably come across a barrage of girls sporting dresses, frills, lace, and a whole lot of pink. The coquette style has been defined by resident subculture expert hub Aesthetic Wiki as “a broad term for hyper-feminine aesthetics that incorporate elements of youth and teenage girlhood.” Of course, within this umbrella term, there are a vast number of subgenres, such as dollette, lolita, fairy, forest girl, and—most controversially—nymphet.
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While the coquette aesthetic carries its own set of negative connotations, the nymphet look has been criticised by academics and civilians alike for decades. Unlike lolita —which, having originated in Japan, favours a Victorian-era inspired brand and actively tries to disassociate itself from sexualisation—the nymphet aesthetic is actually based upon the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and is widely considered as a term for “sexually precocious young girl.”
Lolita follows the story of a middle-aged professor who becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. The child also happens to be the daughter of the protagonists’ supposed love interest. The highly controversial 1955 novel perpetuated and combined motifs and themes of young girls and eroticism, particularly from the older male gaze.
While many online reviews (such as NPR’s in 2006) have commented on the inappropriate nature of Nabokov’s prose, they almost always conclude by celebrating the novel for its complexities—in turn, prioritising its literary importance over the harm the author’s protagonist may have caused.
While attempts have been made to reclaim the nymphet term, re-centring the aesthetic around positive femininity has resulted in the persistence of the core origins behind the style in promoting the hyper-sexualisation of young girls.
While the nymphet aesthetic harbours negative societal commentary, the coquette style has proved to be incredibly valuable to a number of young girls. Individuals who identify with this aesthetic online often use their platforms to promote embracing one’s femininity—reclamining fashion trends as empowering rather than allowing internalised misogyny to stop them in their tracks.
With a pair of Lana Del Rey-esque sunglasses in one hand and a Lily Rose Depp corset in the other, many have found comfort and happiness in expressing themselves through this bubblegum lens. Currently on TikTok, #coquette boasts 4.7 billion views—spanning across categories such as fashion, lifestyle, accessories, and homeware.
Leading the pack is creator Kellen-Pippa Beckett, or as she’s better known to her followers, @coqxette. Beckett has amassed over 211,000 followers on the video-sharing platform and dedicates her page to all things coquette, be it outfit inspo, Gilmore Girls content or “coquette big sis” advice tips.
SCREENSHOT recently spoke with Beckett about how she initially stumbled across the trend. “I first heard the term describing the style on TikTok around a year ago, probably this time last year. And I was so intrigued that we finally had a name for this style or fashion that I wanted to take part in that ‘genre’ of video and make my own,” the influencer explained.
Beckett went on to add: “I love the plain femininity of it all. I know I have to be careful when putting a label on what things are feminine, but I also love how it’s an aesthetic genuinely anyone can enjoy. It makes me feel empowered and happy to be a woman but I also love all of the things visually. I love the colours and delicate themes, the music that’s associated with it. The fashion. I love it all.”
Another platform where the subculture is rife is Etsy. A quick scroll through the chaotic marketplace and you’ll come across pearly heart earrings, lace gloves, and Renaissance corsets—in other words, a perfectly curated coquette aesthetic starter pack.
Bella, or t0othfairyz as she’s known on Etsy, sells a number of coquette and dollette themed items on her page, ranging from slip dresses to ruffle embroidered lingerie. The vendor told SCREENSHOT, “I guess the main exposure came from TikTok, as well as Pinterest. But I have always enjoyed it since I was younger, only now am I getting back into it again! I enjoy the embracement of femininity and I love the light colours.”
Such is its popularity that beauty and fashion publications such as Glamour have even dedicated entire features to the trend filled to the brim with any and all products a coquette newbie might need to partake in this soft and delicate dreamland.
Pastel pinks aside, it’s also incredibly important to recognise the problems within this community and the ways in which it can not only exclude others, but perpetuate toxic ideals.
Cherwell, Oxford University’s student newspaper, released an article in January 2022 examining The Dark Side of Coquette. The publication noted, “Hyper-feminine fashion has been called out on social media extensively for failing to include people of colour and a range of body types—to the point where some believe they encourage disordered eating and unrealistic standards.”
We sat down with college blogger, influencer, and coquette-aficionado Chazlyn Yvonne who spoke about her thoughts regarding the lack of diversity within this aesthetic, explaining, “The coquette style or community online is one of my favourite spaces, however, it is dominated by non-BIPOC individuals.”
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Yvonne continued: “Many people believe that coquette, along with other hyper-feminine styles are supposed to have a certain proximity to whiteness in order to achieve the aesthetic. Eurocentric features are often associated with coquette fashion which makes it lack diversity even more.”
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The blogger also mentioned the crucial need for greater representation within these online subcultures. “When you go on Pinterest and type ‘coquette aesthetic’ you will only see one type of person,” she said. “This is why I and several other black creators have made it our mission to represent BIPOC online.”
“I never had someone who looked like me in this style to look up to, which is why I aim to inspire girls to embrace their femininity. While it has definitely gotten better, there still is so much change that needs to happen,” Yvonne concluded.
Indychloe is another highly popular coquette TikToker who, as a woman of colour, has helped cultivate greater diversity among these often highly-exclusive aesthetic communities.
TikToker Beckett also recognised that these issues continue to exist within the swathe of coquette-based influencers online—particularly when it comes to visual-first platforms like Pinterest, where inclusivity almost always falls by the wayside.
“In my opinion, the community itself has a lot of work to do when it comes to inclusion and diversity,” Beckett admitted. “When I first discovered the aesthetic I found little to no diversity, and only the traditional ‘skinny white girl’ on Pinterest. I think it’s wrong and disgusting because anyone and everyone can love the style. I suffer with body issues myself which I don’t mind speaking up on and, as a community, its views towards body image and the ‘ideal’ body type to fit into the coquette aesthetic repulses me.”
“As the months go on I’m starting to see so much more inclusion as people start to realise that it’s an aesthetic and style which absolutely everyone can enjoy. Not just a minority that Pinterest says can. But I think we have a long way to go before it feels like everyone can be happy, not feel judged and feel included.”
As explored in the aforementioned article in Cherwell, regardless of the reasons for liking or choosing a certain style, “policing how women choose to express themselves and what makes them feel good is even less empowering.” Fashion should always be inclusive.
Other recent TikTok trends and aesthetics such as princesscore have proved overwhelmingly powerful in promoting inclusivity and encouraging marginalised individuals to embrace their inner royalty.
It truly seems as though gen Zers have a firm handle on identifying weak spots among mainstream fashion trends and using social media to create a far more expansive space for people to freefall into their most authentic selves: pearl encrusted lingerie, daisy printed stockings, and everything in between. While social media is undoubtedly heavily flawed, it’s hard to deny the good it can also do when utilised correctly.
In February 2022, Grazia defined the coquette aesthetic as a much-needed gen Z reinterpretation of a historically negative trend. The magazine noted: “The contemporary reiteration of the coquette is more inclusive and empowering. It is more about embracing the shades of feminine beauty than sexualizing innocence.”
“Ultimately, coquette is not just a trend but a lifestyle being adopted by many as it has the idea of self-love attached to its core. The coquette way of life is almost like you’re sending love letters to yourself regularly and romanticising the different facets of life as a whole,” the publication concluded.
With all of this in mind, what are your thoughts on this divisive yet unwavering aesthetic? Should coquette be left in the early 2000s? Or should it be embraced by young individuals revolutionising the ways in which we think about femininity? You have the power to decide.
Princess films raised us zillennials, starting with the beloved animated classics of our youth—Disney’s reigning renaissance period of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast springs to mind. Taking over our tweens and teens were timeless live-actions: The Princess Diaries and the iconic A Cinderella Story. With all their glitz and glamour, princess stories allowed our wildest dreams to come true. A lot of us dreamed as little younglings that we’d become princesses once older—some have made that a reality under the trend of princesscore. We got two prominent content creators to explain the aesthetic.
A myriad of fashion aesthetics and subcultures can be found in every corner of the internet. With a new one seemingly cropping up everyday, it’s hard to keep up. But what exactly is so different about princesscore and the creators at its forefront? Let’s have a look.
For starters, every trend has a predecessor, much like the birth of gothcore from metalcore or its soon-to-trend 2022 siblings dystopiacore and dopamine dressing, all trends have a lineage. The same can be said for princesscore, whose regal parent is none other than, you guessed it, royalcore.
SCREENSHOT has previously covered the relationship between the two trends, highlighting how princesscore is akin to a female variant of royalcore paired with all elite mannerisms a royal-to-be should have. So aren’t princesscore enthusiasts just sporting the same frilly frocks than royalcore fans? Well, yes and no…
While princesscore is made of an important fashion aesthetic, it’s also more than that. It represents a whole subculture for many, one that embraces the same opulent whimsy as royalcore does. Aesthetics Wiki, for instance, defines the trend as an “aesthetic based on the life, fashion, and mannerisms of a princess.”
Light and ‘airy-fairy’ is the look to go for when it comes to princesscore fashion. If you scroll through #princesscore on TikTok, which currently has 258 million views, you will uncover a glorious world of lavish extravagance. Getting out of your plebeian bag and into your noble one is easy, once you know what to wear. Fabrics that are considered high quality like mulberry, cashmere and shahtoosh are pinned and draped on the wearer. Not to mention, kerchiefs, floor-length gowns, shawls, high-boned collars or sweetheart necklines all emphasise the gentle feminine type of fragility this aesthetic thrives on displaying. Don’t forget to stock up on the linen upholstery, corsets, lace and embroidered patterns because they are frequently featured too.
For those with a taste for accessories, look no further than tiaras, gloves, parasols and even flushing fans. Gorgeous dainty statement jewellery in the forms of necklaces, anklets, bracelets, diadems and earrings might also do the trick. Last but not least, rub in some rich oils and perfume on your wrists and neck to truly capture the resplendent royal vibe.
However, much like its other royal counterparts princecore and queencore for example, the mood can only be fully set through the lens of being a ruler of some kind. Every princess needs her castle, right? The usual landscape you’ll find in representations of princesscore will include sweeping views, grand houses with large winding staircases as well as historical grounds and fields. Ballrooms and banquets are a favourite to depict the proper manner and etiquette-necessary spaces for princesscore followers to behave. If you don’t have access to a throne though, goblets, decorative mirrors or even a piece of velvet draped over your bedspread will work just as well.
And if you’re looking for a brand to purchase the apparel of princesscore (if you aren’t much of a seamstress like me) you might want to check out Selkie, known for its famous fairy-like outerwear, as well as Maison Amory, Lillou and Lunellery, to name a few.
Dressing up is only the first step to embracing the aesthetic. Princesscore’s very essence is to capture the experience of a princess. Its own ‘je ne sais quoi’, if you will, involves the particular and unexplainable dichotomies of being a princess. Aligned with the majestic robes and sumptuous silk comes the ‘Part of Your World’ in The Little Mermaid or “questions about her status and unknown future,” as its Aesthetics Wiki puts it. Just because princesses are usually not calling the shots when it comes to their country, it doesn’t mean that the queens aren’t “learning about it so that one day they can,’” the page continues.
It’s not all carriage rides through palace grounds, there are a number of activities and interests that line up with beginning your journey as a princess. Though daydreaming—my favourite hobby—is listed as one of them, there’s a lot of work in adopting the real princess treatment. Writing letters, playing chess and exploring quaint places all contribute to the monarch mindset. As for its values and philosophy, princesscore is rooted in refined feminine and moral traits with an emphasis on the qualities of regal rulership.
An appreciation of art and literature, reading poetry and high tea all further excel the lavish status that has catapulted the trend into the territory of mass subculture. There’s even a subsection of the Wiki page dedicated to listing prominent historical figures for you to sink your soon-to-be sovereign teeth into. Among the names are Elizabeth Olowu, Matilda Chong and Raziya al-Din, all of whom were strong and influential princesses throughout history.
To clue yourself up even more on the dos and don’ts of princesscore, you’ll be able to find a handy list of media and resources to follow for more inspiration and guidance. In my short survey of the page, I learned that there’s a National Princess week and a way to celebrate it, though I think I’ll use it as an excuse to scrounge up some treats for myself.
Online, creators who make princesscore content include YouTuber Jessica Vill, with a current audience of 600,000 on the platform, who has a series on etiquette and even a Royal Life playlist of videos to watch. As well as Alex, whose video of a dream mansion tour has amassed 40 million views so far.
Now that you know what princesscore is, it’s important you familiarise yourself with the different ways in which this aesthetic manifests itself online—because all that glitters is not gold when you’re not white.
Though most of us wished we wore the glorious yellow gown featured in Anastasia, not all of us could truly picture ourselves in it (even as a fairytale). For black girls, the range of representation during this era was quite slim and nothing is a bigger roadblock to immersing yourself in fabulous fantasy than not seeing yourself represented in the stories you look up to. We weren’t princesses but more the princesses’ helpers, or, even worse, one-liner side characters.
When it comes to the small canon of black princesses, my memories start (and end) with Brandy featured in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (released in 1997) or more recently Tiana in The Princess and The Frog, (which came out in 2009). Not an array of princesses to look up to at all, compared to Disney’s large movie collection. In recent years, the entertainment and media conglomerate has tackled criticism by reversing some of its princess tropes and bolstering their girlboss lineup with some kick-ass characters of colour (with crowns, of course). Moana, Raya and the Last Dragon and the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid featuring singer Halle Bailey all play a part in giving the next generation well-rounded princesses to aspire to be like.
In the meantime however, black creators were quick to make it their mission to spearhead the change they want to see in the future. On TikTok, you’ll find many black creators using the hashtag #blackprincesscore, which currently has over 5.6 million views. Making their own dreams come true, these creators have taken hold of the hashtag. Be it black creators showing off their acting skills in Reign line recitals or exhibiting traditional royal wear for royalty outside of the west, this community has created a fantasy of their own where black girls see themselves represented as princesses too. About time.
SCREENSHOT spoke to Porsha Hall (@porsharenaehall on TikTok), a prominent black creator with almost 62,000 followers on the app, and April Tillman (@apriljxo on TikTok), another creator with over 34,000 followers on Instagram, and asked them to talk a little bit about their world as black princesses. Hall started her online journey with princesscore back in December 2020. With the goal to “inspire women to embrace their femininity through the art of fashion,” Hall has documented her style choices and growth in the community for viewers to enjoy. Meanwhile, Tillman started content creating on TikTok as a plus-size black creator serving pure princess realness and hosting open discussions about being black in the princesscore community.
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We know what princesscore is about as outsiders, but what does it entail for those who are active members of the community? “For me, you can be a princess in any aesthetic as long as your heart is in the right place. Character is number one,” Hall graciously elucidated. “In order to be a princess, you have to believe you already are one,” she continued.
Tillman shares the same opinion it seems. “For me, princesscore is more than just a hobby or aesthetic, it’s a lifestyle! I enjoy incorporating it into my daily routine, self-care, my interactions with others, and even into my business,” she explained.
This triggered me to ask how she got involved with such a specific and fairly niche subculture. “Princesscore is a lifestyle I have always had. My mother raised me as if I was already royalty, which is why it was easy for me to finally accept this aesthetic with confidence,” Hall shared.
I wanted to learn more about how black creators navigate princesscore spaces online and get a clear understanding of how open the community is to diversity. “It’s an honour because, as many of my supporters expressed to me, I am becoming a pioneer for this aesthetic, especially in the black community,” Hall said.
For Tillman, princesscore at its core is about having fun. “I’ve met so many kind people, which is awesome because this is an aesthetic that typically black creators aren’t included in.”
“Now that I’m an adult and can set my own pace for myself in life, I get to fully explore and bring to light my childhood dreams,” she enthusiastically continued.
Having grown up in a predominantly white community, Hall understandably takes great pride in being the representation others might also need—though she did admit that there are cons to the community as with any other, “Most people are not comfortable with black creators being interested in this space because of the stereotypes that have been put on us due to society standards,” she shared.
Likewise, Tillman divulged a similar story, “As a child, I always enjoyed princess-inspired aesthetics, but liking pink or feminine things wasn’t considered cool.” However, with the support of the community, she described feeling “so connected” to herself and others who related to her upbringing.
Lack of representation and visibility is unfortunately a very common issue for black creators. “We are not to blame for our lack of visibility but the support we have for one another makes the journey a little less difficult. It can be very discouraging to see a lack of growth,” Hall told me. Confirming that it’s not about the numbers for her, the content creator explained that she is more focused on the people she wants to inspire. Tagging her videos under #blackprincesscore as well as the general TikTok hashtags is Hall’s way to reach other black creators in the community. “This is to help us feel comfortable being welcomed in this space.”
“Due to black history still being hidden, most people have not learned about black Europeans or were taught that we simply didn’t exist during that period, which is completely false. I have received hate comments saying to ‘dress African’ instead of culturally appropriating European fashion,” Hall went on to say, confessing, “I too had to educate myself on this matter to be able to continue feeling safe enough to express being in princesscore.” Tillman commented that “many people don’t even realise creators like myself exist.” However, every princess must remember that while you can’t change someone’s mind by arguing, “we can tell our stories which often will cause someone to think differently.”
I wanted to ask Tillman if her experiences differed due to being plus-size in the community and she had this to say, “I have found that some people are a bit more apprehensive about my content because they may feel that they can’t relate because they are thin.”
“I have received criticism because plus-size people are told to be the most presentable version of themselves to be accepted, and my content does centre around being presentable,” she further elaborated.
Alongside the already marginalising experience that many black creators face in these niche spaces, Tillman noted that “there’s a movement to stop expecting plus-size people to participate in respectability politics and fight against it.”
“There’s something magical about a well-fitting dress with a big skirted bottom perfectly suited for twirling,” Tillman told me during our conversation. I couldn’t agree more, honestly.
“Growing up, I have always been interested in dressing feminine. The figures I am inspired by were Disney princesses such as Princess Tiana, Princess Aurora, Brandy as Cinderella and other fairytale characters. My fashion sense is also influenced by my mood. I am an overall loving person so pastels are my main palette because it brings me comfort and peace,” Hall shared.
Princesscore is a lot more than just an alternative fashion trend for Hall though. “It can go far the more we continue to feel space in this aesthetic. In my opinion, I do believe we are heading back into a more patient and slower living lifestyle.” I asked Hall to go further into details on this “slower living style” and to precise whether she was referring to the pandemic-induced lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. It should be noted that COVID-19 helped blow up princesscore with the success of Netflix’s Bridgerton.
“The pandemic helped us realise it was okay to be more patient in life. When Bridgerton was released, everyone wanted to live out their royal fantasy, which helped jumpstart the rise of princesscore,” Hall confirmed.
Tillman has also previously talked about her natural hair online and I wanted to know more about it. Nerve-wracking as it may be, Tillman admitted that she believes “more and more creators of princesscore are showcasing their natural hair.”
“Typically, the media images around princess-inspired hair include taking it from a natural state to a state of straightness, much like in The Princess Diaries. So unfortunately, if you want to get a fair amount of views, sometimes you have to bend to the standard and dawn straight or long hair,” she further noted.
Now we all love Disney princesses and the royal rom-coms of the 00s but a large critique waged against them is their emphasis on female docility and fragility. Some have the same outlook on royalcore subsidiaries for reinforcing ancient bygone values, so I wanted to know what Hall’s thoughts were on this.
“In my opinion, princesscore celebrates the natural beauty of women and allows us to feel confident in embracing our feminine energy naturally,” she told me. “While being in this lifestyle, it has helped remind me to see that I don’t always need to enhance my features to feel beautiful,” she added.
“A princess is someone who can be vulnerable, authentic, and real not just for herself but to the people she inspires. That is the type of person who will leave behind an impactful memory,” Hall concluded.
Ultimately, for Tillman, princesscore is “what you make of it.” She shared, “Being able to choose for yourself your own destiny, especially in your wardrobe, is empowering for women!”
So, how do newbies get involved with princesscore? It’s a lot to take in but starting with the basics is Hall’s main advice, “Be yourself and follow someone you are inspired by to help you curate your own lifestyle within this space.” Some key terms the creator listed to look out for are princesscore, royalcore, shabby chic, period piece fashion, vintage style, Disney princess, fairytale and princess style. “Make Pinterest your best friend,” she added. On her end, Tillman detailed “Princess off Duty” as another hot ticket term to search for “clothes we wear as princesses when we’re not attending to important royal duties,” like a “tulle top in the colour of your choosing and flowy skirt.”
Hall already has videos featuring other black princesscore creators so you can find the perfect icon to guide you on your royal journey. She also has her own vintage boutique shop, With Love Porsha, founded in March 2021, serving the needs of princesses everywhere for all their apparel needs. Better get started then. A long way away from sketching fancy dresses for hours, and sadly finding very few in her size, in 2021, Tillman launched Magasin Bon Bon, her own clothing brand that sells “plus-size princess-inspired clothing” and currently has a Summer collection inspired by fairies and the The birth of Venus on the way. Keep an eye out for its release!