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Introducing royalcore, the aesthetic catapulting TikTok into a regal fairytale

By Malavika Pradeep

Jan 9, 2022

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It’s a pleasant April morning when you decide to alight from your four-poster bed with gold accents and plush velvet upholstery. You trace your fingers along the elaborate carvings on the floral dressing table before lacing up your silk corset and slipping into a floor-length evening gown. You then prime a picnic basket with puff pastries and crystal crockery to serve a fresh brew of chamomile tea—later floating your way into the rose garden to inscribe letters to your betrothed. Your rouge cheeks then flush proudly as you beat yourself at a game of chess before retiring to your cosy chamber at nightfall.

Welcome to the exuberant world of royalcore, an aesthetic all about embracing opulence and living your own whimsical fairytale in 2022.

What is royalcore?

Royalcore, also known as royaltycore, refers to a group of aesthetics romanticising the visuals and key values of West European royalty—ranging from the Arthurian times (late 5th and early 6th centuries) to the Belle Époque period (late 19th century).

Visually, the aesthetic hinges on royal structures like the Warwick, Windsor and Edinburgh castles, along with architectural details including archways, marble columns, long spiral staircases, turrets and crenelations. Knight training arenas, formal gardens and hunting reserves are also in the mix. Niche interior decorations additionally involve tapestries, ornate thrones, frescos, floral wallpapers, Persian-style rugs, crystal chandeliers, intricate candelabras, marble statues, Venetian mirrors, fountain pens, quills and hardcover books.

As of today, royalcore exclusively focuses on the visual characteristics of historical European monarchies. However, enthusiasts are increasingly expanding this context to include other culturally significant facets of royalty. It should also be noted that these references can be incorporated from different forms of media—all with a modern twist.

In terms of the key values backing royalcore, the aesthetic centres around refinement, morality, duty and status with an ever-present elegance. Intelligence and skill sets are also base qualities that enrich the aesthetic’s evolution into a full-blown subculture. This air of confidence and power further bleeds into royalcore fashion as the pieces seek to symbolise romantic power at its core.

At the time, sumptuary laws were introduced to regulate luxury and refashion the Renaissance. They essentially differentiated the types of fabrics, colours and clothes between social classes. As a result, layers of exuberant materials like silk, velvet, taffeta, leather and fur were reserved for royalty—along with vibrant colours like purple and gold. Although such luxe materials and colours prior to the Industrial Revolution are considered suitable for royalcore, the aesthetic is not limited to these preferences of the past. Instead, the modern aesthetic has the added aspect of dressing like a fairytale with a Disney-esque level of playfulness to channel your inner prince and princess. In fact, the concept of royalty here is more about the attitude rather than the titles.

While knee-length tweed skirts, jersey blouses, capes and tuxedos are on the list for royalcore’s winter wardrobe, lightweight trousers, two-piece blouse and skirt as well as cocktail dresses are recommended for spring. Feather trims, lace overlays, embroidery accents and paisley prints are additional details one should keep an eye out for in the aesthetic. Royalcore’s opulent counterparts also include materials like cowhide, mink and angora wool (all of which can be incorporated with vegan options in 2022) along with a fascination for long evening gowns, waistcoats and ascot ties.

Accessories, on the other hand, are on a common plank between both styles of adaptation. Some of the jewellery pieces royalcorists own are crowns, tiaras, sceptres, pearls, signet rings, brooches and pocket watches—while top hats, opera-length evening gloves, envelope clutches, closed-toe pumps, Oxfords, brogues and saddle shoes illustrate their wardrobe. Thigh-high pantyhose, corsets, garter belts and argyle knee-length socks are further down the list. Such undergarments help cement royalcore by resulting in the then-desirable regal posture.

Pair these with airy pastels and almost-too-pretty-to-eat macarons at a Rococo tea party in your backyard and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a regal fairytale.

“In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do” – Gianni Versace

TikTok and enclothed cognition

Now onto the gen Z-first platform committed to redefining every single aesthetic and subculture as they come along. On TikTok, the influence of royalcore has manifested into two major hashtags: #royalcore (currently at 231 million views) and #royalcoreaesthetic (a complimentary locus at 8.9 million views and counting).

Users assembled under these hashtags can be seen packing lunches, throwing tea parties, wearing corsets, imagining masked balls in the Cambridge Museum, boasting dress collections, sharing tattoo ideas and curating royalcore boxes for regal customers. Medieval storytelling and roleplays are also a noteworthy aspect here. And who can miss out on the ones where long-haired, feminine-presenting people run into the abyss with their evening gowns trailing behind them dreamily?

@lilli.blum

#princess #princesscore #royalcore #astetic #princessgeorgiana #janeausten #bridgerton #cottagecore

♬ оригинальный звук - zotov

Some of the clothing brands recommended and featured on the platform include Selkie, Teuta Matoshi, JJ’s House, and Corset Story. Lirika Matoshi, well-known for her Strawberry Dress, is also not missed out on. Her collaboration with Disney to curate an exclusive collection of Cinderella-inspired gowns is often recommended among royalcorists to nail the aesthetic. Other brands, as per Aesthetics Wiki, also include Ted Baker, Burberry, Ann Taylor, Marchesa and Badgley & Mischka.

Furthermore, royalcore has a rich selection of media including documentaries along the likes of Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes as well as movies and TV shows from across cultures and histories like The Crown, Versailles, The Empress of China and Bajirao Mastani. Bury your nose into hardcopies of Madame de Pompadour and Memoirs of Cleopatra while watching Shakespearean plays like King John, Richard III and Macbeth to conjure up your own rouge romance.

@queen_astraea

The Queens mind while meeting suitors #horriblehistories #wackusbonkus #medievaltiktok #royalcore

♬ naughty wackus bonkus - king of bling

A quick scroll through the comment section of royalcore videos on TikTok will make you tally the number of times users have mentioned the popular TV show Bridgerton. According to Lyst, searches for corsets shoot up by 123 per cent while empire-line dresses jumped by 93 per cent within the first four weeks of the show’s premiere. In fact, the numbers skyrocketed—prompting the global fashion search platform to foster a sister aesthetic dubbed ‘regencycore’.

“Following the recent rise of other aesthetics such as cottagecore and normcore, and after having seen a strong rise in searches for regency-inspired pieces, it made sense for the Lyst editorial team to name this trend ‘regencycore’—a term that has since caught on in the industry at large,” Morgane LeCaer, Lyst’s data editor and content lead, said in an interview with NYLON.

This buzz seems to have also bled into Pinterest, which Pinners, according to senior insights manager Swasti Sarna, often turn to “discover new hobbies and find an escape, and dressing up and pretending to live in a castle.” Sarna also told NYLON that users have been shopping on Pinterest to bring an element of royalty into their lives—from puff dresses to dainty tiaras and fancy tea sets since the release of Bridgerton.

Although a decent part of royalcore’s boom can be traced back to the success of the Netflix show, the aesthetic would’ve witnessed a surge in interests nevertheless—given how it whisks the monotony of our everyday lives into creeping castles, splendid sceptres and regal rulers. Its overlaps with cottagecore and dark academia further helps this case. According to Shakaila Forbes-Bell, the consumer fashion psychologist for Afterpay, there’s also a psychological term backing the appeal for royalcore: enclothed cognition, which basically refers to embodying characteristics of a person by merely dressing like them.

“For example, when you wear a lab coat that you associate with doctors, you become more attentive. When you wear an empire-waist dress that you associate with royalty, you feel more majestic,” she explained to NYLON. “When it comes to our favourite TV characters, we’re drawn to their clothes and adopt their style because it allows us to embody the traits we admire in [them]. I suspect people are adopting this trend as a way to add a touch of elegance to life—which has been made increasingly unrefined as a result of the pandemic.”

 

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Subgenres of royalcore

Out of all the aesthetics and subcultures covered here at Screen Shot, royalcore boasts the longest list of subgenres under its umbrella. The same has manifested on TikTok with their own hashtags—each with a minimum of 15,000 views. These include:

1. Knightcore

Not to be confused with the popular music style nightcore, knightcore is an aesthetic based on medieval knights—doused in silver, brown, wine red and olive green. Who would’ve thought otherwise, huh? According to Aesthetics Wiki, knightcore essentially hinges on “devoting yourself to a cause of goodness and righteousness in the views of equality and love for people, having a moral code for good, and being a protector in a friend group.” In a way, it could be broadly categorised with chivalry and having a ‘code of honour’. Or in internet terms: simping.

Taking inspiration from the combat and physical training knights were once subjected to, knightcore enthusiasts incorporate high-intensity sports like fencing into their regime. Due to the impractical nature of gear like gauntlets and shields, however, the community often reserves clothing articles for art and cosplays.

@honeyswords

This trend but make it ✨knightcore✨#fyp #honeyswords #foolforyou #HoldMyMilk #booktok #knightcore #renfaire #foryoupage #womeninarmor #womenwithswords

♬ idfc slowed blackbear - 🎬🗝🕷

2. Princecore

Princecore is a young male spinoff of royalcore—with key colours including cream, gold, green, silver and white. Enthusiasts can be found lazing around in gardens and writing love letters with a quill. Close to 100,000 views on TikTok, the aesthetic centres around male loving male (MLM) and boys love (BL) relationships. This is why most of its popularity is credited to Tumblr. And I bet the aesthetic has its own fanfiction on Wattpad with a crossover with knightcore. If you know, you know.

@jeomil

this trend but make it ✨ princecore ✨ #fyp #prince #princecore #perfectasweare #bestseatinthehouse #renfaire ib: @honeyswords

♬ idfc slowed blackbear - 🎬🗝🕷

3. Princesscore

This is one of the most interchangeable subgenres of royalcore on TikTok. With pink, purple, white and gold as key colours, princesscore is the young female variant of royalcore associated with long evening dresses and elite mannerisms. Carefree yet poised and polished, the aesthetic can be channelled in both pastel pink and gothic black. Versatile princess, who?

@hellomissjordan

I’m not actually in debt but it felt right to do this trend for my dresses 🤣 #princesscore #teutamatoshi #lirikamatoshi #selkie #strawberrydress

♬ original sound - Kyle

4. Kingcore

Featuring black, grey, gold, deep purple, red and royal blue, kingcore draws inspiration from rulers of the past—both in folklore and fictional tales. It is a more mature take on princecore with an amplified regal aesthetic. Enthusiasts tend to focus on themes like power and conquest, while emulating and studying ancient kings. Although a small part of the community are reportedly sketching out plans for world domination as we speak, the other half focuses on influential rulers with a lighter take on the aesthetic.

@byte__me

King Core looks really good #greenscreen #KingCore #King #Niceaesthetic #facereveal? #fyp

♬ оригинальный звук - кацу

5. Queencore

Considered as the mature version of princesscore, queencore features adult themes like politics and war. Drawing inspiration from matriarchal figures in hierarchy-centred shows and movies, enthusiasts display qualities of confidence, strength and patience within the community. They also captivate their way into unmatched beauty and elegance both in relationships and their personal style—therefore perceived as a fashion icon by many. Close to 2.5 million views on TikTok, the aesthetic features deep purple, emerald green, gold, white and wine red.

@knight.ofroses

The Queen finds out the King was cheating on her. She now rules the kingdom alone. #queencore #royaltycore #fypシ

♬ after dark by mr.kitty - ⠀⠀⠀⠀