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.
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
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?
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.
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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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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
This morning Aesthetic Wiki’s Discord server was jam-packed with users trying to remember the name of an aesthetic that involves wolves and neon lights. As I played an invisible piano over my keyboard in hopes of flossing the term off from the tip of my tongue, I realised how we often define an aesthetic using multiple adjectives—not knowing that there is an entire community out there dedicated to channelling it. The latest on this list is ‘lovecore’. What we once used to define as “that lovey-dovey style” is now a full-fledged aesthetic with a cult-like following on TikTok and Tumblr.
Think Valentine’s Day, but all the time. Lovecore is an internet aesthetic that blends the hyper-femininity of cottagecore and soft girl with Valentine’s Day motifs like hearts, boxes of chocolate, lipstick, cupids and love letters. Labelled as a “visual culture of manufactured romance and affection,” the aesthetic focuses on a wholesome celebration of love rather than its erotic counterparts. On these terms, the official jam for lovecorists is Crush by Tessa Violet. Remember how Violet overthinks and turns all shades of pink? That’s the foregone wholesomeness lovecore channels.
In terms of visuals, lovecore is synonymous with bouquets, frosted cakes, candies, angel wings, stuffed animals and absolutely anything that is heart-shaped in tints and tones of red, pink and white. Frequent imagery also includes blushing anime girls with hearts for eyes. If this imagery intensifies, the aesthetic then gets looped into a subcategory called Yandere.
Lovecorists can be found donning a mix of lingerie, satin dresses, angel wings and formal date wear. Specific pieces in this regard are heart-printed garments and accessories, satin slip dresses, fitted turtlenecks and crop tops with feminine trims and details. If you are ever bestowed with the honour of dating a lovecorist, remember that they love baking, writing love letters, holding hands, cuddling and going out on fluffy dates.
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On TikTok, #lovecore has amassed over 15 million views with content creators on a roll to make it one of the most positive hashtags on the platform. Lovecorists here are often found baking cherry-laden cakes, giving room tours, crocheting heart-shaped mug rugs and suggesting playlists to channel the aesthetic as an entire subculture. Data from Google Trends for the search term ‘lovecore aesthetic’ picture a dynamic graph where lovecore has even witnessed peaks in July 2020—quite far away from the retreating showers of Valentine’s Day if you ask me.
Then there is Etsy and Depop. On the former, lovecore is linked to strawberry earrings, wigs, bubble blowers, Kandi lighter cases and brooches. Curated searches on Depop feature satin dresses, lacy corsets and Crocs charms—all dipped head to toe in a bucketful of hearts. A quick scroll among the 235 thousand posts under #lovecore on Instagram, on the other hand, would tumble you down a rabbit hole full of Sanrio’s famous characters.
From Kuromi to Hello Kitty, these characters are often featured as graphic motifs embodying the nostalgic love for an era rooted in self-love and positivity. This nostalgic obsession of lovecore with Sanrio characters is part of a broader movement towards childhood innocence and connections that is already engulfing aesthetics like kidcore.
Lovecore is all about feeling the love for the pieces you wear. Since hyper-femininity plays a huge role in the aesthetic, Betsey Johnson is essentially looped in as a representative. One of the most iconic looks associated with lovecore is Lirika Matoshi’s strawberry midi-dress, which Tess Holiday wore to the 2020 Grammys. Although it originally retails for $490, knock-offs costing no more than $20 are now available on Amazon for those looking to nail the aesthetic without busting their pastel piggy banks.
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One of the most important aspects of lovecore is its versatility. The aesthetic can be both maximalist or minimalist depending on the wearer’s taste. One can either go full-blown Betsey Johnson with chunky charms and Hello Kitty hair clips or choose to keep it subtle with heart-shaped earrings tucked behind soft curls.
The appeal of lovecore is not just limited to fashion, it is also tapped as a medium of self-expression within the LGBTQ+ community. “I spent my entire youth hating myself and the concept of hetero romance didn’t interest me at all,” shared Tumblr user femmesweetheart, who runs a blog dedicated to the aesthetic. In an interview with NYLON, the 24-year-old admitted her obsession with love in all its forms after being a part of the LGBTQ+ community herself. For her, lovecore means baking heart-shaped cookies, listening to La Vie En Rose and wishing only the best for others.
Lovecore is also known as heartcore, crushcore and cupidcore among its fanbase. However, the aesthetic should not be confused with angelcore or romantic academia even though they are backed with similar principles. In terms of its subgenres, lovecore can be divided into two:
Pagano lovecore focuses on the iconography of love in Greco-Roman mythology and the Italian Renaissance, rather than Christian traditions. Common motifs under the subculture include marble statues, doves, old jewellery and ancient love poems. Aphrodite, Eros and Adonis are the major figures present in Pagano lovecore. The subgenre also harbours an overlap with dark academia in terms of its obsession with ancient Greek literature.
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Shakespearean lovecore has a heavy focus on the element of romance as depicted in the works of famed playwright William Shakespeare. Remember how I mentioned that lovecorists enjoy writing love letters? In this regard, the subgenre revolves around Shakespeare due to the common portrayal of romance in his works. Common motifs and values in Shakespearean lovecore include poetry, antique furniture, forbidden/tragic love and architecture depicted in the time period of his plays.
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With all that said, lovecore can be concluded as a celebration in itself. A celebration of love—no matter the day, time or occasion. And in an era where even little gestures of love go a long way, the more the frills, the better.