Master the soft girl aesthetic with these 6 affordable wardrobe staples

By Deanna Pearce

Updated May 30, 2023 at 01:07 PM

Reading time: 5 minutes

It doesn’t take much more than a quick search for the term “soft girl aesthetic” on Google Trends to highlight just how obsessed gen Zers have been with this look. Although it truly peaked in December 2020, the trend has kept on going strong ever since, not showing any signs of slowing down.

The same applies over on TikTok, where it doesn’t take one more than a few scrolls to fall down a rabbit hole of content creators covering everything soft girl-related, from dressing like one to perfecting the delicate makeup behind the aesthetic.

What is the soft girl aesthetic?

The soft girl aesthetic all comes down to being hyper-feminine and deliberately cutesy. It takes major inspiration from the Y2K era mixed with kawaii fashion and ties it in nicely with a modern take on it. Think pastel tones, fluttering butterflies and clouds so fluffy you could eat them up. Ultimately, the vibe you want to give off is innocent as though butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.

Scouring the internet in search of every last bit of advice I could gather for you, I found out that the soft girl aesthetic is not just a viral fashion trend, it’s a lifestyle choice. It encourages women to ditch struggle and hardship and rather focus on finding peace and happiness.

But let’s take one step at a time for now, and focus on the fashion side of the subculture. From tops and jumpers to shoes and even accessories, here is our favourite selection of all the wardrobe staples you’ll need to truly nail the soft girl look.

1. Tops

Whether it involves a polo shirt, cropped baby tee or turtleneck, a pastel top is the perfect foundation for anyone looking to emulate the soft girl aesthetic. For a uniform-style look, pair a white polo shirt with a bright and bold sweater vest (to jazz up your outfit), and add a short skirt for the final touch. Alternatively, you can throw on your favourite roll neck under a chunky knit cardigan for some multi-dimensional layering.

You can never go wrong with a jumper from United Colours Of Benetton, which is currently selling wool turtlenecks in a vast range of shades for only £27.95, and if you are after an adorable baby tee, Jaded London currently has its ‘She’s Juicy Shirred Baby Tee’ on sale for only £24.50.

More interested in that sweater vest option? Daisies and Daydreams is selling the ultimate soft girl vest for £26.00—match it with this polo shirt from Even&Odd which retails for £15.00 on Zalando and you’re good to go.

2. Cardigans

Though grandpacore is probably the first aesthetic that comes to mind when you hear the word cardigans, the TikTok girlies have modernised their own approach to the iconic clothing (as they do with virtually everything) and have since turned it into a prominent player of the soft girl style.

Once more, they tend to stick to pastel tones and sometimes really go for it with a full monogrammed outfit. That being said, don’t be afraid to mix things up and rock your cardi with clashing colours and prints. After all, looking fabulous in an outfit really comes down to feeling comfortable in it.

The brilliant thing about cardigans is how versatile they are, you can layer it on top of a crop top and pair it with a tennis skirt or wear it on its own, buttoned all the way up with a pair of mom jeans. If you’re looking to go full force, add a bucket hat and a baguette bag.

Pick up this adorbs pastel striped cardi at Urban Outfitters for £39.00 and check out this super cosy cardigan from The Kawaii Shoppu for £36.99.

If none of these options float your boat, turn to Boogzel Apparel’s £43.36 ‘Softgirl Pastel Cardigan’—it’s in its name—or get this dreamy cropped cloud print cardigan from Bouxji Boutique for £16.99.

3. Skirts

Looking at some of the items listed on here already, it’s pretty obvious that the soft girl trend takes major inspiration from Clueless style queen Cher. In this specific subculture, a preppy skirt is a must—more specifically, a 90s-inspired tennis skirt, which you’ve probably already seen plastered all over your FYP. 

Plaids and pastel tones or even dainty patterns are best, but just make sure to always avoid dark colours. Style it with a cropped cardigan of a similar tone to match or pair it with a bralette if it’s too hot out.

Halara is currently selling this pastel 2-in-1 tennis skirt for £24.71 down from £28.74 or alternatively, ASOS has the iconic Adidas ‘Tennis Club PleatedSkirt’ in white. Grab it for £43.00 before it’s gone!

You’ll also need a plaid option in your wardrobe to execute this style to a t and I have found the perfect ones for you: this £13.15 YesStyle high-waist skirtor this darling mini available on Revolve for £83.00.

4. Dresses

When done right, a hyper-feminine dress is simply the best. It’s also the most efficient way to create the perfect soft girl outfit without breaking the brank. Whether floral or pastel, long or short, whatever your personal preference is, a dress is more of a need rather than a want for this aesthetic.

You can opt for a cottagecore influence and go for a long flowing number, which typically features puffed sleeves, tiered skirts and ruffles, the silhouette hugs the body in the right places and is a classy option to meet the aesthetic.

If that doesn’t quite suit your style opt for a cute mini alternative, and if you want to execute this aesthetic perfectly try floral, fruit and gingham prints. Pair with a cardigan of the same tone and of course a bucket hat with a white pair of chunky platform trainers.

Pick up this highly sophisticated but playful piece from ASOS for £110 or as a cheaper alternative this sage green floral number also from ASOS for £28.00 or mix the cottage-core look and gingham with this dress from Nobody’s Child or shop this mini silk slip from John Lewis for £65.00.

5. Accessories

While the soft girl look consists mainly of simple, preppy, and comfy pieces, accessories are where you can really experiment with the aesthetic and elevate your outfit.

In a toned-down approach to kidcore, soft girls embrace the hair accessories from their childhood, such as colourful hair clips and small bows. Pin one or two clips to each side of your temple (even better if they match your outfit), to pull your hair away from your face and accentuate your features, or try a set of butterfly clips dotted all over your hair for a super fun and playful look. Berskha has a set of four butterfly clips for £9.99 but if that doesn’t quite suit your style, opt for Claire’s set of six pastel hair clips which are currently on sale for £3.60.

Bags make great accessories too, especially a baguette bag. A quick honourable mention to the fashion houses that got us obsessed with the little bag—Fendi and Prada. The classic shoulder bag never goes out of style and dupes are easily obtainable. What I’m trying to say here is that you won’t need to cough up a fortune for the latter. This cutesy Mango pastel shoulder bag is currently on sale for only £19.99.

Keep in mind that Etsy is your friend when it comes to getting bags that fit the soft girl aesthetic, with bear backpacks and messenger bags that allow you to hang all your favourite charms rife on the marketplace website.

Like tennis skirts and cardis, hats play an important role in the soft girl style, specifically, bucket hats and berets. They are the soft girl’s weapon of choice when it comes to headwear thanks to their simple silhouette and cute vibe. For colour, try to go with light pastel hues that contrast your jumper or dress, but don’t be afraid to play around with textures either. A fuzzy beret is a great pick for autumn and winter.

Finally, you can try adding a range of chunky plastic colourful rings to your ensemble. Feed into your childhood nostalgia with Blackcurrant Pop’s plastic chunky rings for £28 and you simply have to get these cutesy love heart earrings from Sandra Alexandra which retail for £41.

6. Shoes

A white pair of trainers, Mary Janes, and a pastel pair of sliders are the final must-have items for any soft girl looking for the perfect shoes to wrap up their whole look. It should be noted however that trainers are versatile too and should be in your closet regardless of whether you’re trying to become the ultimate soft girl.

Many soft aficionados choose to add either tall socks or the classic Harajuku baggy socks to their ensemble—the latter being an amazing accessory to dress over your Mary Janes. If you are in the mood and have the capacity to treat your inner soft girl, Gucci is selling a pair of sliders in a wide range of colours for £325. For those of you on a budget—I feel you—you can get a more comfortable option from CHARLES & KEITH which has a pair of interwoven slides currently on sale for £43.

When it comes to trainers you can never go wrong with a pair of white Air Force 1s, or try a chunky pair of pastel shoes from Puma, which are currently on sale for £50.00.

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