If you paid attention to fashion media this year, you would be under the impression that “Barbiecore,” i.e. fashion inspired by Barbie, usually in her signature hot pink, was 2022’s hottest trend. Vogue told us the style was the “everywhere” this past summer, and W agreed; Glamour said Barbicore was “here to stay,” and the Wall Street Journal said it was the “exhilarating fashion trend we need right now.” But I’d like to ask you a question. If you removed yourself from the media landscape, would you have noticed the “Barbiecore” trend at all?
Maybe you’re thinking, “yes.” And it’s true that on-set photos from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie flooded social media over a year before the film was set to come out, and those are inherently Barbiecore in that they are literally Barbie. Plus celebrities like Lizzo and Anne Hathaway appeared on red carpets dressed in Barbie pink. But outside of dresses chosen by trend-chasing stylists and the Barbie movie, did you notice it?
I certainly didn’t. “Barbiecore” has always seemed to me like the fashion equivalent of Nyquil chicken: a viral media story based on maybe, speaking generously, a small speck of truth. A meme rather than a trend. A big pink lie!
But I am not a fashion expert. I am merely an expert in correctly assessing reality, and then getting mad when people lie to me about it. From the bustling streets of New York City to the quiet streets of Cold Spring, NY, where I currently reside, I have seen no evidence of Barbiecore in the real world this year — only articles about Barbiecore online. Before the year ends, I thought it might be best to find out, with the help of actual fashion experts, whether or not I am correct about Barbiecore being 2022’s fakest trend. (I am.)
Chavie Lieber, Styles reporter at the Wall Street Journal, thinks I am not correct. (God damnit.) “I do think Barbiecore was a big trend this year!” she told me over email. She said, in so many words, that I need to broaden my idea of Barbiecore — according to the TikTok children who made it famous, it means everything under the “girlie” umbrella, i.e., babydoll tees, heart sunglasses, plastic hair clips, and so on. “These styles have been hugely popular because younger shoppers find the ’90s/early aughts super cool.”
Lieber pointed out that Valentino’s autumn/winter 2022 show was heavily Barbiecore-esque, which in large part facilitated those celebrity red carpet moments; then, after TikTokkers adopted the style, it spread: “That created the perfect storm for the Barbiecore craze — Balenciaga sweaters, Alo Yoga sweat sets, Cult Gaia bags, Reformation knit dresses, that Jacquemus linen skirt, all those funky heels from the Attico.” Right, right … funky heels from the Attico [nod so it seems like we both know what she’s talking about].
Well — how about let’s see if we can find someone who agrees with me. I asked fashion stylist Shea Daspin if she thought “Barbiecore” qualified as a fashion trend, according to her personal definition, and she said: “Yes.” God damnit. “Barbiecore is a fashion trend,” she said, attributing its trendiness to labels like Valentino, Blumarine, and Alexander McQueen featuring Barbiecore pink in their collections, along with the Barbie movie, celebrities, and — somewhat surprisingly — the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “Roe vs. Wade was overturned just as the trend was peaking,” she said, “and for some Barbiecore became something of a battle song for women across the country.” Well, fuck … now I’m not only wrong, but I’m also not a feminist?
Okay, well, I’m not done trying to find someone who agrees with me. I reached out to fashion writer Harling Ross, and asked what, in her opinion, elevates something to the level of fashion trend. “These days, seemingly anything…,” she said. “The internet has made us addicted to imparting significance upon things that probably don’t deserve it.” Yes … yes!
Ross said a legitimate trend is more than something worn by a few celebrities on the red carpet, or something that comes out of an editorial meeting. “It’s a phenomenon that is specific enough that it can be recognized and named, but also accessible enough that it lives both online and off, among real people who use clothes to express something about themselves.”
And does Barbiecore qualify as a trend? “Absolutely not,” she said. “A few celebrities wearing frilly pink dresses a full year ahead of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie release doth not a trend make! I don’t think most people who care about style look to celebrities as arbiters of trends all that much anyways these days, but regardless, identifying this as one is a big reach.”
Well, would you look at that. When it comes to Barbiecore being in fact not a trend and instead just something people made up to annoy me specifically … I guess I was right!