4 Dec 2023DisruptorsFrumpy Aesthetics Have Taken Over Fashion

Frumpcore’s tiny t-shirts, wrap-around sunglasses and ‘ugly’ maxi dresses have taken over fashion. Style insiders are pushing back against what fashion has conventionally classed as cool, opting instead for something that feels more appropriate to their identities and the current cultural moment.

Nick Lising-WhiteNick is a Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8. With a degree in Human Geography from UCL, he is interested in the impact of differing cultural conditions on human behaviour. Outside of work he can be found meandering between cafes on his bike, testing his culinary skills and intermittently pottering around a rugby pitch.

One of the latest, and perhaps most surprising, recent social media-driven fashion trends to take over the internet is ‘frumpcore’.

Breaking away from cool girls' stylistic reign and embracing nerdy high school and offbeat outfits, people are favouring frumpy aesthetics over the constrained and conventional idea of dressing like a ‘hot’ girl.

This aesthetic is best seen in the “how to dress like you’re from the Lower East Side” TikTok trend that features all of the following: small glasses, grandma cardigans, rat tails, loafers, maxi skirts, ultra layered sportswear and the colour brown.

The embrace of frumpcore has got people wondering where it has come from and who kickstarted this fashionable vibe shift. It may have something to do with the influence of fashion it girls and celebrities like Bella Hadid, Iris Law, Emma Chamberlain and Gabbriette – all have been pictured in outfits that give off a frumpier vibe.

And looking at some of Bella Hadid’s latest ‘fits, a slightly undone yet chic air of casual cool is taking over because of its accessible and inclusive appeal.

Frumpy fashion stands in direct contrast to the ultra-skin-baring trends of the 2010s – a window of time that gave us Rihanna’s 2014 see-through Met Gala dress and Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball video. This time around, fashion aesthetics are leaning toward an approach that embraces an intuitive way of dressing versus focusing on body size.

High fashion has played a role here too. Prada has perfected the art of making uglier items cool, and the luxury brand's sister label Miu Miu also knows a thing or two about leaning into people's obsession with ‘ugly chic’ – best seen on the runways of its SS22 fashion show that explore this trend takeover.

Some are saying that ‘recession-core’ was a precursor to the frumpcore times we now find ourselves in. Now, fashion is about opting for a scaled-back approach that's dialled down in terms of branding and bling, and is instead focused on connecting to a sense of comfort and core trends.

Frumpcore appears to be inspired by several things. But what does this latest aesthetic say about people?

Well, towards frumpcore’s more extreme end, you find something resembling the outfits seen on @subwaysessions – a TikToker who went viral for her unconventional ensembles that divided opinion. But overall, frumpy aesthetics are about self-expression and not conforming to what the mainstream deems cool. It's about dressing for yourself rather than others, whatever that looks like.