“I need more dresses.” It was an offhand comment, but my mother turned to me and promptly thanked the Lord. “It’s only taken you nearly 20 years.” She was right. Fourteen-year-old me would have looked with horror at my desire to wear more dresses. However, the rise of feminine fashion, along with the passage of time, has changed my views.
Aesthetics such as Cottagecore and Princesscore (a subgenre of Regencycore, an aesthetic inspired by the Regency era and Jane Austen novels) have filled social media platforms with dreamy images of picnics with strawberry sandwiches and frolicking in fields of wildflowers over the past 18 months. Along with them came the feminine fashions of puffed sleeves, corsets, and beautiful gowns, momentarily transporting you to another era before moving onto the next idyllic lifestyle. With lockdowns imposed just as spring began, 2020’s summer was set to be the time to embrace the outdoors, and it is only natural that we would want to look good after months of dressing comfortably in our homes.
The pandemic caused a lot of things in our lives to be out of our control. But, seeing Tiktoks and images fantasising about rural outdoor life gave us a comforting dream allowing us to escape from the chaos. By partaking in these arising fashions, it allowed people to fulfill that dream, even if it is only in the way they dressed. An aspect that cemented that desire was the explosive release of Bridgerton last December. Its historically inspired outfits set in a fantasy world then added to the magical aesthetic seen in Cottagecore and Princesscore. Its popularity further propelled these trends into the spring and summer of this year, evidenced in a rise of Google searches for headbands, empire-lined dresses, and corsets (especially the Tiktok-famous Bridgerton corset).
The rise of feminine fashion also led to a new mindset – that dressing in feminine clothes doesn’t mean that you are less empowered than anyone else. My teenagehood was filled with books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, and while they were empowering in their own right, they rejected the common images of femininity in favour of masculine traits. This was exacerbated by the common media trope that any girl who enjoyed ‘girly’ things like caring about their appearance were seen as shallow, lacking in intelligence, and often antagonistic. However, the past 18 months have shown me that women can dress in frilly dresses and corsets and still do amazing things. In my own search for comfort during the pandemic, I turned to the films and TV shows that inspired me in my childhood where the main characters were kind and saved the day whilst looking good.
Embracing femininity has often been attributed to regressing into the old-fashioned views of women, but seeing the rise in trends truly reflected a saying that’s popular in the vintage fashion community: “Vintage style, not vintage values.” Dressing in a feminine style doesn’t automatically limit your other abilities. Wanting to look pretty does not mean that it is the only thing you care about. In fact, a lot of confidence can be derived from however you want to dress.