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Barbiecore: Embracing Sparkling Glamour

Think pink? Think Barbie. Barbiecore has officially made its comeback, filling red carpets, street styles and runways alike. Spotted on celebrities like Lizzo, Anne Hathaway and Florence Pugh, the aesthetic’s name pays homage to the classic doll, whose brand identity is all about femininity and undeniably very pink.

With the release of Barbie the movie the past week, there is officially a shortage of pink paint around the world! But what exactly is Barbie-core?

The very first Barbie doll came with a high ponytail, a face full of makeup and a black stripped fitting swimsuit, accessories with black stilettos and black cat-eye glasses (with blue lenses of course). She was undeniably and unapologetically feminine, coming with additional outfits that every grown woman of the time dreamed of- evening gowns, vacation wear, cocktail dresses and sundresses. It’s not very surprising then, that one of the first careers Mattel marketed for Barbie was a model, or the more unrealistic aspects of her appearance- perpetually arched feet, IMPOSSIBLY narrow waist etc- were made for showcasing fashion. For creator Ruth Handler though, who was inspired by her own daughter, Barbara, to create Barbie, it was important that the doll represented everything a woman could ever dream of being, and could be. “Unlike play with a baby doll—in which a little girl is pretty much limited to assuming the role of Mommy—Barbie has always represented the fact that a woman has choices,” Handler writes in her memoir, Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story. “Even in her early years Barbie did not have to settle for being only Ken’s girlfriend or an inveterate shopper, She had the clothes, for example, to launch a career as a nurse, a stewardess, a nightclub singer.”

Barbiecore, as we know it today, began with the rise of celebrity fashion figures of the early 2000s, like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, whose outfits, spread all over tabloids, were extremely feminine and often pink or glitzy. Costuming for films like Legally Blonde, clueless and mean girls featured distinct and popular female leads in bright pink, furthering the trend's popularity. People started looking at pink as more than just feminine, but also as popularity, as power. The rise of the trend in the late 2000s can be attributed to rising pop stars like Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, who’s hyper-feminine styles can directly be traced back to Barbie. In the world of High Fashion, Barbie’s biggest influence could be seen in Jeremy Scott’s 2015 collection for Moschino, which was a complete ode to the doll’s iconography. Models walked the show in blonde wigs, pink gowns and sportswear, all emblazoned with the Moschino logo in the iconic Barbie font.

But why is Barbiecore so famous today? Emily Huggard, an assistant professor of fashion communication at Parsons School of Design, says the trend has taken off because of its playfulness, which is extra appealing in a post-COVID world. “People are really latching on to escapism and things that they know and feel safe with,” she says. “When we think about this trend, it’s pretty, it’s hot pink, it’s not too complex—I think people are craving a time when things felt less heavy.”

The release (and lead up) to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has also played an instrumental role in the trend’s reach. Multiple Barbie fashion collaborations offering varying degrees of pink clothing and accessories, with brands ranging from the Gap to Forever 21 to Zara, had emerged ahead of the movie, with viewers across the globe fighting over pink to wear to the premier. I went to see the movie on release day and was so glad to see a theatre of exclusive pink clothing. (For those wondering, I wore a pink blazer and pants paired with a white shirt hehe).

Huggard also adds that the appeal of Barbiecore lies in its financial accessibility. “Hot pink is a bold colour that’s available at all price points. It’s a far more approachable trend to participate in than something like a quiet luxury, whose expensive minimalism relies on a subtle, “if you know, you know” acuity. And that lends itself to virality on TikTok”, Huggard says.

Barbiecore’s popularity reflects how much society has progressed since the doll's creation. While many may still associate Barbie and Barbiecore with hyper femininity, it is absolutely undeniable that Barbiecore is truly for everyone, especially with Barbie the movie being a play on patriarchy and gender roles. In the words of Greta Gerwig, “If you love Barbie, or if you hate Barbie, this movie (and trend) is for you”.

Ultimately, the trends allure is quite similar to the doll that inspired it- its ability to start a conversation. Perhaps that’s why, despite all other trends fading away, Barbie and Barbiecore have remained timeless.

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