From Barbiecore To Bows: How The Girls Won Fashion In 2023

The girlies won fashion in 2023. In a year marked by “girl trends” — from girl math and girl dinner to the pop culture frenzy of the Barbie movie — 2023 fashion seemed to give femme people the empowerment to embrace their girliness and scream about it at the top of their lungs. Or at least, wear it head to toe. 

“Because we’re going through a time that is so difficult for girls, they are kind of having a cultural moment by reclaiming the word ‘girl,’” says Agustina Panzoni, Depop’s Trend Specialist. “‘Girl’ also has become a communal element.” 

And when it comes to fashion, there was no bigger style icon in 2023 than “the girl,” a somewhat stereotypical concept that we’ve all been programmed with since birth, complete with lots of pink and ultra-femme styles, from the runways and red carpets to social media feeds. There’s Margot Robbie’s entire Barbie press run, which included custom-made outfits that featured pumps, glamorous hats, bandage dresses, and lots of pink, all inspired by vintage Barbie looks. There’s the return of the headband as the It accessory of the year, endorsed by celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo and Jennifer Lawrence. And, of course, the Eras Tour, in which friendship bracelets became a communal experience and Girl-icon Taylor Swift revisited nearly 20 years of her career by dressing up as her past selves. 

While the hyper-feminine styles of the Y2K phenomenon were already influencing fashion, other trends like balletcore, the coquette aesthetic, and Barbiecore made fashion fans flex their girliness. “What we see happening is [girls] taking the playfulness of girl culture, but putting it into established narratives as a way to subvert them,” says Panzoni. Past fashion trends have seen women embrace masculine ideals, like the emergence of the power suit in the ‘80s, to assert their own. But this time, there’s a sense that tapping into our “girliness” — and therefore, self-acceptance — is where true power comes from. “I think that comes from the need to reclaim femininity away from the negative connotation of ‘girly’ meaning ‘frail,’” says Panzoni. “Now it’s reclaimed as a way of empowerment; ‘girl’ sounds more like a sign of rebellion.”

Take the balletcore trend, which had been brewing for years but claimed its hold on fashion in 2023. Inspired by the uniforms of ballet dancers, as well as the fantasies portrayed onto the discipline, balletcore made everything from ballet flats and leg warmers to wrap crop tops and tulle skirts fashionable once again. Designers like Sandy Liang, Miu Miu, and Acne Studios also played into this style, while brands like J. Crew and Reformation partnered with the New York City Ballet to create collections. While the trend may be inspired by the world of ballet, it has little to do with its actual reality — grunt work, lifelong discipline, and murky body standards among them. Instead, girls are getting to live their ballet fantasy on their own terms. 

Pink is also a trend that, thanks to all the buzz around the Barbie movie and its feminist undertones, subverted all our narratives about girliness in 2023. Although Barbiecore had emerged ever since set photos of the Barbie movie were first released in 2022, the trend took a different turn this year. It was less about wearing hot pink and more about embodying the Barbie aesthetic: headbands, tights, and knee-high socks were some of the year’s trendiest items — all evoking girliness in their own ways. When it came time for the Barbie movie to hit theaters, people were ready with their outfits, sourcing vintage Barbie merch, as well as dressing up as different Barbie archetypes.

On the runways, subverted girlhood was also center stage. Miu Miu’s fall 2023 collection, for example, took on the nerd stereotype, juxtaposing sheer polka dot dresses with conservative cardigans and eyeglasses. Sandy Liang’s fall 2023 lineup contrasted witchy red hues with demure pink in dresses that also included rosettes and bows. Mirror Palais’ spring 2024 collection, on the other hand, embraced details like bows, ruffles, and corsets, presenting them through the female gaze rather than sexualized styles.

The numbers also speak to a resurgence of girliness in fashion. Personal shopper Gab Waller says items like the Valentino bow mules, as well as the classic Chanel ballet flats in pink were some of the year’s most requested items. Waller also says that Louis Vuitton limited edition Speedy bag in pale pink was one of her most requested pieces this year: “People went crazy,” she says of the reaction when she first posted the bag on Instagram. Meanwhile, Depop reported a 135% increase in searches for Barbiecore, while Lyst revealed it had a 56% spike in searches for ballet flats. Brands like Tory Burch and Poster Girl, which have had a strong focus on girliness over the past few years, were highlighted as some of the most buzzed of the year by Lyst. 

Panzoni says that looking to 2024, she sees girl trends evolving — less pink, more cherry red, for example. “There’s a movement looking into maturing femininity a little bit more as we stop taking girlhood as a prepackaged aesthetic” she says. Looking through pink-colored glasses may have served its sartorial purpose in 2023, but perhaps the best way for the girlies to win is to just be themselves, no matter what that looks like. 

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