2023 has been the year of girlhood. In a polarised society rife with toxic masculinity, women are finding comfort online by romanticising the best parts of their childhood. In turn, they are reclaiming what it means to be a girl, signalling the beginning of a new wave of feminism.
#Girlhood has more than 1.3 billion views on TikTok and throughout the year, “girl” trends have taken over. This is not limited to: girl maths, AKA delusional logic to justify purchases; girl dinner, or a plate of small bites; the snail girl era, a replacement for the millennial girlboss trope; and the strawberry girl makeup trend. Outside of TikTok, musings about being a “teenage girl in her 20s” dominated X (formerly Twitter) following the release of singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo’s album GUTS.
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The girlhood movement is a pivot away from the feminist thinking of the 2010s, which included power dressing, girlbossing and saying “girl power”. Instead, the new phenomenon consists of hyper-feminine fashion (think #Barbiecore and #coquette) and embracing the soft life. Case in point: ribbons and bows are the go-to accessory on TikTok. Just see cult fashion designer Sandy Liang’s work and her sold out collaboration with BAGGU. This is all part of redefining femininity and being a “girly” girl.
“Girl” trends are a touchy subject. Publications such as Forbes and the BBC highlighted the problematic nature of calling women “girls”. As Dazed wrote: “The ‘girl’ trend not only trivialises women’s interests, but also women’s suffering” and tackled the issues of gender and prejudice.
But the focus on girlhood isn’t a form of Peter Pan syndrome and is not a step backwards for women. These are trends that – aside from being part of a larger cultural shift – offer some escapism and nostalgic fun. They are also key opportunities for brands and creators.
As journalist Rebecca Jennings explained in her piece for Vox: “Women on TikTok are thinking like the marketing teams at Simon & Schuster, analysing the data and determining which cute name for an otherwise uninteresting habit or aesthetic has the most likelihood of going viral.”
The timing of these trends is key. Girlhood-focused content has grown in popularity since 2021 thanks to the “that girl” phenomenon but is spiking the same year as box office hit Barbie and ahead of the release of Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. The latter is significant, as Coppola is renowned for her ability to aesthetically convey girlhood.
With Mean Girls: The Musical being released in January 2024 and friendship bracelet swapping to occur at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in Europe, “girl” trends will continue to dominate socials in the year ahead.
By Caroline Edwards, news and features writer for CORQ.