Europop band Aqua may have been the first to extol the virtues of being “a Barbie girl living in a Barbie world,” but this summer, it seems like everyone has realized that life in plastic truly is fantastic. The doll is no longer merely a childhood mascot; she’s the leader of a global fashion trend known as Barbiecore. With over 420 million views on TikTok alone, the #barbiecore aesthetic is a bubblegum pink dopamine rush of sartorial inspiration.
But just in case you’ve been living at the bottom of a toy chest, it’s primetime you hopped on the trend. After all, it’s Barbie’s world, and we’re just living in it!
Barbie-inspired fashion has always been on trend in more ways than you might think (more on that later), but its most recent rise comes straight from Valentino’s Fall 2022 catwalk where designer-creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s hot pink-hued collection instantly became the new black. Once A-listers from the ranks of Anne Hathaway, Florence Pugh, Lizzo, and Beyoncé were caught sporting the new “It” colorway on the red carpet, others naturally followed suit.
No doubt, the celebrity impact on Barbie-esque fashion has led to increased public interest in the internet-dubbed trend of Barbiecore. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the celebrity who has made the most notable impact is none other than Barbie star Margot Robbie. “After pictures of a pink-clad Margot Robbie surfaced in June , searches for all things pink skyrocketed 416 percent,” stated the 2022 Year in Fashion report, hosted by global fashion shopping app Lyst.
As the highly-anticipated July 21 release of the Greta Gerwig film nears, these numbers have skyrocketed even more. Searches for “Barbiecore” on Pinterest have increased by 980 percent as of July 2023, a spokesperson for the image-sharing platform told TMZ.
Meet the Experts:
Kendall Becker is a trend forecaster, stylist, and director of fashion and media relations at Trendalytics.
Rian Phin is a fashion critic and content creator based in New York City.
Brandii Stuart is a second-hand style expert based in New York City.
Ready to hop on the #barbie bandwagon? With the opening weekend of the Barbie movie right around the corner, it’s about time to take the internet trend from the doll house to IRL. Ahead, fashion experts explain everything you need to know about Barbiecore—what it is, when the trend started, and how to get the look. À la Aqua, “Come on, Barbie, let’s go party!”
What is Barbiecore?
Inspired by the doll’s kitschy outfits, the Barbiecore aesthetic embraces over-the-top looks, typically monochromatic, with loads of pink hues, and funky silhouettes, like mini dresses paired with larger-than-life platform shoes.
There’s no stopping imagination in Barbie’s world, and that especially rings true when it comes to style. The quintessential Barbiecore aesthetic is unapologetically bright and bold, unabashedly fun and hyper-feminine, fueled both by nostalgic and modern silhouettes. “The best translation of Barbiecore in the past would be the early aughts—think cheeky, highly feminine—embracing trends like the influx of mini skirts, flirty baby tees, mini dresses, and, of course, the color pink,” says style expert Kendall Becker. It’s all about maximalism, too, with outfits typically embellished in glitter and sparkles galore.
See all the Barbie cast's best Barbiecore moments:
But the trend goes beyond maximalism and hot pink. For many, Barbiecore celebrates femininity, freedom, and women reclaiming as well as embracing their power in all forms. “[Barbiecore] feels very aligned with a picture-perfect, or stereotypical, essence of what a woman would wear,” says Becker. In that same vein, “there’s a strength within Barbie, too–sometimes, Barbie is an astronaut or a doctor, and she embraces positivity and intelligence and does it all while wearing hot pink,” Becker explains. “This ethos also translates to the ‘80s [which was marked by fashion trends heavily inspired by Barbie]—a time when women were challenging men in the workforce, rebutting back with power suits of their own, and turning heads in an array of bold colors.”
When did the Barbiecore trend start?
Long before the term “Barbiecore” was coined to describe the fashion trend, the Mattel toy has always had a strong influence on fashion. Barbie first hit shelves in the late 1950s, and the blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauty quickly rose as children’s doll of choice for various reasons, namely her lavish outfits and luxe lifestyle. Despite countless debates surrounding Barbie throughout the years (i.e., unnatural body proportions, celebrating “excessive materialism,” etc.), there’s no denying the doll’s cultural impact.
Though the trend’s exact beginnings are unclear, Barbie-inspired fashion and its influence took over the world most poignantly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, according to fashion critic and content creator Rian Phin. Decades later, when David LaChapelle’s high gloss Lil’ Kim photographs trickled into 2010s Tumblr, it became really popular online, thanks to the nostalgic feelings it inspired, she explains.
“Barbiecore has always been around—that bright pink hue and girly aesthetic is something we’ve been wearing for decades,” adds second-hand style expert Brandii Stuart. She cites ‘90s-era Versace as a brand that embraced Barbiecore, a time when Gianni Versace was at the helm of the brand. “Moschino’s Spring 2015 collection is also full of Barbie-like moments among other designers, such as Oscar de la Renta and Chanel.”
By the early aughts, the idea of dressing up as a “doll” was cemented in the mainstream. Take, for example, movies like Mean Girls, which chronicles the “Plastics,” a group of popular teen girls who wear Barbie-esque pink looks on Wednesdays, and Legally Blonde, which portrays Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) as an aspiring not-so-ditzy, but ditzy lawyer who’s entire closet is made up of pinks, furs, and sparkles. Lest one forgets the yellow tweed set synonymous with Clueless’ Cher Horowitz—which Margot Robbie took inspiration from for one of her Barbie press tour looks—and Life-Size, starring Lindsay Lohan and Tyra Banks, which quite literally embodied doll-to-life fashion.
Celebrities whose popularity arguably peaked in the early 2000s also became well-associated with the Barbie aesthetic—from Y2K socialite Paris Hilton to rapper Nicki Minaj, who has repped the plastic doll since the beginning of her career and whose fans are famously referred to as “Barbz.” “The 2015 Moschino Barbie collection, in tandem with Nicki Minaj’s campy take on the Barbie aesthetic, brought [Barbie] back to the fashion zeitgeist [in the 2010s],” says Phin.
After that, the Barbie hype fizzled out for a bit before it was reintroduced on the runway of Valentino’s Fall 2022 show, arguably the collection that put the trend back on the map. Out of 81 looks, most were made entirely of head-to-toe hot pink that designer-creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli developed directly with leading color insights company, Pantone.
“Prior to Valentino’s Fall 2022 collection, there was already a movement occurring towards a bolder, sexier, and more sartorial undertone within fashion–a craving stemming from the subtly within fashion and lifestyle during the height of COVID,” explains Becker. “With that being said, the collection really embodied the epitome of that ethos and tapped into the cultural zeitgeist from the way women want to dress to how they embrace their femininity and stand up for themselves as women–all of which was translated through fashion.”
More recently, early leaked photos from the Barbie movie further sparked this debate around how women show up in the world, especially in what they wear, adds Becker.
“Between taking a political stance with clothing and a sartorial lens happening within fashion, it created the perfect storm for Barbiecore to come into existence.”