The New Feminine (and Feminist) Aesthetics of the Internet
Fashion and design trends come and go. But with magazines and other print media now nearly obsolete, fashion has become more decentralized. This decentralization of fashion has given rise to different fashion styles and aesthetic choices that currently coexist, all as trendy as each other.
The internet is home to dozens of these different aesthetics. Most popular among these is Dark Academia, which emphasizes warm browns and dark colors combined with Gothic architecture and a love of the classics. But you also have less popular aesthetics, like goblincore, a less feminine version of cottagecore.
But among a plethora of “-core” aesthetics, angelcore stands out for the way it combines the old with the new.
What is Angelcore?
If you ask anyone who likes these “-core” aesthetics, they’ll tell you that angelcore is, like all other cores, more about mood than specific definition.
The Aesthetic Wiki defines angelcore as an aesthetic that attempts to emulate the ethereal qualities of European angelic imagery. The wiki goes on to say that it may include images associated with non-European angels, but let’s face it: no one who knows angelcore thinks of Japanese tennin as part of the aesthetic.
Angelcore draws its essence and inspiration from classical Baroque and Renaissance angel paintings.
Due to its association with angels and divine imagery, it is not uncommon for angelcore to adapt aspects of Catholic iconography. Examples would be the use of Catholic crucifixes in attire and home decor, often in white or pastel colors, and with a decidedly feminine touch.
Many people who enjoy angelcore will sometimes include aspects of cottagecore, a sister aesthetic that strives to achieve an ethereal feel through elements of nature and the countryside.
Although it’s very similar to both cottagecore and light academy, angelcore is actually quite easy to break down into specific elements. Although these elements are certainly not absolute rules, they are among the most commonly accepted aesthetic elements.
By bringing together these aesthetic staples, you can achieve the look effortlessly.
White or pastel colors
Angelcore draws its color palette from the candy-colored dresses of women of yesteryear. This means soft, muted shades that stick as close to white as possible. The most common pastel color replaced with white is pastel pink. This is followed by shades like periwinkle, mint green, lilac and buttermilk.
As a Reddit user u/HappiCacti he says, the soft colors are meant to recreate the feeling of unearthly beauty of angels. This means no strong colors like fuchsia pink, which is most commonly related to vaporwaveor browns and blacks, which belong to dark academia.
Pearls, Lace and Gold
If Marie-Antoinette were still around, she would love Angelcore.
Angelcore accessories often have these three key ingredients: gold, pearls and lace detailing. The use of gold stems from Baroque inspirations in aesthetics. The aesthetic has more ties to the late Baroque period known as Rococo, an 18th-century style of design and art that used lots of light colors and golden details.
Pearls also have historical symbolism that has cemented them in the aesthetic. At first glance, a pearl easily reminds us of purity, an idea associated with angelic innocence and femininity, albeit somewhat problematically.
In his book The curious tradition of precious stonesmineralogist George Kunz had this to say about pearls:
“The pearl, like a lady of old – pure and beautiful to look at, is the emblem of modesty and purity.”
Like pearls, lace has become part of angelcore for its associations with feminine purity and innocence. The association of lace with lingerie, and therefore with female sexuality, is relatively newwhich makes it less powerful than the ethereal qualities of lace.
Angelcore doubles down on its themes of angelic innocence and purity with its dominant use of modest hemming. You will rarely see racy outfits make the cut.
Most outfits start at the ankle or mid-calf and go a few inches above the knee, just around a woman’s mid-thigh. While exposing the collarbones is generally accepted for aesthetically appropriate outfits, few wardrobe choices go to deep, plunging necklines. Angelcore’s relatively conservative hemming is a quality it shares with its country sister, cottagecore.
Angelcore as a way of life
Although it emphasizes looking sweet and innocent, angelcore is more than just aesthetics. The fashion choices, movies, music and literature that fans of the aesthetic associate with it reflect its main message.
At the heart of every Tumblr aesthetic is a new way to see life and a new way to be mindful of how we live. University aesthetics, for example, encourage curiosity and love for literature and art.
Cottagecore, despite criticism of his sanitation of rural life and forced laborinspires women and LGBT+ people to appreciate the simple, quiet joys in life, like the pleasure of a job well done after a long day of gardening.
Along the same lines, angelcore invites its practitioners to embody the same principles of angelic etherity in how they treat themselves and others. Lace is soft and pure but there is something softer and purer in kindness and understanding.
Angelcore and the politics of pretty
While angelcore is likely to face criticism for its heavy use of imagery alluding to feminine purity and virginal qualities, it is just one of many attempts to bring softness back into feminism. Unlike the “Pick-Me” girl who strives for male approval and masculine representations of strength, Angecore’s proud brand of femininity is a rejection of patriarchal cultural values that dismiss traditionally feminine qualities as ‘less than’.
That said, even the potential criticisms for angelcore are just ways in which it empowers women to enjoy their beauty and femininity away from a male gaze.
In a room Originally published on NewStatesman.com, Sarah Ditum writes, “There is no problem in gender politics that Cool Girl Feminism says couldn’t be solved by being a little more receptive to patriarchal lust.
In stark contrast to Cool Girl Feminism, angecore’s sheer imagery, modesty, and distance from female sexualization offer women refuge from standards of beauty and sexuality. It’s a sentiment shared by practitioners of Lolita fashion, a Japanese fashion subculture and style.
Teresa Younker’s article,Lolita: dream, despair, defyexplains that the sweet and almost childlike aesthetic of Lolita fashion, which it shares with Western angelcore, is not an encouragement to attack innocence but a refusal of the sexualization of women.
Although Younker talks about the bleak future that awaits Lolita fashion, one thing becomes clear: the good fight isn’t over and angelcore is ready to pick up the slack.