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POV: It’s happened again. It’s a Wednesday night and I’m up way past my bedtime mindlessly scrolling through TikTok (clearly my 2023 resolution is off to a great start). I’m laughing at a cat video—nothing out of the ordinary. Just as I think I can accurately predict the next video to land on my FYP, my screen fills with soft shades of cream sweaters, white fluffy bedding, satin bows and oat milk lattes in light pink floral mugs. The screen reads, “Vanilla Girl Aesthetic Starter Pack”.
No no no, this can’t be right! I clearly remember this being the “Clean Girl” aesthetic—or no, this must be Balletcore. Or is it the “That Girl” aesthetic? What about the Coastal Grandmother? She must be lonely! Did we all forget about her?
I keep scrolling—after all, I’ve already committed to Matilda Djerf-inspired “Scandi style” for 2023. But alas, the algorithm has already made up its mind and I’m served a “Vanilla Girl” claw clip hair tutorial.
I watch as a teenager with long blonde hair swoops her locks up with a translucent claw clip into an effortless updo. Apparently, she’s a “Vanilla Girl” and this is the hairstyle they do. Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not a “Vanilla Girl” hater, I’m just confused.
Over the past year, I’ve watched (and willingly participated) in Gen-Z’s brilliant branding and re-branding of lifestyle aesthetics. Whether it’s intentional or not, TikTok creators have been able to continually re-invent basic products, concepts and lifestyle habits by niche-ing them down to simplified aspirational aesthetics.
For example, gold hoops, a cable-knit sweater, a silk scrunchie, Olaplex hair products and Dior Lip Glow are all common products listed in the Clean Girl, That Girl, Balletcore, Scandi Style, Vanilla Girl and Coastal Grandmother aesthetics. So how do you tell them apart? The corresponding aesthetic location or activity—whether it be a “hot girl” walk, ballet class, bedroom or beach—is often the discerning factor in determining which niche the products fall into.
Being able to continuously re-code everyday essentials into these core aesthetics is an impressive Gen-Z-led masterclass in social marketing—especially when it leads viewers to a monetized Amazon storefront.
I click on the “Vanilla Girl” hashtag on TikTok and it already has 294 million views—the “Vanilla Girls” must be everywhere by now. After watching about 20 more #vanillagirl TikToks, I feel like I have a better understanding of this new aesthetic. Am I a “Vanilla Girl”? No. Do I want to be one? Maybe.
To put it simply, the “Vanilla Girl” aesthetic falls into the category of approachable minimalism. As the name suggests, the style is neutral, classic and basic—and not in a bad way. The underlying theme of the aesthetic is rooted in simplicity and realistic luxury. The basis of the “Vanilla Girl” fashion identity is in wearing a full winter white or “vanilla” outfit, adding cozy accessories like leg warmers or white fluffy earmuffs, and keeping hair and makeup relatively natural.
In an era of rapid microtrends, the “Vanilla Girl” profile has the potential for longevity since it’s basically just pairing light-toned basics together to create a chic, curated look. As someone who is trying to see past quick trends in an effort to help refine my own personal style, subscribing to the “Vanilla Girl” persona might actually be helpful—though, you won’t catch me referring to it with that title.
If the idea of the “Vanilla Girl”— or as I prefer to call it, cozy minimalism—intrigues you, keep reading for the TikTok-approved starter pack. And if you’re more of a chocolate, cinnamon or strawberry girl, you can go ahead and create a corresponding monochrome outfit to match.
An easy way to get started with the “Vanilla Girl” aesthetic is by choosing a corresponding piece of outerwear—since coats are the main focus of winter fashion you can get the natural look with just one item.
The classic Longhcamp tote has been poised to make a comeback and the “Vanilla Girl” aesthetic might just be the thing that makes it happen. This bag is great for workouts, work days or weekend trips.
You obviously can’t be a “Vanilla Girl” without a hint of actual vanilla! This Maison Margiela perfume has an inviting warm scent to it like a great cafe.
According to TikTok, this Polo Ralph Lauren sweater is a “Vanilla Girl” essential—and honestly, I added it to my cart because it’s so classic.
For the “Vanilla Girl” homebodies, this SKIMS robe is a great pick and it’s currently on sale.
No Gen-Z TikTok trend is complete without a claw clip! This vanilla one will actually hold all of your hair up becuase of its jumbo size.
The mini UGGs may be everywhere this season but these cozy UGG slippers are honestly cuter.
And of course, you have to add a Dior Addict Lip Glow to your starter pack for good measure. This balm will leave your lips feeling hydrated with a subtle tint.
For an everyday bag, look no further than this oat-colored vegan leather shoulder bag by Freja New York. The timeless silhouette is big enough to hold all of your “Vanilla Girl” essentials.