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Material Girl: How Wealth Influences Modern Aesthetics

Celebrities, influencers, and everyone in-between surround us in today’s world, seeping into our minds and Instagram feeds. Under these circumstances it’s become clear that for many, money really is everything. Some celebs choose to take on the guise of a relatable, coffee-drinking, I’m-just-your-average-girl, however, it's important to remember that money is behind the painlessly pretty appearance and curated persona.

Some popular styles are, to an extent, unrealistic to achieve without keeping up with high prices and even higher standards. Here, we analyse the 'clean girl', 'pink pilates princess', and 'old money' aesthetics.

Image via Pinterest

Clean Girl and That Girl

Clean girl, adored for its part in the revival of business casual (and dismissed as a style slightly too reminiscent of the legal process) this Matilda Djerf-pioneered aesthetic has become recently imbued with controversy. From sharply tailored blazers to glinting gold hoops, many argue that those who enjoy it are overly zealous towards luxury and expensive wellness. While others maintain that it’s simply an innocuous trend, it would be hasty to overlook the unrealistic expectations set by this style.

Surrounding productivity, ‘that girl’ was created as a source of motivation for staying stylish and healthy during lockdown, while ‘clean girl’ represented the embracement and romanticisation of returning back to previously mundane day jobs.

Once loved by social media, these fashion and lifestyle trends are now under criticism. Often only wealthy people have the means to enjoy privileges like early morning yoga and takeout lattes every day. Although you could argue that the clothing basics and slicked-back buns (the trademarks of this look) are accessible and easy, it’s the level of tailoring and curation behind the scenes that makes the aesthetic unattainable.

Image via Pinterest

Pink Pilates Princess

Pale-toned leg warmers slid over sleek leggings, Brandy Melville and branded water bottles spritzed with Burberry Her are all in a day’s work for the pink pilates princess. It’s all about efficiency, with a focus on physical fitness. This style has a pilates-toned body and wants everyone around them to know about it, with branded workout sets all week long, notably the Lululemon ‘Define Jacket.’

The niche daughter of ‘that girl’ encourages you to prioritise and invest in a vast skincare fridge, self-help books and journals with appealing covers, and scented items like Lush candles and Victoria's Secret lotions.

Styles which centre around a particular — and expensive — sport are not uncommon, for example ice dancing, ballet, horse riding, and cheerleading. However, it has been frequently pointed out that these are to an extent inaccessible, financially and physically, and put increased pressure on people to invest even more money to make sure all of their equipment is coordinated down to the shade, and festooned with a plethora of Nike ticks.

While it is fair to say that the style itself could be achievable on a budget, the centre of this aesthetic — actually doing pilates or yoga — is associated with a pampered existence.

Monet de Haan in Gossip Girl (2021)

Old Money and Coquette

These styles, as you'd expect from the names, require wealth. Designer perfumes, for example Miss Dior and Coco Mademoiselle, designer bags like Dior and Vivienne Westwood's selections, designer shoes such as Steve Madden, Prada and Repetto... The list is never-ending.

The old money look created on social media is an idealised version of the Ivy-bound, boat riding, holidays-in-Italy upper class lifestyle which rose to popularity in the spring of 2021. Think Gossip Girl.

Coquette, on the other hand, is a revival of a style and community that originated on Tumblr during the 2010s, focusing on lighter and pinker shades, florals and the more traditionally feminine of the designer brands. Recently, it has become subject to endless satire.

As previously mentioned, both of these aesthetics have a clear focus on designer items. The only issue worth questioning is that both pore over one designer item for weeks, before moving onto the next one, creating an ineluctable cycle which is as unfeasible as it is unrealistic. This endless repetition is near impossible to keep up with making it very difficult to be involved in these styles.

Money is nearly always going to be a factor in fashion. With trend cycles speeding up to an alarming rate and new microtrends each week, it’s hard to bear in mind that only a select few can keep up with every single twist and turn. It’s simply yet another part of the spurious images people create of themselves, online and otherwise. However it’s really an advantage; while some choose to stress over collecting each and every prized item of the month, only to leave it collecting dust, you can evaluate these microtrends, and buy items you genuinely like. Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but it helps you prioritise figuring out your own personal style, and your own happiness by extension, giving you room to develop in a creative atmosphere which is separate from relentless influences.

Words by Miranda Webb

(@mirandaisnotcool on IG)

Edited by Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)


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