Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Anatomy of Aesthetic edgetotedge hero 1?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
Anatomy of Aesthetic edgetotedge hero 1?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
Style > Fashion

You Don’t Need to Define Your Style: The Rise of TikTok Aesthetics

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

Do you consider yourself “That Girl,” or does being an “E-Girl” speak to you? Are you tossing out your “cottagecore” looks in favour of “dark academia” this fall season? If you’re on any social media platform (especially TikTok), you’ve probably come across the rise of aesthetics. These stylized aesthetics can define a person’s wardrobe, lifestyle, interests, or hobbies. While I love a good TikTok lookbook, the pressure to define yourself through an aesthetic feels like a limited view of personal expression and style. 

The concept of aesthetics is perfect for forgetting fashion rules and dressing how you want. Theoretically, aesthetics toss out trends and favour personal style. However, aesthetics just created multiple sets of fashion rules— you can choose the aesthetic you want, as long as you follow it “correctly.” You can dress like a “Coconut Girl,” just don’t forget the shell necklaces and hibiscus print. It would be offensive to identify as a “baddie” without acrylic nails and crop tops. TikTok also didn’t invent these aesthetics, but the algorithm allows for fashion subcultures to grow through the all-knowing For You page. If you show interest in an aesthetic, you can guarantee that there’s an endless video stream of inspiration waiting for you. 

As with anything on the internet, aesthetics can easily be taken to the extreme. Comment sections will erupt with arguments over whether an outfit truly represents an aesthetic or take the opportunity to mock out-of-style trends. The rules dictating aesthetics take fashion policing to the next level. It’s not about whether or not you like an outfit, but whether or not it’s done “right.” 

There is pressure to choose one aesthetic and build your life around it. But it’s not that simple— what if you like both the “Y2K” and “light academia” aesthetics? The natural answer is to have a variety of pieces in your closet, but some users have voiced concerns over not sticking to a single style (the tag “aesthetic crisis” currently has 2.9 million views on TikTok). Trying to figure out who you are is difficult enough without the added pressure of choosing how to show it through a visually curated lifestyle. Loyally following a pre-existing aesthetic seems like a surefire way to avoid finding your personal style. 

The backlash against some of these aesthetics isn’t new. In particular, the “That Girl” trend was blamed for defining self-improvement as consumerism and aesthetically-pleasing clips. The “That Girl” style claimed to prioritize lifestyle changes— but the aesthetic was still a central piece. While “That Girl” is only one of countless styles, these aesthetics prioritize the way a lifestyle looks rather than the life itself. 

Aesthetics aren’t inherently bad — fashion should be fun. If you identify with an aesthetic, go for it! That being said, aesthetics aren’t everything. No matter how perfect someone’s closet or lifestyle looks online, social media isn’t real life. Fashion shouldn’t have such hard and fast rules — wear what makes you happy!

Cassandra is a fourth year Communications and Media Studies student at Carleton University. She's a fan of rollerskating, personality tests (she's an ENFJ!), and visiting new coffee shops around Ottawa!