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Taylor Swift, Zooey Deschanel and the impacts of twee aesthetic in the 2010s

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

The twee aesthetic has been resurfacing and we’re here to look back at its muses and how to create an indistinguishable twee look

Tumblr’s 2014 era renaissance was premeditated since the Y2K aesthetic was brought back by Gen Z in the 2020 pandemic. With that in mind, Gen Z has now declared that 2024 is the new 2014, including with it the twee aesthetic comeback. 

So play repeat on the twee girl anthem “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” by She & Him – Zooey Deschanel’s duo band with M. Ward – and let’s discuss the main topics of this style and its 2010s impacts and muses.

Origins and characteristics

Twee was officially a thing between the late 2000s and early 2010s, and it was popularized mainly through Tumblr, becoming a strong media trend. As the fashion scene was leaving the Y2K times, the forthcoming twee aesthetic served as an antithesis to the previous sexy, glamorous, party-girl theme.

The style combines classical elements and shapes from the 1960s and 1970s with the late 2000s hipster culture, creating a vintage – and kind of indie – feeling. It’s a buttoned-up mix of bright colors, funky patterns, flat shoes and layering with different lengths. It’s basically a lot of feminine-associated elements together, getting close to creating a timeless campy vision of what “girly” is.

Generally, the “Twee Girl” is not just a look, it’s more of a personality archetype: the artsy, quirky girl, with a carefree attitude – and commonly straight across bangs. She’d modestly be the human embodiment of a bookstore, with English teacher vibes. She’d also probably own and play a Ukulele. It’s very close to what a Manic Pixie Dream Girl would be. According to Vogue: “Twee was the girl whose favorite class in school was art, the girl who thrifted before it was cool, and the one who wore fake glasses for the aesthetic before it was mainstream”. 

Zooey Deschanel

The actress and singer-songwriter is considered the major example of what twee entirely is. Her iconic vintage looks and quirky music performances were Tumblr’s inspirational source of twee outfits and references.

But it wasn’t just from her that the twee aesthetic took form, it was also from her characters. Jessica Day, from the TV series New Girl, was unapologetically girly, and quirky and constantly did impromptu songs for what she was feeling. Besides also being literally a teacher. Her outfits, alongside her bangs and glasses, were the perfect example of twee. 

Her famous “I rock a lot of polka dots” monologue sums up its whole personality.

And we can’t ignore her iconic performance as Summer Finn, in 500 Days of Summer, with the classic “I said I love The smiths” quote and Manic Pixie Dream Girl aura all over.

The movie wasn’t just a blueprint for the girl approach of twee looks through Summer, but also for the twee that’s based on more masculine, non-womanly elements through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Tom Hansen

Taylor Swift

In 2012, Taylor released the Red album, entering a new era of her life. Along with the new era, she also made a change in her wardrobe and started to appear in public with outfits that embodied twee, becoming another inspirational source for the trend. 

Just like Red’s visuals and sounds, Taylor’s street style was very autumn-esque. She was photographed a lot wearing tights, vintage flat shoes, collared dresses and skirts with different patterns – mainly floral and plaid.

Twee essential items

If you’re feeling inspired and want to try out the twee look, here’s a collection of some clothes items that you can start wearing to become your best twee-self: colored tights, skater skirts, mini dresses, Peter Pan collars, cardigan, ballet flats, beret, bows, hipster hats, fake glasses and sunglasses! Remember to play and have fun coming up with different patterns and layering! 

Twee’s impact in 2010s media

It wasn’t just celebrities that rocked the twee aesthetic, it was also all over the 2010s media, but especially in movies and TV series. The iconic coming-of-age The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) showcases the aesthetic not only with the costume department but also with its indie-like characters. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) also falls perfectly on the twee looks, approaching them in a more dark way. And in Me Before You (2016), we can see a very quirky, colorful and twee protagonist, Louisa Clark, with her notable looks and bangs.

But no one did the twee visual representation on media like Wes Anderson’s movies, with the mix of indie-quirky-vintage-feeling elements that makes his artistic signature so authentic. The twee outfit that stands out on his works is from his Moonrise Kingdom (2012) character, Suzy Bishop, with her benet and Peter Pan collared pink dress.

2020s comeback: what needs to stay and what needs to change 

The new decade brought with it new twee looks on media that are making its comeback stronger. A good example is Harry Styles 2020 Brit Awards red carpet look, with a collared purple sweater and a pearl necklace. Like then, he’s already worn many colorful pieces, with polka dots, stripes and cardigans, for example. 

Another example is Euphoria’s character Lexi Howard, with key twee items on her wardrobe throughout the show.

Along with the style comeback, there are some aspects of it that need to stay and others that must change. The replacement of label-obsessed with the art of thrifting for found items and shopping secondhand makes the twee aesthetic a more sustainable style that must continue to exist and be more mainstream. On the other hand, the aesthetic must change from having an exclusive group of icons who have the same body type – thin – and skin color – white. Since the 2010s Tumblr period, the topic of body acceptance and positivity has changed and must be more embraced, moving away from the promotion of eating disorders and unhealthy habits. Let’s make the 2020s twee fashion more inclusive and diverse, both in race, body type and genders.


The article above was edited by Isa Mucilo.

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Maria Palermo

Casper Libero '27

Journalism student with a passion for music, movies and culture in general. Hoping to write, learn and communicate more to the world each day!