Today, we’re breaking down how the coastal grandmother became an unlikely summer fashion icon. In Anatomy Of An Aesthetic, Her Campus dissects the latest style trends to tell you where they came from, why they matter, and how to DIY.
After a long winter, the sunshine is slowly making an appearance, and you know what that means — spring and summer fashion. But of all the people you might run into on the beach, the fashion world is taking its cues from an unlikely style icon: the coastal grandmother.
Yes, that’s right — Grandma can be chic, too. But rather than 2020’s grandmillennial aesthetic and its penchant for eyeglass chains and vintage pieces a la the old money New York townhouse grandma, the coastal grandmother aesthetic is all about embracing your inner New England divorcee. Think linen fabrics, white button-downs, a light sweater, and a tasteful, sensible shoe.
The trend got its name with TikToker Lex Nicoleta, who made a video explaining the aesthetic with visual examples: Nancy Meyers movies, Ina Garten, cozy interiors, and general “coastal vibes.” Since its inception on March 29, the #coastalgrandmother tag has racked up a whopping 27.2 million views and counting. Unlike other recent trends — trashy-chic, balletcore, etc. — that have been started or made prominent by young, hot Gen Z it-girls, the coastal grandmother aesthetic turns to different sources of inspiration: movies like Something’s Gotta Give, Home Again, and even The Parent Trap.
This doesn’t mean the trend hasn’t been co-signed by A-listers, however. Anne Hathaway took to Instagram to voice her support in — you guessed it — a white button-down and woven straw hat. She wrote, “I have been ready for #coastalgrandmother chic since before TikTok was born. May this moment never end.” Selena Gomez has also posted a sunkissed photo of her posing in a knit cardigan that embodies the trend.
Nancy Meyers, arguably the originator, posted a screenshot of a Refinery29 headline about the trend, writing, “This article says the Coastal Grandmother aesthetic has garnered over 1 billion views on TikTok! Typo?? That’s a lot of views for a pair of khaki pants, a GAP sweater and a bucket hat!” She seems just as baffled as anyone about why Gen Z would be looking to the coastal grandmother for style advice.
The reasoning might be simple. TikTok-born style trends have a tendency to cross over the line between fashionable aesthetic and lifestyle. As indicated by Nicoleta’s original video, there’s a lot more to the coastal grandmother than what you wear — it touches everything from cooking to the music you listen to, to how you decorate your home. The coastal grandmother’s aspirational element in all of these areas seems to be an escapist comfort, especially in the sense of upper-middle class wealth. Given the current state of the world for Gen Z, isn’t it just so much easier to pretend your biggest problem is what to spend your husband’s money on?
Class implications aside, in a society that deems any woman over 30 past her prime, the coastal grandmother’s admiration of older women is refreshing. Instead of being shunned as stereotypically unfashionable, they’re celebrated for their smart style choices (breathable fabrics for the win!) and being treated as aspirational and desirable.
Whether or not you live near a coast, anyone can partake in this fun and easy trend. Need a place to start? Here are 10 items that scream “coastal grandmother.”
- White button-down
If we’re stripping down coastal grandmother to its bare essentials, the white button-down has to be the first item on the list. It’s classic, it’s breezy, and it evokes the feeling of stealing your rich working husband’s officewear to lounge around the house. Best of all? It’s a versatile staple to have in your closet, especially if you get a high-quality one that will last you years.
- Linen, khaki, or white denim pants
Pick your material of choice — the idea is for your pants to be breathable, casual, in a light neutral, and even to show off a bit of ankle a la Anne Hathaway’s Instagram post (about as raunchy as the coastal grandmother will ever get).
Taylor Swift would be so proud. An authentic coastal grandmother might opt for expensive cashmere, but when you’re a college student without that kind of money, sometimes you gotta fake it til you make it. Either way, light neutrals are still your best bet for nailing the coastal look.
Just like mom friends everywhere love to remind you to bring a hat or put on sunscreen when you head out to the beach, the coastal grandmother aesthetic has your back by incorporating sun protection into the trend. A wide-brimmed straw hat like one is a perfect accessory — opt for something rounded rather than flat, to give it a more feminine touch.
You saw this one coming — is there any more classic grandma shoe than a sensible loafer? Thankfully, you won’t need to break out your heels for this look; the coastal grandmother is all about comfort and versatility. You can try these out in a neutral that can go with any outfit, or add a pop of color like this greenish-blue option that has all the beachy vibes you need.
- Chambray dress
Denim might be too thick and stiff for the summer heat, so a chambray dress is the perfect way to pull off the worn-in, casual look without sacrificing your cool. A dress like this one in a lighter wash with a cinched tie-waist nails the aesthetic and can become a staple in your closet.
- Pajama set
Who said fashion ends when the sun goes down? Go to sleep in style with a loose, matching pajama set like this one that will keep you cool during the summer but also add a bit of elegance to your nighttime routine (which may or may not include a late-night glass of white wine; we don’t judge).
- Bucket hat
A straw hat isn’t your speed? Don’t fret — you can still get some sun protection with a bucket hat in white or tan like the one Diane Keaton wore in Something’s Gotta Give. The best part is that bucket hats fit both the coastal grandmother aesthetic and the re-emergence of Y2K that’s been happening over the last couple of years, so having this item in your closet might be a good investment to make.
- Beachy tote
Heading to the beach? You’ll want something to carry your bottle of wine in: Enter the tote bag, a beach babe essential. You can choose a canvas tote, or something in a woven material like this one, to elevate your overall look.
- Striped half or quarter zip sweater
The beach does get cold at night, contrary to popular belief, which provides an opportunity to break out your sweaters. If you’re not a cardigan person, maybe you’ll prefer a quarter or half zip sweater that borrows from preppier aesthetics. Stripes are the go-to pattern for the coastal grandmother aesthetic, and you can never go wrong with nautical navy and white as a color combo.