Today, we’re breaking down twee fashion from the 2000s, and its 2022 update. 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.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of Zooey Deschanel’s Jess from New Girl composing a new quirky song. Confused? You should be. Because somehow, after almost a decade of lying dormant in your abandoned Tumblr queue, the twee aesthetic is coming back.
If you’re asking yourself, “What is twee fashion?” I’ll break down the meaning for you: Twee was at its peak in the late 2000s to early 2010s, and functioned at least in part as an aesthetic response to Y2K’s bolder, sexier fashion. It’s no surprise, then, that right after Y2K nostalgia made a splash in 2021, twee is also coming back from the dead. Vogue describes the twee archetype as “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.”
Twee borrows from 1960s mod fashion, with its emphasis on brighter colors, patterned or colored tights, straighter silhouettes, and flat shoes like ballet flats. Twee also has an air of grandmillennial style about it, with florals, cardigans, and other “granny chic” elements. But perhaps most notably, it takes a lot of cues from hipster culture of the late 2000s — it’s grounded in indie music and movie taste, and trend analyst Mandy Lee pegged it as a “niche aesthetic under the indie sleaze umbrella” in a TikTok. (Indie sleaze leans more trashy hipster, whereas twee is “cuter” and more buttoned-up.) Wes Anderson’s films were especially influential for twee: Check out any of Suzy Bishop’s outfits in Moonrise Kingdom to see what I mean — her iconic pink Peter Pan collar dress hits the twee nail on the head.
In short, twee is both an aesthetic and an attitude; it means embracing your inner quirky girl, for better or worse. Do you own a mustache mug? Do you love Juno? Do you look like the kind of person who might have a ukulele somewhere in their bedroom? Congrats! You’re twee.
Twee joins the list of a number of other aesthetic renaissances during the beginning of the 2020s, including the 2014 Tumblr girl (an alternative, grungier sibling of twee) and the pop-punk revival. And like these other aesthetics, it gained traction on TikTok among Gen Z’ers who might either be turning to it out of nostalgia or were simply too young to appreciate it the first time it came around.
Zooey Deschanel is perhaps the most prominent twee icon, having donned the look both on New Girl and in (500) Days of Summer, but there’s a few other examples that you might’ve been obsessed with back in middle school. Taylor Swift embodied the twee aesthetic in her Red (the original, not Taylor’s version) era, during which she was photographed in a lot of A-line silhouettes, floral patterns, and vintage-looking shoes. And remember YouTuber Zoella? Back in 2012, she was rarely seen without a Peter Pan collar, floral print, or tights of some kind.
You might notice that all of the aforementioned twee fashion icons are skinny white women, something that Lee and other TikTokers have pointed out as a caveat for the twee revival. Since the early to mid-2010s, the conversation around body acceptance and positivity has changed, shifting away from the damaging “thinspo” mentality that dominated the Tumblr era (though there’s still a long way to go). In other words, twee isn’t coming back just as it was before. It’s (hopefully) evolving with us and our times to be more accessible and inclusive (though, as Fashion Magazine notes, plus-size twee fashionistas have always been around). Vogue also pointed out that since vintage aesthetics are so central to twee fashion, thrifting for this aesthetic is easier than for other TikTok micro-trends. So twee might be less harmful for the environment than trends that encourage fast fashion, like the coconut girl aesthetic of 2021.
Heard enough and decided you want to try twee out for yourself? Say less. Here are a few twee essentials to get you started.
- Collared Dress
You’ve seen it on Jess, Suzy, and every other twee girl out there, so it’s time to get your own collared dress. Play around with colors, patterns, and length to find what you like best — twee favors shift and A-line silhouettes in particular. This pink collared dress from ASOS is flirty and fun, with ruffling around the collar for an extra touch.
- Oxford Shoes
Opt for flat, vintage shoes instead of heels (yay for comfort!) Try looking in your local thrift store, or you can buy them on sites like Amazon.
If you want to extend your twee look to accessories, try out a beret like this one on Amazon that will have you feeling like Amelie.
Perfect for keeping you warm in colder weather, tights with a fun color and/or pattern also add an extra element to your outfit if you’re keeping the rest of it plain and simple. Try out a pair like these from Amazon.
- Mini Skirt
Borrowing the silhouette from mod fashion, a mini skirt like this plaid one from Amazon adds some cute “good girl” charm to your outfit.
- Lace Collar
Don’t want to shell out for an entire new dress when you have a perfectly good t-shirt dress already in your closet? Understandable. You can “twee it up” by adding a lace collar on top.
Cue the Taylor Swift song — a wool cardigan is perfect to throw on over any twee outfit, and will also keep you cozy.
This tweed handbag with gold accents will elevate any outfit, and at less than $20, it looks way more expensive than it actually is.
Though ballet flats are the original twee shoe of choice, they’re not very comfy. A loafer offers more support for your foot while still looking adorable — try this pair in pink, or go for a more neutral color that you can match with any outfit.
- Gingham Dress
Gingham is a staple pattern, and looks good in practically any color or season. This dress’s ruffled skirt also adds a bit of flair to an otherwise simple and cute outfit.
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