Soft girl is an aesthetic that is most easily confused for another. As a style, it closely resembles E-Girl, VSCO, and preppy aesthetics but with some elements ramped up or toned down. It is also one that is often misunderstood.
As a mode of existing in the world, soft girl has been described as infantilizing, the Gen Z version of the girl next door, subversive, and empowering.
It's an aesthetic that is mostly adopted by teens and it rose to popularity in 2019 with the introduction of TikTok. Of all the trendy aesthetics, soft girl is the hardest to pin down to a specific lifestyle because it is an amalgamation of so many different influences like Kawaii and anime, the Bratz dolls, and Y2K nostalgia (it is a driving force in the Y2K revival). But soft girl's main defining trait is that it celebrates all things cute and girly.
Breaking down the soft girl look
The look is deliberately feminine, almost overly so, with lots of pinks, pastel shades, and glitter. There is a large emphasis placed on makeup and accessories, more than most other light aesthetics like coastal grandmother, cottagecore, or light academia.
Soft girl makeup usually consists of sharp winged eyeliner balanced out with lots of blush and highlighter across the cheeks and onto the nose. There are sometimes little tattoo stamps of hearts or flowers on the face as well as fake freckles, lashes, and then pouty pink glossed lips.
The accessories are maximalist and almost childlike with hairclips and jewellery that have butterfly, teddy bear, or flower motifs. They're usually enamel or plastic and are in bright colours that contrast the muted tones of the outfits.
The clothing can range from white pleated tennis skirts with white tanks or crop tops to oversized hoodies with cutesy graphics. There are a lot of baggy cardigans and knee-high socks as the style plays around with fluffy textures to achieve its overall goal of a soft and comforting aura. Some people chose to contrast elements of the look with chunky boots or black handbags and therein lies the self-awareness of this aesthetic.
Why soft girl is about more than cuteness
Soft girl is an over-exaggeration of the things that teen girls have been trivialized and undermined for loving. The overt and extreme vulnerability of being soft and openly loving traditionally girly things is like a retaliation against the forces that make women feel ashamed. It mocks this by crafting different personas and performing different modes of womanhood.
The TikTok challenge that led to the rise of the soft girl aesthetic saw women and young girls start out looking edgy and then transform into softness. Like many of the aesthetics, soft girl isn't an all-or-nothing way of life. In fact, it is most often used as a way for women and girls to explore that part of their identity and the things that bring them joy.
Ariana Grande is perhaps the most famous soft girl and she embodies a lot of what the aesthetic is about, like her or not, she is unapologetic and sexy while still remaining gentle and cute. She can rock a cutesy sweatshirt with thigh-high socks but she also owns her power and is a major player in the music industry.
There is a soft girl forum on Reddit where people share their looks and they're often captioned with "felt soft today" which sums up the fluidity of the archetype. It's a persona and an aesthetic you can slip on when you want to look cute and explore your softness.
There isn't a specific lifestyle attached to the soft girl aesthetic but there is a vibe of positivity, joy, colour, and female friendship. There is also a correlation with music that is happy, positive, and unapologetically feminine.
How to get the look in Vancouver
H&M and Forever 21 are the best places to look for soft girl-style clothes because they are always on-trend with GenZ and popular aesthetics. Plus they undoubtedly have pastel crop T-shirts with cute graphics. But really the clothing items are less important than the colours and how you wear them.
Focus on pulling pieces that are light in colour and make you feel cute and comforted. They should be comfortable to wear and then play up the makeup and fun accessories. Charlotte Tilbury is a go-to makeup brand for soft girls because of its pink and glowy theme but cream products like blushes and highlights are also a staple. For people really looking to push the envelope this Cheeky Stamp Blendable Blush by Kaja is peak soft girl.
For accessories as much as it pains me to say this, Claire's is the place to go. Little cherries, gummy bears, and flower berets are the style and that is where I recall seeing those kinds of things last. But if you can't stand to set foot in the place that scarred you for life when you got your ears pierced at age 10 (honestly fair), Simons has some options too.
In terms of places to check out if you're in the soft girl mood, this aesthetic is largely a homebody hang-out in your room watching anime type. However, baking and listening to music with friends are also stereotypical pastimes. However, as I said before, this aesthetic is all about breaking through stereotypes by embracing and reclaiming them so really go and do whatever the F you want.