Nell Richmond explores the rise of this new TikTok aesthetic and why it might be resonating with so many women today.
I don’t think any of us can deny that certain women effortlessly look put together. Without wishing to sound too “I’m not like other girls”, I will never be that person.
Therefore, you can imagine my concern when the ‘That Girl’ aesthetic began popping up over TikTok.
‘That Girl’ is someone who works out early in the morning, drinks smoothies, and journals. She applies limited makeup, yet her skin glows from within. She dresses in casual, well-tailored trousers and white tank tops. Then, after scraping her freshly washed hair into a claw clip, she goes to a cafe and does some more journaling.
Okay, I really sound like I’m saying I’m not like other girls now. If this is your life, all power to you, you definitely look great.
However, as someone who will always look a bit scruffy no matter how hard I try, I am excited to announce that the ‘That Girl’ era is reaching its end.
So what’s next?
According to trend forecasters, the undone look is back, or the ‘frazzled British woman’ aesthetic if you’re a TikTok fashion girly.
If you’re confused, cast your mind back to any romantic comedy that came out between 2000-2007. For the likes of Bridget Jones, Amanda and Iris from The Holiday, or any female character in Love Actually – cosy knitwear, eclectic jewellery, and maxi skirts were a must. This look is perfect for the colder seasons: messy hair is okay so there is no need to worry about the wind, everything will look good with a staple winter coat, and, most importantly, there is an emphasis on comfort.
I get it. TikTok aesthetics have become undeniably tiresome, but there is something remarkably enticing about the frazzled British woman look.
In many ways, it reflects where we’re at as a society. With living costs at an all-time high, aspirational videos with women showing off their off-duty model looks and ‘That Girl’ routines feel out of touch. The whole aesthetic has a certain smugness and makes many women feel inadequate for not exercising enough or enjoying green juice.
The frazzled British woman, therefore, feels incredibly fitting. Despite the inspiration for this look being mainly white and middle-class characters, there is still something that feels relatable for most women. We are living in an age of instability and trying to be ‘That Girl’ constantly feels like you’re fighting a losing battle. The protagonists in these films have problems: with their jobs, their friends, and their love lives – and their wardrobes reflect this. Outfits no longer have to feel sleek and put together but can be busy and maximalist. This is not romanticising dysfunctionality but is about accepting that living a life that is completely healthy and structured is not realistic.
A lot of us are struggling to get by, but we are all trying our best – which is why we should have a bit more fun when we get dressed in the morning.
If you need any more convincing, this look will also work for your budget this season. The styling is modest enough for work but stylish enough for your weekends and most items can be found in your local charity shop or your (or your mum’s) wardrobe from the noughties.
So, here is how to get the look:
HAIR AND BEAUTY
For this aesthetic, messiness is key. It’s time to embrace your natural hair texture – use your usual products but do away with the laborious heated styling. It’s becoming far too cold and dark in the mornings to bother with it. Your ‘That Girl’ claw clips were also a staple of any Richard Curtis leading lady so, when your hair gets greasy or frizzy, throw it up before walking to work. (Extra points if you listen to Respect by Aretha Franklin while doing so.)
I am a strong advocate for doing your makeup how you please, but if you truly want to embody your inner frazzled British woman, try to stick with natural shades. If you’re feeling really brave, do away from makeup altogether. Texture, acne and dryness are completely normal! What’s more, the cold weather will add brightness to your skin, as long as you keep it moisturised and if you still feel a bit bare – try a clear mascara to tame your eyebrows and lengthen your eyelashes.
This is not to say that you can’t take the time to look after yourself, we all deserve that, but embracing your skin and hair when it’s looking a bit dishevelled is also important.
The most authentic way to give this look a try is to head to your local charity shop, but, if you want to buy new, I’ve trawled the internet for items you can use for reference.
This aesthetic is all about enjoying a bit of frump, but to avoid looking like a before on What Not to Wear, a fitted shirt is a must. This Paloma Wool piece is a perfect starting point. The skinny striped print is undeniably noughties, but it is modernised with the double zip design. It’s perfect for work, but the zips can be left open if you feel like heading out.
To keep warm, opt for brightly coloured knitwear for layering – for extra points, go for something like this zany House of Sunny number. The ‘That Girl’ aesthetic is depressingly minimalistic so this is your chance to enjoy patterns and colour again. Another winner is this Gimaguas knit jumper with a cosy yet sexy off-the-shoulder design.
For bottoms, maxi skirts or flared trousers are your friends. If you’ve opted for a bright knit, try a black or grey maxi. For a more casual look, cargo style or denim skirts also work wonderfully. Sustainable options can be found anywhere on Depop or Vinted but look to this Ragged Priest number for inspiration. As for trousers, bootcut suit styles are decidedly noughties and are guaranteed to be found lurking in any second-hand shop – they’ll be better fitting (and better quality) than anything you might buy new.
The coat is possibly the most important element of this look. Afghan coats are still having their moment, with the fluffy trims adding a fun, busy feel to any outfit. These are best bought vintage, but if you are struggling to source one – Superdry has certainly pulled through with this stylish piece that looks undeniably cosy. Fitted jackets also work well as they balance out baggy, relaxed skirts or trousers.
For this seasonal look, casual comfortable shoes are the best way to go. For work, if it’s appropriate, go for a square-toed chunky boot which will look cute peeping under longer trousers or skirts. If you really want to feel fashion-forward, ballet flats are having their moment once again. These Vagabond flats are undeniably Bridget and won’t pinch your feet as long as they are paired with cosy socks or tights.
This is where you can really start to have fun with this aesthetic. Demand for dainty jewellery is waning and it’s time to embody your favourite kooky art teacher with chunky necklaces, bangles and statement earrings. Skinny scarves, although completely impractical, are having a massive comeback. You can definitely picture Iris from The Holiday wrapping up in something like this Acne Studios number. Tie up the whole look with a knitted hat that brings out colours for the outfit and you’re on the right track.
Understandably, this look isn’t for everyone. But there is something comforting about the rise of the undone look. Trends are nearly always a reflection of what’s going on in the world and it should relieve us all that runways are celebrating messiness and a more casual approach to fashion.
If you don’t want to outwardly embody a frazzled British woman, the takeaways from these films are something we can all use in this time of uncertainty. I live in a flat with a severe damp problem (the only one I could find) and work in a bar in the evenings but the revival of this look has allowed me to accept that struggling is okay. It is not something to hide away from the world.
To see more of what Nell has written, visit @nelllanne on Instagram.