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Coquette, Cottagecore and PreppyGen Alpha styles explained

Coquette, Cottagecore and PreppyGen Alpha styles explained
Coquette, Cottagecore and PreppyGen Alpha styles explained


I'm a Gen X mom to a Gen Alpha daughter and nothing divides us more than our style and fashion preferences. When I grew up in the 90s, trends were pretty easy to follow.

If you were preppy, you favored khakis, polo shirts and denim jackets. You've shopped at Gap or J.Crew and admired DJ Tanner's fashion, for example, on Full house. Maybe you were grunge, which meant flannel shirts, ripped dark jeans, and lots of chains. You held memorial services for Kurt Cobain and risked your life in Mosh Pits. Then there was the indefinite femininity of doll dresses with a t-shirt underneath or cropped cardigans with pleated skirts, like Cher Horowitz in Distraught or Kelly Taylor in Beverly Hills, 90210.

But today, styles evolve quickly and I can't keep up. Preppy, apparently, now means glitz and style? Cottagecore equals shades of brown while Coquette is pretty in pink? At least that's what I deciphered in a hilarious TikTok video from user Christina Kairis (@kriskamishka) where she takes her own Gen Alpha daughter shopping at Target.

Her daughter quickly teaches Kairis that the fashion she grew up with is no more and that what kids do today requires studying and Cliff Notes to follow and understand.

For example, in the video, two identical shirts hang side by side, one in brown and the other in pink. These are basic t-shirts embellished with long sheer lace sleeves. But according to Generation Alpha rules, the brown version is considered cottagecore and the pink is considered flirty.

Another tank top with thin straps and light floral patterns follows the same conundrum: the white version is flirty while the purple version has Olivia Rodrigo vibes. Next, Kairis' daughter shows off with preppy earrings that are faux diamond hearts with sparkly dangles. . . Needless to say, she, like me, is perplexed as to how the definition of preppy has morphed into something old lady. Titanic thrown into the sea at the end of the film.

The Reality of Gen Alpha Fashion Trends

My daughter isn't completely fashion savvy, but she is very critical of my outfits (I was told to change several times while I was going out). She is too very specific about what she will wear (cute t-shirts and comfy dresses reign supreme) and what she won't wear (heaven forbid, jeans or whatever adorns her closet). Oh, and she won't let me buy her clothes unless she's there.

We recently went shopping at Forever 21 for the first time and she rushed to a hot pink faux leather jacket with metal details and fringe and exclaimed: THIS speaks to me! I think the jacket could fall into a preppy or potentially Olivia Rodrigo vibe. . . but how can I be sure?

Before any of us get into trouble with our Generation Alpha kids on our next shopping trip, I went to the experts for a tutorial. The first thing I learned is that when Generation Alpha uses these terms, they're not just talking about fashion.

According to Nina Vargas, a famous business strategist, stylist and designer, they embody lifestyles, attitudes and a touch of fantasy. It’s less about specific elements and more about adopting the spirit of experimentation.

It is worth noting the influence of many young celebrities on the style of the Alpha generation. As mentioned in the TikTok video, Olivia Rodrigo has a naturally cool vibe that Generation Alpha looks to for “inspiration.”

She makes her everyday street style seem attainable and easy to emulate, says Melon Huber, fashion stylist, as well as founder and design director of the ethical lifestyle collection La Peony. She's tackling all these new trends and doing it in such a chic way. She has a way of incorporating all these TikTok trends while still staying true to her style.

Gen Alpha also considers singer Lana Del Rey and actress Sydney Sweeney as style icons and for embracing the flirtatious aesthetic. They are both often seen wearing lots of bows, pastels and a romantic feminine look that includes lots of lace, pink and dresses, Huber adds.

But we still need to know the lingo, an analysis of the fashion aesthetic you may hear Generation Alpha talking about and what it means.

What is Coquette?

This aesthetic is all about lace, bows, pinks and pastels, flowers and ruffles.

Think about the girly girl and the core of your style that is ultra feminine. It’s romantic, it’s playful, it’s affectionate, it’s girly,” explains Huber. These include dresses and mini skirts, with an emphasis on details such as bows, floral prints and lace.

What is Balletcore?

It's a soft feminine aesthetic where you take ballet basics and incorporate them into fashion, like ballet flats, tights and lots of lace, pink and ruffles.

It's feminine and really focuses on all the pastels and lots of creases, says Huber. This also includes everything from cardigans, mini skirts, cropped jackets and tops.

What is Cottagecore?

No, it's not a gardening project gone wrong, but rather a more rustic and magical atmosphere.

Think Little House on the Prairie meets Coachella with a twist, Vargas says. Imagine flowy dresses, floral prints and a general aura of life in a permanent Instagram filter where everything is softly lit and slightly sepia toned.

Huber also adds an overall lifestyle choice, based on simplicity.

Consider moving into the woods and living in a cute cottage. How would you dress, what activities would you do? Huber explains. An example would be laying down a blanket and having a picnic in nature. What if your blanket is plaid and your dress is plaid? You've reached cottagecore.

The aesthetic includes oversized puff sleeves, large sun hats, and long, flowing floral dresses. Bonus, add these wildflowers to your hair, and if your hair is braided, even better, adds Huber.

What is beige aesthetic?

Beige is the only literal aesthetic.

It's a neutral color palette that's aesthetically pleasing and works for many situations, from styling to interior design, says Huber. Forget bright colors and big patterns, but keep it simple and classic. Somehow it always makes you look neat, clean and enhances your overall appearance when you wear these muted tones.

Preppy doesn't mean what you think

In 2024, Preppy is now all about bright colors, including pink, while adding bows and glitter.

She's a very girly girl with lots of colors, Vargas said. It's a 180 change from how we used to see preppy style which was actually derived from a prep school look and those involved in sports think of old school Abercrombie & Fitch.




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