Ah growing older! It seems like just yesterday that I was dancing around my pink room in my pink princess dress with matching (you guessed it) pink shoes! But where does all of that pink, femme energy go when we grow up? Do I just put it in the attic in the box next to my old Polly Pockets? In the past, a woman was expected to shed hyper-feminine elements of their aesthetic existence in order to pursue a more serious life. But in the present? Femme fashion is having a resurgence in the lives of everyday adults, thanks to new rules set in place by pop culture.
There is a transformation of aesthetics that one goes through in life. From birth, gender decides the aesthetic quality that a person will adopt until they can ultimately make decisions for themselves. However, the aesthetic world of a young child is not usually one that is built with a lot of freedom. On average, parents choose from one of two options, feminine, which is usually defined by the pinkest frilliest things money can buy, or masculine, which is usually constructed of the color blue and things like airplanes? If you’re lucky sometimes there’s even a random soccer ball. Let’s forget the perplexing nature of masc. childhood décor for now, shall we? From childhood to adulthood, the place of traditionally feminine silhouettes, colors and themes massively shift in relevance to one’s life. It seems as though boys turning into men are told to hold onto the themes of their youth, while women are being told to shed them. Traditional masculinity maintains the same colors men grow up with, blues, reds, browns, etc. It often even holds onto the same themes, cars, sciences, sports, the list goes on.
On the other hand, when women grow up, there’s a shift. The color pink, flowers, sequins, anything that has a femme essence, become things that are considered not serious and therefore, not important.
The idea of a woman not being taken seriously based on what she’s wearing is not a particularly new sensation. Women have been jumping through hoops to receive half of the respect and power that men do, particularly in working environments. A lot of the manifestation of this hoop jumping exists in the modification of one’s outward appearance. My own pre-pubescent self felt a lot of shame revolving around the girly aesthetic that had been seared into my brain. But, this shame did not stem from the loathing of my own appearance, it came from the way people treated me. It soon became clear to me that if I changed certain outward qualities and subverted people’s expectations of me, they would respect me more. But the change wasn’t centered on what I enjoyed or what made me feel good. When you’re a young girl, growing up means existing in a world where a lot of decisions are made for you. Even when I entered into a time when I thought decisions were my own, there was always the lingering feeling that outside influence and gender expectations would be present.
There is a general feeling that in order to be taken seriously, one has to embrace just enough of masculine styles, but not so much that they can be perceived as intimidating. It’s a tightrope that requires both playing into and against gender rules. The one place where hyper-feminine fashion has consistently been embraced is amongst pop stars. The 90’s and Y2k era launched girly style into the stratosphere with artists like the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey at the forefront of the trend. Female-centric pop artists were amongst some of the first people who embraced a youthful femme style and whose fame turned the trend into an aspirational way of dressing. For them, the full embracement of femininity and over the top dressing was a tool that allowed them to connect with young audience members that felt seen by the validation of things they identified with. Well known and loved pop artists, further added to the idea that young women can be successful, validated, and loved all while embracing hyper-feminine themes and aesthetics that are usually frowned upon. Artists like Kim Petras, Slayyyter and most famously, Carly Rae Jepsen are continuing to shine a light on all things girly and fun in our modern world. By redefining the use of these recognizable aesthetic themes, there’s more room for interpretation. Hyper-feminine themes don’t have to be life-defining, but there can be a lot of power in the use of the trend. The embracement of hyper-feminine themes and motifs can ultimately serve as a means of validation for an aesthetic that is often written off.
Current femme fashion doesn’t feel like the one of my past. It doesn’t have the same sticky undertones that the one of my youth carried. It feels like a choice, one that I can make that is free from judgment about my power. At the end of the day, hyper-feminine aesthetics is nothing more than just that, aesthetic! So shimmy into those sequins! Frolic in your feathers! Wear the most garishly femme thing in your closet! What are they really going to say? Your pink is looking TOO pink today? As my mother would say, pish posh! If you need me, I’ll be sipping my pink cosmopolitan, in my pink sequin pants as I ride into the pink sunset, thank you very much.
By: Shannon Homan
Photography by: Casey Tang
Styling by: Shannon Homan
Hair and Makeup by: Mariam Ali
Models: Erika Takovich & Tosin Mercy
Shannon Homan is a third-year Theatre and Dance and Government double major. Shannon enjoys gardening, styling shoots, and hanging out with as many cats as she possibly can. When she’s not hanging with furry friends, you can usually find her drooling over the latest Eckhaus Latta knitwear.