Is the stereotypical, hyper-girlie Barbiecore aesthetic still relevant? UAE-based fashion experts decode the trend

At a time when fashion has become fluid and inclusive, where does the all-pink Barbie aesthetic stand?

By Sujata Assomull

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This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling (left), and Margot Robbie in a scene from 'Barbie'. Photo: AP
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling (left), and Margot Robbie in a scene from 'Barbie'. Photo: AP

Published: Fri 28 Jul 2023, 2:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Jul 2023, 4:11 PM

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is talk of the town. The film will go down in bhistory for many reasons, including making $377 million on the opening weekend, making Gerwig the first female director to bring in such figures. While the film is yet to be released in the UAE, its ripple effect on fashion is visible. Barbie-inspired trends had been spotted ever since the film was announced at the end of 2019. Even then one thought the Barbiecore trend had come and gone. But when, at the end of last year, fashion search engine Lyst announced its Year in Fashion, Barbiecore ranked as the top trend of 2022, with its peak moment in June. With the film having won over audiences around the world, do not be surprised if Barbiecore returns as the top trend of 2023 as well. Already, the Instagram account

@databutmakeitfashion has called Barbiecore the biggest trend of the summer and noted that its popularity has gone up by 412 per cent in the last month alone. As renowned fashion influencer Masoom Minawala Mehta puts it, “It’s a trend that will continue to trickle down to culture. We are yet to witness the climax, and I don’t think it will die down too soon.”

Masoom Minawala Mehta
Masoom Minawala Mehta

Barbiecore phenomenon

In the film, Margot Robbie has, expectedly, dressed like the doll. She is every inch the Barbie we all had imagined. After all, she has the body type and looks to bring alive all those stereotypical feminine attributes. However, this isn’t the most inclusive take on fashion. Plus, is it not time we woke up to the fact we are just feeding the pockets of corporations behind the film?

It seems not. Sandra Hakim, founder of Dubai-based concept store, The Urbanist, says, “There is a certain innocence and femininity to characters, and this has appeal.” It is actually a trend made for Dubai. “The girls in the film are stylish and beautiful. Who doesn’t aspire to be like that?” she adds. As proven by the stores in the city that are filled with fashion inspired by the pop culture icon, Barbiemania doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Barbie has been in our lives ever since the American toy manufacturing company Mattel first began to sell the 11.5 inch doll in 1959. Barbiecore, however, became a trend only in the late 1990s when the Danish-Norwegian dance group Aqua released its single Barbie Girl. The song captured popular imagination, even though many detractors pointed to how Barbie set impossible beauty standards for young women around the world. Case in point? These lines from the song: Dress me up, make it tight, I’m your dolly.

Fashion seeks inspiration

Over the years, designer labels like Moschino and Chanel have sought inspiration from Barbie. Chanel’s recent Cruise 2023 show had obvious references to Malibu Barbie. Not surprising, given the show was held in Los Angeles and Margot Robbie happens to be one of the brand ambassadors. Today, Barbie has managed to gain fashion’s vote of confidence with labels such as Vera Wang, Jean Paul Gaultier and Middle East’s very own Elie Saab being among those who’ve dressed the doll.

Sandra Hakim
Sandra Hakim

At the debut edition of Dubai Fashion Week in October last year, Barbie teamed up with Lebanese couturier Jean-Louis Sabaji to launch a new collection of Barbie-inspired outfits. Curvy model Ameni Esseibi opened the show in a tiered, black-feathered skirt with a sequined bright pink top, thereby proving that with some imagination Barbie fashion can work on all body types. Hakim says what she has enjoyed is how people have taken the look and expressed themselves creatively. Billie Eilish gave the trend her own spin with an oversized pink shirt, pink leg warmers and chunky sneakers at the film’s Los Angeles premiere, and a pregnant Kourtney Kardashian has proved the Barbie trend is baby bump-proof on her Instagram. Interestingly, this time, Barbie fashion has gone fluid and has impacted the way men dress too. With fashion no longer stacking what is meant for women and men in neat compartments, the timing of the film couldn’t have been better. Be it Ranveer Singh or Harry Styles, a new brand of femininity is being embraced by many male celebrities in their dressing styles.

Layla Kardan
Layla Kardan

Lately, we saw how the Netflix series Bridgerton inspired regency era fashion, or regencycore, and HBO’s Succession paved the way for quiet luxury, which is also having its moment right now. Trends with the word “core” are usually social media trends born out of cultural phenomena that usually have a short shelf life.

Why it's resonating

In the post-Covid era of fashion, Barbiecore has become the ruling trend on TikTok, with over 350 million views. Be it Zendaya or Anne Hathaway, every celebrity has had her own take on Barbiecore. The icing on the cake, however, was when Valentino came out with a shade called Valentino PP, a vibrant hot pink that would certainly receive Barbie’s approval.

While Barbie’s style of dressing was imagined more than 60 years ago, it turned out to be tailormade for social media. Of course, there is more to Barbiecore than pink. It is an ultra glamorous and highly stylised look that is visually eye-catching. Barbiecore has almost become a “guilty pleasure”. As Dubai-based singer and entrepreneur Layla Kardan, who is known for her unique sense of style, says, “I love the many shades of pink and all the sparkles. Though I am not big on dressing for trends or much of a pop colour girl, I secretly like seeing all the Barbiecore influencer posts.”

Being a major post-pandemic film, the protagonist’s dress codes fit into the dopamine dressing styles that have dominated fashion ever since we came out of lockdown. “It hits nostalgia. A concept we are all familiar with and relate to,” says Minawala Mehta. “Barbiecore takes us back to our childhood to happier, more carefree times. It’s dopamine dressing at its finest.” Post-pandemic, fashion has also become very retrospective, hence Barbie’s timing could not have been better.

However, trends cannot go on long enough. While Minawala Mehta finds pink, especially Valentino’s Pink PP collection, very empowering, she says we have seen too much pink. Kardan, on the other hand, argues, “I think it will be at least another year of pink on pink.” Others are hoping Succession-inspired quiet luxury trend may just give Barbiecore a run for its money.” Hakim has the final word when she says, “Now it’s pink, tomorrow it’s another colour, the next season will bring another look.” Come on, Barbie, let’s end this party!

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