“Cottagecore” this, “fairycore” that. “Core” trends have skyrocketed in popularity between 2011 and 2022, but the most recent fashion trend is about to take the world by… sea? Mermaidcore is a niche nautical aesthetic that’s starting to make huge waves in the fashion community. When Mermaidcore began gaining traction online in late 2021, it was an underground micro-aesthetic with few followers. Now, it’s been embraced by the mainstream—including top designers—, and continues to gain massive popularity both on and off social media. But where did the style originate, and how can you recreate it this summer?
What is Mermaidcore?
Mermaidcore is categorized by iridescent hues, puka shells, and scale-like textures. The look was seen on several runways for the 2021 SS season such as Versace’s whimsically nautical pieces. Pieces from Iris Van Herpen’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection, “Roots of Rebirth,” and the 2023 collection “Carte Blanche” prioritize water-like textures, cool tones, and extravagant translucent ruffles, all of which combined resemble a chic yet lovecraftian sea creature.
Mermaidcore was later popularized by Tiktok in the summer of 2022, and arose out of growing interest in lesser-known Y2K styles, like “Sea Punk” and “whimsigoth” (although most of us who were around back then just called it “Boho Chic” or “Indie”). Flowy fabrics, iridescent hues, and accessories that are either made of or resemble seaglass, shells, waves, and/or sand are characteristics of Mermaidcore. But it’s not a new trend; it takes a lot of inspiration from early 2000s surfer aesthetics popularized by media like Aquamarine, Zoey 101, and H20: Just Add Water (the tail in Aquamarine was actually designed to look like lowrise jeans!) Other popular 2000s brands like Roxy, Billabong, and Hollister, cemented the Y2K surfer girl vibes that would eventually set the stage for Mermaidcore, (perfectly detailed in the style retrospective; How the ‘00s Surfer Girl Got A Modern Makeover.)
(aquamarine, 2006) sara paxton being glued into her mermaid tail, the process took 2 hours and the tail was inspired by low rise jeans. pic.twitter.com/PQDQ3fMfoS
— popcultureangel (@lohanisgod) November 30, 2022
How to Achieve the “Mermaidcore” Look
Mermaidcore is a surprisingly simple look to recreate yourself using things that you likely already have in your wardrobe. Focus on mixing scaly or wet-look textures (like vinyl, faux snake skin, or PVC) with airy, cream-colored bardot tops and shell-like bras. Other colors, like pastels, shimmery pinks, and sandy brown or cream components are unexpected, but work well with the sea creature vibes.
If the characteristics of Mermaidcore call out to you, but flowy and seafoam green isn’t really your style, try switching it up! Channel your inner siren with an emerald green trench coat, or pair it with an edgy bodycon skirt in a deep sea blue, like this one from Topshop. Those popular surfer brands from the early 2000s? They still exist, and are a hotbed for Mermaidcore pieces. Pacsun’s Festival Shop is full of translucent sets, and pearl necklaces that would make Ariel proud.
Mermaidcore is the perfect example of a micro-aesthetic: it’s got a clear set of “rules” (look like a Mermaid, duh!), yet the trend isn’t so niche that it’s hard to understand or recreate on your own. It’s making a huge splash, so if you want to stay ahead of the trends, you might want to run to your nearest Michaels and pick up a bag of loose shells. If you were the kind of kid that wanted to live under the sea, you’d probably “go coastal” for this sea-friend fashion trend.
Photo by Adobe/K8most