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Coquette: hyper-feminine fashion beyond the pink ribbon memes

Girl dinner, girl math, similar trends are largely a self-aware, sarcastic “I’m just a girl”
Coquette%3A+hyper-feminine+fashion+beyond+the+pink+ribbon+memes
Ingrid Lu

It’s pink bows, it’s white lace, it’s heart-shaped sunglasses and ballet flats; hyper-feminine fashion has been in for a while now and while coquette isn’t exactly a new iteration, it’s rising into the mainstream.

Over the last year, coquette has been most recognizably identified with pink satin ribbons, targeting an adjacent trend (in this case, balletcore). It’s even become a staple of grossly ironic memes, where creators tie pink bows around Taco Bell sauce packets, spiders, and Coke bottles. Another trend is drawing bows in pencil to decorate failed math assignments.

It’s clear that embracing the coquette wave isn’t just about appreciating traditionally feminine aesthetics, but also adopting a sarcastic approach to female gender roles. Coquette is certainly not only for women, but the historical relevance of feminine styles — lace, bows, pearls — does influence its perception across Western media. Just like a lavish Rococo gown, this trend has lots of layers.

Some coquette outfits look best dressed down (a white lace tee, a pink cardigan, and blue jeans perhaps) but another theme seems to be over-the-top indulgence. There are basketball-sized puff sleeves, tops sprinkled with miniature pink bows, tops literally made out of one massive bow, dainty ribbons framing the perfect eye makeup. This might read as tongue-in-cheek at first, but it’s also unapologetically girly and grotesquely feminine. It says, “this is who I am, if you even care.” Part of it is basking in the feeling of wearing a pretty outfit, but the most excessive outfits are also a demand not to go unnoticed.

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“Coquette” literally means “a woman who flirts” in French. In terms of internet aesthetic history, it’s also a term irrevocably tied to the nymphet and lolita trends of the Lana Del Rey Tumblr era. Before the wave of pink bows in the past couple of years, “coquette” was a tag often used for plaid playsuits and heart-shaped sunglasses in American blues and reds.

These patterns take inspiration from Lolita, the eponymous main character in Vladimir Nabokov’s most famous novel, as well as the stylishly costumed film adaptations. In short, Lolita is a twelve-year-old girl, and the main character is an adult man who is completely obsessed with her. This is where the pedophilic connotations come from: the narrator refers to Lolita as a “nymphet” and twists the story to imply that she’s the one that’s interested in him.

The main themes of Lolita often get misconstrued: readers may see the novel as glorifying pedophilia, degrading female characters and grooming young girls who might have read the book or seen the film. None of this was Nabokov’s original intention; the narrator is notoriously unreliable and the plot serves to show how he manipulates, abducts and forces Lolita to play into his fantasy.

As a result, coquette started out with a bad reputation. It was associated with promiscuity, especially propelled by Lana Del Rey’s Tumblr-viral song “Lolita,” and critics emphasized that its popularization sent poor messaging towards girls. For those who aren’t aware of the novel’s nuances, this is very true.

However, coquette participants aren’t self-victimizers. Admiration for Lolita, however misplaced, stems from her total and complete power over a man. And she does have power over him: he grooms and manipulates her, but his world and every waking thought comes to revolve around her.

Two soda bottles wrapped with pink bows with a caption reading “girl dinner.” (Ann Penalosa)

The coquette influx has triggered other new trends. “Girl math” refers to suboptimal budgeting skills — for example, you buy a $5 matcha latte to motivate yourself to clean your room but you end up saving money because you didn’t have to pay $90 for a housekeeping service to do it for you. “Girl dinner” is a catch-all term for simple, hodge-podge meals: a bowl of cereal paired with Vienna sausages or bagel chips, prosciutto and grapes.

It feels condescending at first, but like the coquette memes, it’s largely self-aware. It leans heavily into the presumption that women are frivolous, vapid and — most egregiously — bad at math. But when boys roughhouse, act up in class or group up to see how many cans of whipped cream they can collectively down in one sitting, they might get an eye roll or an affectionate “boys will be boys.” Girl dinner, girl math, pretty pink bows — maybe it’s all a retaliatory, brash “I’m just a girl.”

Of course, the catch is that it might be harmful for younger generations to see these trends and buy into the idea that a sufficient meal for girls is a spoonful of peanut butter and half a stick of celery. There’s very valid criticism that language like this perpetuates stereotypes and perhaps enforces damaging diet culture — perhaps these trends should be kept away from children who could take it at face value.

But girls are real people who sometimes don’t eat the best meals or make the best financial decisions; everyone does. It doesn’t feel like regression, but a reexamination of girlhood, slathered in irony, self-indulgence and awareness. Being a woman is often a struggle and it’s not a tailored, perfect picture.

Whether or not you’re a girl: you deserve a pretty pink bow.

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About the Contributors
Ingrid Lu, A&E Editor + Features Editor
Hi! I'm Ingrid and I'm the Arts & Entertainment editor for La Voz this quarter. I love keeping up with music, movies, games, and the arts, especially when it's relevant to De Anza. I'm looking forwards to a good quarter!
Ann Penalosa, Managing Editor
Ann Penalosa (she/xe/they), 19, is a first year journalism major at De Anza College; xe's excited to be at La Voz and aims to use her platform as a vector for progress, a source of information, and a megaphone for marginalized voices. Xer passion for photojournalism dates back to high school, but in their spare time you can catch xem producing music, reading up on political theory, or chugging a two-liter bottle of diet Mountain Dew. (Well, not anymore...she's boycotting.)

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