Photography courtesy of Imaxtree, collage by Leo Tapel
The Y2K trend welcomes you to celebrate love any day of the year.
Date February 14, 2023
Enthusiasts of the genre would likely agree that there are three requisites for an iconic 2000s romcom main character: a beautiful (yet suspiciously spacious) apartment; a cool corporate job; and a never-ending rotation of situational-appropriate outfits. The latter now has a name: romcom core.
Love them or hate them (which, how could you?), romantic comedies are comfort food in cinematic form. Often (unfairly) deemed only appropriate on Valentine’s Day or Christmas, the formulaic genre reliably serves fantasy, silliness and unadulterated joy. Typically set in a hyper-romanticized version of New York or Los Angeles, each flick tends to follow a quirky-yet-lovable protagonist for which everything just kinda works out in the end. Living in that version of reality is not exactly attainable. But romcom core is about dressing like it is.
As you may have guessed, the style emulates fashion from 2000s cinematic love stories. With a focus on feminine, playful aesthetics, it often comprises handkerchief hems, dainty floral patterns and frilly detailing inspired by the leading ladies of romcom lore. They may not have been perfect, but they knew how to dress. From How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, to 13 Going on 30, to Something New, these films showed protagonists switching seamlessly from skirt suits at work to going-out garb in the evening that reliably reflected their Y2K storylines. As such, romcom core comprises whimsical tailoring, tube tops, low-slung skirts, and oh so many tiny scarfs.
The nostalgic trend has been on the rise for months, with Pinterest predicting that romcom core would take off in 2023. In a release, the company described it as more than just an aesthetic, but a way for people to channel the “main character energy” these movies provide. So it should perhaps come as no surprise that inspiration from early aughts love stories is all over recent runways.
At New York Fashion Week, Coach’s catwalk was brimming with sartorial main character energy, from sheer slip dresses with ruffled detailing to low-waisted maxi skirts with cropped jackets. Designer Tia Adeola presented a variety of Y2K-reminiscent looks, including halter mini dresses with asymmetrical hemlines and strapless frocks accessorized by matching skinny scarves.
Photography courtesy of Coach
At Sergio Hudson, layered vibrant slip dresses paired with tiny handbags felt intentionally reminiscent of Jennifer Garner’s Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30. Meanwhile, Kim Shui gave representation for the eccentric main character trope, with bright 2000s shearling jackets as well as going-out looks comprising low-slung pants, tube tops, frilly skirts and sheer over-the-shoulder button-ups. Romcom core is everywhere, and now it even has its own aesthetic subgenres.
On TikTok, where the hashtag has 100,000 views and rising, creators are channelling the recognizable personas of niche main characters. The viral “frazzled English woman” aesthetic, inspired by Kate Winslet in The Holiday and Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary, comprises shearling jackets, baker boy hats, and earth-toned corduroy. The cold businesswoman archetype Sandra Bullock portrays in The Proposal has become synonymous with a refined corporate aesthetic. Meanwhile, some cozy autumnal outfits are an ode to small-business-owner style à la Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Romcom core isn’t one sole style, it’s about channelling your own kind of happy ending.
For a few years, it felt as though romcoms had all but disappeared from the zeitgeist. Like many phenomena with a female-dominated fanbase, the genre was largely written off as shallow, unimportant and inconsequential fluff. But today, pop culture seems to recognize that romcoms are so much more. Sure, with dialogues exclusively made up of witty banter and a questionable amount of grand gestures, they’re shamelessly unrealistic. But it’s through these saccharine storylines that they celebrate the simple joy of being in love. With romcom core, that feeling comes from your wardrobe, not just romantic relationships.
Thankfully, as an extension of the Y2K renaissance, there’s been a cultural revival of the lighthearted love story genre. We have modern beloved romcom queens like Zoey Deutch and Lana Condor. On TikTok, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has been trending for months as a treasured cultural gem (it’s time to give Kate Hudson her Oscar). Not to mention, the rhinestone-embellished cut-out Versace dress in 13 Going on 30 has transcended the film altogether, becoming a coveted piece of fashion history. If recent runways are any indication, the trend of dressing like you’re in your favourite movie is not going anywhere.
Ultimately, romcom core takes the focus away from striving for a life partner and instead celebrates romanticizing your life for what it is. It’s about dressing like every day is a feel-good movie, curating your own little happy endings, and, ultimately, being just a little delusional, as any romcom heroine would. In 2023, we could all use more of that.