Unpacking the “downtown girl,” TikTok’s newest fashion trend

By Siobhan Elizabeth Ball

Elm Staff Writer

According to Vogue, TikTok has quickly become the epicenter for all things fashion, from styling advice to generating the latest trends. Anything you can think of in the fashion world, TikTok has you covered. Many popular looks, including balletcore, cottagecore, and the old money aesthetic, were popularized on the app. 

In case you have not been sucked into the fashion world of TikTok, you might have missed the latest trend that has been blowing up across the Internet — the downtown girl aesthetic, which presents a romanticized look at life in downtown New York City. 

Cool and effortless, you would most likely find someone sporting the downtown girl look with their nose buried in a book or wandering the aisles of a record store.

While the style draws from a number of existing aesthetics, the downtown girl look is rooted in movements like indie sleaze and model off-duty.

The indie sleaze look includes flash photography, American Apparel, Nylon Magazine, graphic tees, cross necklaces, and downtime spent on Tumblr. According to InStyle, indie sleaze is, “…different in that it’s chaotic and messy; it’s mismatched and out of proportion.”

Model off-duty is similar to indie sleaze, but more laid-back. This look has comfort at its heart, with relaxed silhouettes, jeans, and simple tops marking the style.

The ultimate icon of model off-duty is British supermodel Kate Moss, who is known for her chic yet minimalistic style. Moss’ style encompasses an attractive “devil-may-care glamor,” according to i-D, with “no-frills naked dresses, simple tank tops, leather jackets, smart suiting and immaculate charity shop finds.”

Taking the effortlessly cool look of indie sleaze and the chic comfort of model off-duty fashion, the downtown girl aesthetic proves itself a wearable trend for many TikTok users.

To recreate the downtown girl look, here are the essentials: a pair of headphones, striped sweaters, books, tote bags, a leather jacket, vinyl records, and a collection of band tees. 

Clothing is not the only factor of the downtown girl aesthetic; music is a cornerstone of the trend. The downtown girl is known for having the best taste in music, listening to an eclectic range of artists including Lana Del Rey, Steve Lacy, Tyler The Creator, and The Smiths.

Playing on the nostalgia of vinyl records, the downtown girl aesthetic draws from the past. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the past three years, vinyl records experienced a resurgence. During the pandemic, young people overwhelmingly sought out their parent’s records, nostalgic for the “good old times” after the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the overarching trend of vintage revival, the downtown girl aesthetic is just one of the movements using music as inspiration.

The world of fashion has come under scrutiny in recent years for its lack of sustainability, but the downtown girl aesthetic could change how consumers participate in the trend cycle.

The downtown girl aesthetic emphasizes thoughtful and smart shopping choices. The components that make up this aesthetic are timeless, classic pieces. The downtown girl look reminds people to be mindful that fashion is cyclical — what goes out of fashion eventually comes back. 

According to Refinery29, while TikTok is a breeding ground for unsustainable micro-trends, the app also provides a platform for serious discussion. By developing timeless looks like the downtown girl aesthetic, creators aid the fashion world in evolving past its trend-driven roots by promoting self-expression and anti-consumption rhetoric.

On its surface, the downtown girl aesthetic might look like another flash in the pan, but its simplistic foundations make for a fashion movement that can carry on through generations.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo caption: Music is the backbone of a number of subcultures, including punk, goth, and the downtown girl aesthetic.

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