Seven-year-old me has been waiting for this day for a long time: the opportunity to dress up like a real-life mermaid. You could say that I’ve been in training — all those dress-up parties, Mermaid Barbie fashion shows and an Aquamarine phase, when I tried (fruitlessly) to highlight my dark brunette hair turquoise with Claire’s hair mascara. But 2023’s mermaidcore trend is far from the cartoonified daydreams of my childhood, or even the bubblegum pop version served up in 2014 (remember hipster Disney cosplay on Tumblr?). Now, it has legs, having transformed into a stylish, wearable trend that's tried and tested for busy modern life.
Don’t believe me? Read on to see how this landlocked, city-living mermaid is taking the plunge with her wardrobe, styling mermaid-inspired looks for work, brunch, the park, a festival and a night out — without a purple clam-shell bra in sight.
What is mermaidcore?
Like every other 'core' to come out of TikTok, mermaidcore is a highly idealised aesthetic inspired by all things under the sea: mermaids, sirens, waves, shells, coral and more. Disney’s new live-action The Little Mermaid has put a fresh wind in its sails but for those in the know (or already on #mermaidcore TikTok), the trend has been growing in strength since lockdown. Think about it as a collective escapist longing for foreign shores, a life lived closer to nature and a world where things are a little more magical ("Darling, it's better down where it's wetter..."). It can encapsulate everything from fashion and nail art to homeware and hair accessories. Right now, #mermaidcore has over 280 million views on TikTok, where you’re bound to scroll through everything from DIY shell candles to mermaidcore cake recipes.
On the fashion front, trends include a blue, green and white colour scheme (with maybe some lilac or purple thrown in); soft, floaty layers; embellished details (think sequins and beads); net-like crochet and plenty of shell and pearl jewellery and accessories.
How to style mermaidcore for work
Whether or not you work in a corporate environment, you want to keep the ethereal elements of mermaidcore to a minimum. No one wants to be shivering in layers of tulle beneath the office’s arctic air-con or rattling around the shared kitchen in strings upon strings of pearls.
I opted for a simple, linen-blend suit in a pastel blue, paired with a watercolour print top. As I work in a more relaxed, creative office, I finished the look with green trainers and a matching, padded carryall. If you need to dress more formally, then silver closed-toe ballet flats and a simple leather tote are a great bet. The best thing about this outfit is that you can rewear and rework it all summer long: swap out the top, incorporate just the trousers into various looks or wear the blazer over your favourite work dress. Linen is also perfect for stifling summer commutes.
How to style mermaidcore for the park (or a casual weekend hang)
Practically speaking, you don’t really want to be trailing a flowing white skirt through the grass or tempt fate with strawberries and a flimsy picnic plate. Rather, for a park hang, I kept things simple in easy denim dungarees, chunky sandals and a loose duster (this tie-dye Free People one reminds me of sunlight on waves), ideal for keeping warm when the sun goes down.
The key here is to keep your base simple and to have fun with your outerwear. The more layers, the better for unpredictable weather.
How to style mermaidcore for brunch (AKA a more dressy weekend hang)
This outfit is for a slightly more dressy weekend occasion: brunch, drinks or dinner. Have fun with your styling — more layers, more accessories, more nods to your aquatic theme. This frothy dream of a skirt captures the flow and movement of the sea; I paired it with a wave-printed graphic tee (naturally), a crochet bag covered with pearls (duh) and ultra shiny, metallic green cowboy boots. If I can’t have a real-life mermaid tail, then this combination will suffice. It’s also a lot more practical for running around the city and jumping on and off night buses, feeling a little tipsy.
How to style mermaidcore for a festival
Mermaidcore and festival dressing go hand in hand. Now is your time to shine in flowing maxi skirts and light, net-like crochet knits. All the better to show off your best boho accessories like statement medallion belts.
How to style mermaidcore for a night out
There are plenty of pretty mermaid-esque party dresses out there. But what about the mermaid who’s just off to the cocktail bar for a few drinks and a casual catch-up? In my case, she favours a '70s-inspired, Daisy Jones-style look with a sparkly blouse, embellished platforms and scaly, sequinned bag. Takes jeans and a nice top to a whole new level.
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