What’s your comfort movie? If you’re anything like me, it’s a sunny, breezy rom-com from the late ‘90s or early ‘00s. It probably stars Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson as a high-powered career woman who doesn’t have time for love—until she does. Or perhaps your taste leans more towards the teen rom-com category, like She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You. No matter the subject, there’s almost certainly a quirky best friend, a dramatic misunderstanding and an over-the-top declaration of love, and everyone lives happily ever after.
There’s a reason movies like The Wedding Planner, Deliver Us From Eva and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days continue to endure as cult classics long after their moment in the spotlight. Sure, they’re on cable and streaming 24/7, so you can easily cue them up after a hard day, and yes, their plots are lighthearted and simple to follow, but there’s something else about these throwback classics that makes them stand out: the clothes.
Once dismissed as fashion faux pas, rom-com-era trends like embroidered slip dresses, cropped cardigans, cargo pants and kitten heels are back again. Even newsboy caps, which I thought were going to stay firmly tucked away in my Y2K memories, are back. Could this be the resurgence of rom-com heroine fashion? All signs point to yes.
Pinterest flagged rom-comcore as one of its biggest emerging trends for 2023, so if you’re re-watching all your old faves and feeling inspired by the wardrobes of Kathleen Kelly, Eva Daniels, Mary Fiore, Jenna Rink and all the rest, you’re not alone. Rom-comcore fashion shares some pivotal DNA with another movie-driven trend, the “frazzled English woman” aesthetic seen in films like The Holiday and Love, Actually, but the two are sisters, not twins. Rom-comcore is more flirtatious and sophisticated than frazzled and quirky. Think pastel dresses and power suits, not chunky cardigans and layered scarves.
According to Marta Topran, Fashion and Beauty Creator Lead at Pinterest, rom-comcore is an offshoot of Barbiecore, the hot-pink aesthetic that dominated the summer trendscape. “We’ve seen ‘90s and Y2K fashion trending up for a while, but now, people are chasing more than an aesthetic—they want that main character energy that defined the movie industry in the 2000s,” she explains. “We expect to see people upgrade everyday moments into meet-cute moments and make small habits, like trips to the coffee shop, feel like a scene from their favorite romcom. This is a trend we started to see with Barbiecore, and now Gen Z and millennials are evolving the trend.”
Topran points to trending searches like “2000s girl,” “pink mini skirt outfit,” “rhinestone dress” and “summer outfits vintage 90s” as proof that this main character energy is on the rise. “Gen Z and millennials will romanticize their closets with slip dresses, tube tops, cargo pants and claw clips inspired by their favorite romantic comedies from the 2000s.”
Where You’ve Seen It
It’s all in the name: classic rom-coms of the late ‘90s and ‘00s are the blueprint for this throwback trend, and it’s picked up steam on TikTok in particular as users imagine what they’d wear to play the lead in a teen comedy or romance of their own.
One of the more viral standouts is Byrdie covergirl Kate Hudson as Andie Anderson (the How-to Girl) in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; many rom-com-centric TikTok videos are even set to her warbling “You’re So Vain” in the movie, and there’s a thriving subsect of Tiktok dedicated to that slinky yellow backless dress and the lucky folks who have happened upon it at the thrift store. (Extremely jealous.) Carrie Bradshaw exhibits some rom-comcore vibes in the earlier seasons of Sex and the City, what with her tube tops and vintage dresses, as does Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, though neither fall so neatly in the rom-com category.
Celebrities who occasionally embody romcom-core style include Bella Hadid and her ever-evolving wardrobe of 2000s trends (even the most cringeworthy ones!), Dua Lipa with her penchant for frosted makeup looks and Addison Rae, who actually played a 2022 version of the Freddie Prinze Jr. “popular kid” character in the reboot He’s All That. Ariana Grande even wore the same Versace colorblock dress as Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30 in 2021, and Devon Lee Carlson dresses like a 2000s heroine on any given day.
How to Wear the Rom-comcore Trend
Bringing in elements of rom-comcore to your day-to-day wardrobe is as easy as turning on Netflix, especially if you’re already incorporating ‘90s and Y2K-inspired pieces or vintage and thrifted finds into your look. It’s all about honing in on a few key silhouettes and colors to nail that rom-com heroine vibe.
Slip dresses, kitten heels and shrugs are an easy way to channel date night energy with the object of your affection; opt for pastels, floral prints, paisley or mod-style swirls and bright colors. Flared or bootcut jeans and trousers are also must-haves for your inner Andie Anderson—and perfect for pretending you, too, are a big time magazine editor at Poise.
Round out your rom-com look with low-rise cargo pants, spaghetti strap tanks or tube tops and A-line or miniskirts paired with a cropped blazer or denim jacket. (Think 30, flirty and thriving.) Don’t forget accessories like a looped skinny scarf, newsboy cap and mini baguette bag tucked under your arm. Thrifting and resale sites like Depop and Poshmark are great places to find such pieces, but you can also nail the rom-comcore aesthetic everywhere from Réalisation Par to Lisa Says Gah to Target’s Wild Fable line.
As for your hair and makeup, you’d be remiss not to style your hair in a claw clip, three-barrel curling iron waves or a funnel cake bun, a twisted and looped style that would be right at home on the set of Never Been Kissed. A swoon-worthy style indeed.