Matching yoga sets, minimal makeup, green juice, neutral manicured nails, clutter free interiors. The “clean girl aesthetic” is a fashion trend currently having its moment in the sun, somewhat controversially.
A quick google image search of “clean girl aesthetic” will return photographs of conventionally attractive, beautifully polished women. You can find the “clean girl” dressed in monochromatic neutral tones, wearing subtle jewellery, eating avocado toast, drinking lemon water and living a life of comfort and leisure. The clean girl sports a perfectly even sunkissed tan and opts for a bouncy blow dry or slicked bun, she never has a hair out of place or a chipped nail. Whilst there are abundant tutorials on how you too can be a clean girl, many neglect to mention the time, effort and privilege required to maintain this appearance. Hence why the clean girl is such a desirable trend - it coincides with a lifestyle that is unreachable for the vast majority.
Dividing social media, some have criticised the clean girl movement, stating that it gives the connotation of “dirty” to anything that isn’t a glowing, blemish-free face and form fitting, colour coordinated, athleisure outfit. Some also say it is an ode to an outdated ideology that praises eurocentric beauty standards, putting thin, white, ablebodied women on a pedestal as per decades of the usual media output. Others say that the coining of the “clean girl” is simply just a reference to taking a slow and minimalistic approach to beauty and lifestyle. Saying that it’s “not that deep”, and not intended to pit women against each other but to define a trend that centers a wholesome and relaxed view of self expression - inclusive of all.
Twitter user @elefaantzz typed “some women like to wear 25mm lashes, get long nails and experiment with color & others like to only do neutral hair colors and b minimalistic why can't we just coexist why argue ab what another person wants to do just do u & stop bothering others omg” - which I am in wholehearted agreement with. Regardless of whether the “clean girl aesthetic” is a feminist issue or not, I am of the opinion that the constant need to pigeonhole oneself is at the very least, regressive. This pressure to adhere to a certain type of personhood and lifestyle dependant on what’s popular in the mainstream, and judging others on theirs, is damaging. As a society that is constantly being marketed (and subsequently sold) to, the easier that you are to identify as a certain “type” of customer, the easier you are to make money out of. For the clean girl, brands like LuluLemon, Joe & The Juice, Glossier and Zara basics may be familiar names that she may rely on to maintain her image, and in return they rely on her to generate promotion for their products.
Trend cycles mean that this everchanging landscape of identifiable characters encourage fast fashion to keep up with whatever the newest It Girl fad is. One week may be clean girl, the next is high glamour, followed by indie grunge and so on in an ongoing cycle of consumption. Accelerated by social media, brands feed from the insecurity they generate - pushing people to assimilate to a certain kind of genre or aesthetic based on the clothing and merchandise they need to make profit from. In this way, the people paying the price for the (blank) girl aesthetic are those within the supply chains - making less than minimum wage for manufacturing the items required for the customers to copy their favourite "clean girl" influencer.
Another angle is that women and femme presenting people, groundbreakingly, are permitted to identify and express themselves in more than one way. Women and femme presenting people, shockingly, can be multidimensional beings. Women and femme presenting people, astoundingly, are capable of enjoying and having interests in multiple things simultaneously. Many of us live multiple lives, dependent on our social circles, career routes, family dynamics, cultural backgrounds, music tastes and hobbies. A person can live the "clean girl" aesthetic Monday through Friday for the sake of keeping a 'professional' appearance at their job, flipping to an entirely different persona during the weekend and personal time.
However you choose to express your personal style; clean girl, hot girl, cool girl, grunge girl, goth girl, feral girl or otherwise, I hope it is done in as conscious a way as possible. The parameters for each are self governable and trends can be cherry picked to suit the individual. You don’t need to be constrained to a specific aesthetic to be valid. Knowing what you like, what flatters you and makes you feel good should be the priority, doing so in a considered and ethical manner.