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When Tim Burton’s Wednesday landed on Netflix last November, it triggered a revival of dark, gothic aesthetics across fashion and beauty – especially across TikTok, the catalyst for many a microtrend these days. Trend-chasers donned dark circles and smokey eyes with lurid plum lacquers on their lips. A year on, the TikTok powers that be have traded in everyone’s favourite Addams Family member for a look laced with gentle femininity, taking a page out of Simone Rocha and Sandy Liang’s books, as their AW23 catwalks sparked a fresh fascination with a transcendental accessory: the bow.

To many, bows are a simple facet of the kindercore look; a style reserved for mucking around a playground in year three. But in the deft hands of Rocha and Liang, who imparted their own unconventional twists, bows are maturing – and they’re spilling over into beauty.

Simone Rocha AW23

For London-based Aussie Thomas de Kluyver – Rocha’s AW23 make-up artist – placing fire-engine red ribbon appliqués under eyes unwittingly dropped him right in the centre of a new craze – the TikTok dubbed ‘bow tears.’ Over in New York, Liang’s eponymous label enlisted hair stylist Evanie Frausto for a collection spattered with romanticism and Victorian design language. Playing with one of the offering’s most consistent details, Frausto adorned locks with a spray of dainty pink and black – you guessed it – bows.  

The bow tears look was recreated by hundreds of people across TikTok and other major social networking sites, usually as part of a subcultural movement favouring hyper-feminine aesthetics dubbed ‘coquette-core’ that’s sweeping the World Wide Web. Characterised by classically feminine stylistic elements such as lace, pearls and ribbons combined with rosy blush and glittery lip gloss, it comes as no surprise that the bow obsessed AW23 season set it into motion.

Photography courtesy of Camri Hewie

That being said, there may be more to this bountiful bow explosion than it just being the next in a long line of fast-passing trends. The popularity of the bow craze represents a wider exploration undertaken by designers to establish and examine the boundaries of femininity. Using ‘coquette-core’ staples like lace and pearls to develop corresponding looks donned by both male and female models, Rocha lensed in on the binary and recontextualised it. Liang’s show contrasted the whimsy femininity of details like silky ruffles and pink rosettes with pieces typically deemed more masculine, such as puffer jackets and tailored, calf-length coats.

While this societally gendered aesthetic is certainly not exclusive to women, the stylish swell is nevertheless celebratory of womanhood. It reinforces the idea that softer, delicate aesthetics – embodied by men or women – can empower, inspire and be an appreciated form of creative expression. Boundaries can be bent – or even tied up with a bow.


Make-up by Thomas de Kluyver and photography by Harley Weir for ‘All I Want to Be’ photobook
Make-up by Thomas de Kluyver and photography by Harley Weir for ‘All I Want to Be’ photobook