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The Revival of the Messy Girl Aesthetic

Consider this analysis on the potentiality of the 2024 messy girl aesthetic revival.

Credit: Universal Pictures/Sharon Maguire

As the biting English cold transforms a sea of vanilla girls into the highly coveted Frazzled English Woman aesthetic this winter, consider the impacts this ‘messy girl’ revival may have on our current beauty and wellness-obsessed climate in 2024.

A messy, frazzled, English woman winter

Frazzled English Woman Winter is upon us. If you’re unfamiliar with the TikTok trend, this Bridget Jonesian aesthetic epitomizes the messy English woman protagonist from the early 2000s winter romcoms, the heartbroken Bridget Jones or the eternally pining Iris from The Holiday.

In regards to fashion, it reflects the perceived “frazzled” nature of these women’s lives, centering around artfully undone hairdos, inviting cardigans and jumpers, minimal make-up, questionable layering, and scarves that could swallow you whole.

It spans beyond fashion; however, Bridget Jones’ sulking or Iris’s laughable pining over the cheating b***ard, Jasper, are ultimately so enjoyable to audiences for they are ineffably relatable.

Credit: Columbia Pictures/Nancy Meyers
Iris from The Holiday, lamenting her love life and rocking a frazzled English woman scarf

Thus, while the Frazzled English Woman has become a strangely coveted look, it is equally a comforting aesthetic to partake in, for it has ample space for compassion, self-reflection, the occasional and necessary session of self-pity, and the erratic silliness these women so fondly engender.

A messy girl rebuttal to modern aesthetics

Yet the Frazzled English Woman’s continuous and growing popularity (having emerged properly in 2022) gradually outshines the fan-favorite of 2023 – the clean girl, vanilla girl, old money girl.. (and then some).. amalgamated aesthetic. 

Whilst some may argue these three are distinctly separate, their essence is comically similar.

What’s most fascinating about the Jonesian fantasy, however, is that the Frazzled English Woman aesthetic does not have set bodily standards – such that the person taking place must be white, thin, or, and this is the most palpable difference, rich.

Whereas the trends of 2023 were dominated by expensive skincare “must haves,” TikTok “wish lists,” and self-care frivolities, the Frazzled English Woman aesthetic rejects all things of this nature.

Its epicenter, Bridget Jones, is not polished, wealthy, or particularly partial to the notion of self-care. For Bridget, self-care becomes heartbreaking: wallowing, binge drinking, take-out eating, and perpetual lounging in sweats. 

Bridget Jones wallowing in self-pity. Credit: Universal Pictures/Sharon Maguire

The “Frazzled” comes in when Bridget is forced to leave her lazy-girl alcove, tossing her hair into a messy bun, layering erratically to combat the biting English cold, and coddling herself in scarves – the substitute self-care accouterment.

As an aesthetic, the Frazzled English Woman centers itself upon the latter sentiment – the bewildered Bridget that traverses the London streets, sullen and empathy-inducing. We’ve all been there.

For many of us, this aesthetic is something we may unknowingly or accidentally partake in, as highlighted in the TikTok above.

Yet its relation to the former, the explicitly messy yet somehow cozy and alluring home life that Bridget is infamous for, leads me to suggest a potential trend for 2024 – the revival of the Messy Girl.

Messy Girl vs Clean Girl: The Great Debate

Messy Girl is merely an umbrella term, something which, in my opinion, Bridget Jones and the Frazzled English Woman can be cast under. 

The Messy Girl, more broadly, is the opposition of the Clean/Vanilla/Old Money girl hybrid. It includes several different forms, but more recent and popularized subsects of this include the Emma Chamberlain-esque sad girl and, more neoteric, the revival of Kesha-Core. 

In fact, TikToks have recently criticized today’s youth, suggesting that Kesha would be disappointed by our commitment to “wellness” over impulsive fun and youthful debauchery. 

@__bexbeauty__

WHAT ARE WE DOING ib @ava:) ❤️‍🔥💋

♬ original sound – Beanie_Baby_Lobster

At a base level, this feels problematic. Whereas one aesthetic promotes healthy lifestyle choices, romanticizing workouts, clean eating, supplements, skin care, journaling, and routine, the other glamorizes drugs, partying, alcohol, and sex.

Yet this dichotomic depiction of the clean girl vs the messy girl is deceptive.

The former’s alleged wellness-based practices easily transform into unhealthy obsessions with working out and “clean” eating, and the products the aesthetic often promotes render it a socio-economically exclusive practice, one that many long to partake in but cannot afford to.

Inversely, the messy girl, whilst undeniably glorifying going out culture, relieves individuals of the notion of aesthetic perfection, suggesting that people do not need to look or act polished to have value and, more importantly, have fun. 

Messy Girl is a much-needed escape

The messy girl champions life’s chaos rather than meticulously planning one’s day-to-day. 

In a society where the beauty and skin-care obsession has gotten younger generations in a worrisome stranglehold, the messy girl provides an inviting, safe haven.

Children as young as six and seven now feel the need to craft their own skincare routine with pricey “clean girl products’ such as Drunk Elephant toners and moisturizers. This breeds young children with the standard that they must present themselves as polished, and strive towards beauty perfection. 

Yet this notion is deeply troubling for anyone and most effectively transformative and indoctrinating in children.

Ultimately, whilst not necessarily an entirely unproblematic solution, the messy girl aesthetic offers a temporary fix for this long-term dilemma. 

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Written By

Hello! My name is Rhiannon Peacock and I am from Hingham, MA. I study in Scotland at the University of St Andrews, and do a Joint Honors Degree of English Literature and International Relations.

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