In March, fashion shopping platform Lyst reported that they had evidence of a rising fashion trend, strongly reflected in what their users were searching for: Compared to the previous month, searches for ‘starfish’ had jumped 23% that month, ‘mermaid tees’ grew 19%, while, overall, the terms ‘mermaid,’ ‘starfish,’ and ‘seashell’ increased 51%. Specifically, Lyst pointed out three products that were extra-coveted by its shoppers: Rixo’s triangle shell earrings, Anni Lu’s shell earrings, and Wald Berlin’s shell chain necklace. “It’s all about Mermaidcore,” the subject line read.
Not quite as theatrical as mid-2010’s seapunk, and certainly less preppy than New England nautical-wear, mermaidcore seems to be the slightly more sophisticated version of Sara Paxton in Aquamarine. It’s long, pastel hair and highlighted skin, like the kind sported by TikToker Porsha Hall. It is Versace’s spring ‘21 campaign, for which Kendall Jenner, Precious Lee, and Hailey Bieber modeled the Medusa-inspired collection alongside a smack of jellyfish. It’s the conch phone case in Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar, seashell beds on Animal Crossing, and Australia’s H2O: Just Add Water, a show that dressed its teenage mermaids in layered tank tops and chino shorts with seashell pendant necklaces and wet-look hair.
Together, these combine to create what Lyst is calling one of spring’s fastest-growing trends of the season. But — and we fully acknowledge our ignorance might be a byproduct of our isolation — who exactly is dressing like a mermaid right now?
The answer might just be that no one is, at least all the way. But that kind of resort-side gift shop aesthetic has a lot of appeal right now, especially since we’ve been dreaming about a seaside vacation ever since we cancelled all our flights last year. And knowing that other souvenir accessories like chunky plastic rings, basket bags, and flip flops have become increasingly popular, it makes sense that one-off beachcomber buys would hit, too.
Mermaidcore might have started as a digital aesthetic, but, as Lyst has proved, it’s trickling into real-life, too. To enthusiasts. mermaid tees are their equivalent of a Hill House Home Nap dress to cottagecore enthusiasts — the sartorial symbol of their online safe space. Personally, it’s going to take me some time to feel comfortable enough to book a beach holiday. Until I am, a seashell necklace does seem like a nice way to anticipate what’s in my future.