Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
FOMO has long been the driver of fashion trends. Whether it’s a limited-edition drop, that show only 100 people got invited to, or a miles-long waiting list for an “It” bag: introduce scarcity, and you have a recipe for desire. But with vacation season in full swing, we are now in full “grass is greener” territory. In the U.S., most of us have been plunged into dripping-air-conditioner season, mentally teleporting ourselves to far-off lands—with the vacation wardrobes to match.
The allure of resort wear, with its promise of bygone glamour, held sway long before the pandemic. But now that it’s far less affordable, travel has become a luxury good, something to show off on Instagram while wearing the perfect matching set. Which means that influencers of all stripes are going on their own version of the Grand Tour, in search of the supposed sophistication of the continent.
Enter Europecore, one of the many TikTok-coined #cores that continue to dog us. Not quite “quiet luxury” or “coastal grandmother” but sharing those trends’ aspirational qualities, Europecore has become so big even Target has a themed edit that suggests you “dress to manifest travels abroad” with items like slip dresses and strappy sandals. Just as we’ve channeled French girls and Danish street style stars, we now have an entire continent to project onto. (It helps that the idea of escaping America has looked ever more appealing since the 2016 election.)
Visually, Europecore’s definition is supremely muddled. It could mean Kim Kardashian in a soccer jersey, or Sofia Richie gallivanting around the South of France. Or, looking at more vintage inspirations, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin lounging poolside on the Côte d’Azur in La Piscine, the 1969 movie that has developed a cult following in the past few years, or Grace Kelly sunning herself in the South of France in To Catch a Thief. It shows up on The White Lotus, where Aubrey Plaza wears Audrey Hepburn- and Monica Vitti-influenced pieces with a slight ’50s feel, while Jennifer Coolidge tries to emulate Vitti in a trailing head scarf.
And it’s present in Rohmer-core, which is catnip to overworked Americans longing for the leisure seen in slow-moving but visually stunning movies like Claire’s Knee. (I recently rewatched Le Rayon Vert, his film about a woman with the enviable conundrum of…having too much summer vacation time to fill.)
Compared with its #core cousins, this trend is a bit more accessible. It’s vague enough, and minimalist enough, that you may be able to shop your closet, or thrift shop your way to the look. (As opposed to ordering an entire Barbiecore haul from Shein.) And you don’t have to be in Europe to practice Europecore. For some, it’s as straightforward as acquiring a wardrobe of cotton and linen classics…or simply staying stateside, turning off the air conditioning and forgoing a top sheet.
Not that anyone expects fashion trends to reflect geopolitical reality, but Europecore presents a particularly blinkered, and American, view of the continent. The locales referenced are more likely to be pricey resort towns home to five-star hotels than, say, landlocked factory towns. And the lifestyles they prize are only available to the upper middle class and above. (It’s like visiting the U.S. and thinking everyone lives in the Hamptons.) But if fantasy is what fashion is about, then why not pretend? Whatever gets you through the summer.
ELLE Fashion Features Director
Véronique Hyland is ELLE’s Fashion Features Director and the author of the book Dress Code, which was selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year. Her writing has previously appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, W, New York magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and Condé Nast Traveler.