It’s Soft Girl Summer, and women are wearing dresses again. This is fantastic news for women and for the culture at large. To understand why, let’s review our recent summers.
Summer 2021, if you recall, was supposed to be “Hot Girl Summer.” Vaxxed and waxed, young women were to sally forth for carnal pleasure (complete with a face mask, of course).
However, Hot Girl Summer was quenched by a bucket of cold water last year with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Suddenly the hotties were on a sex strike. People will talk your ear off about the “life-saving” and “health” reasons for abortion, but it’s clearly a lethal safety net for a culture obsessed with casual sex and lacking in a desire for children. Talk about “rights” all you want — in the end, abortion is about promiscuity with limited consequences.
After the whiplash between Hot Girl Summer and rage-filled abortion summer, 2023 is seeing the resurgence of a fairly new trend — and it comes highly recommended.
“Soft Girl Summer” is the buzzword. However, for those of us who refuse to cast ourselves into the hellscape of TikTok, trends like these remain opaque. Without scouring the font of current culture that is the attention-destroying video app, it’s hard to get precise information. Allow me to fill you in.
Generally speaking, it seems, Soft Girl Summer is a trend embracing feminine expression. In contrast to the exhortation to “take up space” and compete with the boys, the Soft Girl trend encourages quiet and nurturing routines and hobbies.
Participants in the trend often express themselves in Cottagecore styles — think flowing dresses, floral prints, teatime, cats, and antiques. In other words, Soft Girl signifies the unapologetic embodiment of femininity.
If this is what is meant by Soft Girl Summer, I am in full support. Women can gain much from cultivating their feminine beauty, allowing it to overflow into their physical surroundings. And good news! — Soft Girl Summer does not lead to a narcissistic dead end, because this trend can be a gift to other people too.
How so? Consider what I learned when I made a resolution to wear dresses for 30 days at the beginning of this summer (well, it was actually March, but for some of us that marks the beginning of nine-month-long summer — welcome to the South!). First, I learned that no one noticed or cared. As is so often the case with what we deem to be deeply important personal experiments, we find that other people pay little attention to our every action, having no reason to notice changes unless we announce them.
As the month wore on, however, I did start to get comments. Not specifically about the dresses and skirts. (This is, after all, 2023 and women can wear anything — or nothing — wherever they like, so the dresses were not eye-catching or exotic.) The comments were more subtle. On more than one occasion when meeting up with acquaintances or friends, for example, I received comments along the lines of, “You look nice today! Well, you always look nice.”
Never fear, I — a mere mortal woman of average looks — have as many bad hair days, bouts of acne, and the general dishevelment that comes with living life and raising small children as the next lady. Why, then, were people who regularly saw me convinced I always looked put together?
That is nothing other than the power of a dress.
In a time when leggings are considered pants and bras shirts, a tasteful dress or simple skirt with a neutral top is a breath of fresh air. No matter how you style your hair or accessorize, a nice outfit — one involving actual clothes instead of just underthings — sends a message of cohesion and thoughtfulness. Whether you spent time meticulously getting ready, stepping into an elegant dress (even one as comfortable as your pajamas) signals to the world that you got dressed on purpose.
Such considerate behavior is a gift to those around us. As noted above, no one noticed or cared that I chose to wear dresses. Yet, over time, some people picked up on the fact that I was not constantly casual and slapdash. What does it say about our current culture if appearing even slightly thoughtful or composed yields a comment? Appearing to dress with intention can signal that we care about the people who see us. It need not be ostentatious, but subtly cultivating beauty is a gift to people we meet.
The same is true for other modes of Soft Girl living. If you decide to end the afternoon with teatime, your friends and family will benefit from a beautiful moment at an otherwise low point of the day. Likewise, if you spend “unproductive” time mastering the basics of breadmaking, the people you eat with will enjoy a new sensory delight. Learning needlepoint, styling your hair, perfecting at-home manicures — all these pursuits yield fruits that enrich the world for your family and friends.
While the media relentlessly tell you to fixate on your own pleasure and happiness, Soft Girl Summer is an opportunity to learn that cultivating beauty requires thoughtful giving of self. The rewards are rich, both for us and for the people with whom we interact.
There is also no end to the places you can experiment with this trend. If you are taking a flight this summer, consider drawing inspiration from the past when air travel was the height of elegance. Just because it seems other people wear nothing but athleisure and pajamas, the Soft Girl can wear something beautiful as a gift to herself and to those she meets along the way.
This year, instead of hooking up with strangers or raging about abortion, enjoy a Soft Girl Summer. You won’t regret it.