The “Vanilla Girl Aesthetic” is TikTok’s Latest Popular — And Exclusionary — Fashion Trend

The back of a woman's head and clean, cozy, pale objects including folded sweaters, bread, earrings, perfume, and candles
Maddie Abuyuan / BuzzFeed News; Uggs; Replica; Getty Images

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There’s a new It Girl on TikTok.

Her name is the Vanilla Girl, and she’s marked by two characteristics: She’s cozy and “clean.” Dressed only in neutral tones like white, beige, or a very light brown, she might favor a loose comfy knit sweater over leggings with short Uggs. Her hair is slicked back, and her skin is free of heavy makeup — maybe just some lip gloss, eyebrow pencil, and cream blush. When she welcomes you into her home, she offers you a home-brewed latte, a white boucle chair to sit on, and a blanket to drape over your legs as the scent of sugar cookies wafts in the background. She’s chic, polished, and, above all else, effortless.

She’s also almost very likely white. Of the seemingly endless TikTok videos tagged “vanilla girl” and “vanilla girl aesthetic,” nearly all of the most popular feature blonde women. Some creators credit TikTok megastar Alix Earle for popularizing the look, although she didn’t invent it and doesn’t seem to use the hashtag on her videos.

But with her sleek blonde hair and big blue eyes, Earle definitely fits the mold, and it’s hard to find creators who are into the trend who don’t conform to this look, although there are a few videos showing how to do the style even if you’re a *gasp* brunette.

The popularity and specificity of the trend have many people on TikTok saying the quiet part out loud: This feels racist.

“It just feels like WASP, tradwife, purity culture repackaged for Gen Z,” one Black creator, @troublepuffs, said about the trend.

One prominent Black TikToker, @OliviaLayne6, said that the name “vanilla” and the examples being used to demonstrate it in mainstream media trend articles make it seem like the trend is only for “pretty, thin, white women.”

Olivia said she saw comments on TikTok saying that “anyone can be” a vanilla girl, but pointed out that the trend just seems to be a repackaging of the same TikTok trends we’ve seen before, like the “clean girl” and “soft girl” aesthetic.

“And no shade, I’m not making fun of this style, I’m just asking how many ways are y’all gonna come up with to say you like beige?” she said.

Aiyana Ishmael, an editorial assistant at Teen Vogue, said on TikTok that after she got a PR pitch about the trend, she decided to start her own trend: the “chocolate girl” trend.

“New aesthetic just dropped,” she said. —Stephanie McNeal