Fashion meets… mermaidcore: how to nail The Little Mermaid style

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It takes more than dying your hair red and flapping your tail

More often than not, the suffix -core alludes to something heavy or somewhat aggressive; like metalcore, or deathcore. But if that’s the case with music genres, the ‘rule’ doesn’t necessarily apply to other forms of culture or aesthetic. Take the interior trend Cottagecore, for example, which celebrates country living, or Barbiecore, the pink-hued fashion frenzy making waves ahead of the Barbie film’s July 2023 release.

It’s precisely this kind of ‘core’ that’s lent itself to the latest female fashion trend — mermaidcore. Just like Barbiecore, mermaidcore is inspired by a much-anticipated movie release: Disney’s new, live-action The Little Mermaid, which is set to hit UK cinemas this week.



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A post shared by Walt Disney Studios (@disneystudios)

#mermaidcore is trending on TikTok (currently with 202.7 million views), with users posting everything from mermaid hair tutorials (picture curly hairstyles adorned with starfish hair clips) to videos showing off their favourite mermaid-inspired outfits.

The fashion world is increasingly turning to the seas for style inspiration, and there’s plenty to draw from: seashells, starfish and fishnets, as well as lilac sequins and frills vividly reference the loveable Ariel and her aquatic home.

Is the mermaid look new?

‘Mermaid dresses’ — characterised by a fitted style that closely hugs the body — have been around since the 1930s, but the oceanic look was thrust back into the spotlight in 2021 when Versace and Burberry made waves by introducing actual sea creatures into their designs, such as starfish and jellyfish.

Two years later, Erdem, Victoria Beckham and many more have introduced ruffled and iridescent satin dresses and ethereal, draped tops into their spring 2023 lines, echoing the flow of the waves and the colours of the seabed or a mermaid’s tale.

Read more: Get the look: Lily James’s fashion evolution

How to do mermaidcore right

As with all fashion trends, mermaidcore is open to interpretation. Some opt for blue or purple shades and lacy fabrics, while others go all out with scale-like paillettes and shell-inspired accessories.

Whichever way you choose to channel your inner Ariel, there are a few essential rules to follow to ensure you don’t find yourself lost at sea.

Here’s how to nail mermaidcore in three simple steps:

  1. Trust in sheer and frills

The messy ‘wet hair look’ might have been in fashion in the 1990s — briefly coming back in a thankfully sleeker version in 2022 — but when it comes to clothes, achieving a wet effect to look like an ethereal mermaid emerging from the water is harder than applying copious amounts of hair gel.

Still, there’s a way around it. Lace and sheer fabrics, as well as ruffles and frills can create that ‘just got out of the sea’ illusion. Add in some patterns of oceanic plants and you’ve got yourself some mermaidcore magic. This River Island chiffon frill blouse is a great example, with its multi-coloured, flower-like motifs adding to the seabed references. Similarly, this tie-neck blouse from Warehouse, with ruffle details in metallic pink, hints at a brightly coloured reef.

  1. Add some extra shine

Everything about Ariel’s world is vivid and shiny. Take a page out of her book with a few sparkly choices. This ASOS one-shoulder draped maxi dress with tie detail in silver gives off major mermaid vibes, while a simpler satin slip dress like this one from H&M will also do the trick.

Alternatively, incorporate paillettes in any form, for the fish scale effect. It could be this extra-shimmery pair of trousers from Revolve or this Paco Rabanne mini showstopper. The shinier the better!

Read more: Fashion meets… The style trends making waves in 2023


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A post shared by Paco Rabanne (@pacorabanne)

  1. Accessorise with sea-inspired shoes and bags

If you don’t feel like fully transforming into a mermaid but would rather add a few subtle touches here and there, accessories that echo the sea are your best bet. Revolve’s Nala mini clutch, which is shaped like an ultra-shiny silver shell could be what you need, or try this Ted Baker marble crossbody bag in iridescent aqua green (available from John Lewis).

When it comes to shoes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Take for example these ice-blue, glittery sandals from Sophia Webster or these Jimmy Choo leather heeled sandals in metallic green (available in Selfridges) — both alluding to the different blue hues of the sea. As a nod to Ariel’s purple top, try these metallic purple mules with a nylon effect from Anthropologie. And for something more literal, turn to these Laines London sandals, which are embellished with octopus and shell brooches (available from Wolf & Badger). All whimsical enough to take you on a fun dive into the ocean.

The Little Mermaid hits UK cinemas on 26 May 2023.

Fashion meets… is Living360’s fashion series, which explores how fashion intersects with different movements, cultures and aspects of daily life. Each story highlights a unique theme — from punk rock music to architecture and art — diving into its history or cultural background alongside exclusive interviews, fashion trends and styling tips.

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