The Controversies and Components of the Coquette Style.

By Shaunamay Martin Bohan 

There is a new subculture emerging in the depths of tiktok,instagram and pinterest.The hashtag #coquette has over 693 million views. But what is coquette anyways?.

According to your average dictionary definition, the coquette is a woman who knows how to manipulate men with her flirtatious nature. Your average coquette can be found listening to Lana Del Rey and researching how to be a ‘femme fatal’.

The “Coquette” aesthetic stems from the tumblr hashtag #nymphet in the early 2010’s. Nymphets were a mainly online community who bonded over their love for the book and movie “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov’s story centres around an older man who manipulates and preys on Dolores Haze or “Lolita”, a 14-year-old girl, and proceeds in an inappropriate relationship with her. The community of Nymphets on tumblr took inspiration from Dolores’ fashion sense in the 1997 film, adopting milkmaid braids, sailor collars, gingham print and retro swimsuits. From the beginning, there was a clear connection between the modern Nymphet community’s fashion style and the infamous film.

Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ album (2012) heavily influenced the Nymphet community with her references to Nabokov’s writing. Additionally, she supported a similar fashion to Dolores Haze, with heart shaped sunglasses and cherry dresses. In the same year, Marina and the Diamonds released ‘Electra Heart’, an album which explores feminine archetypes, sexuality, teenage girlhood, and the carefree, heartbreaker personality type. Both these albums were essential to the creation of the Nymphette persona and eventually evolved to influence the Coquette aesthetic .

The Nymphet community centred around embracing girlhood and the playfulness of being a teen, however it was largely subject to criticism due to the controversial nature of its core text.The work “Nymphet “ originates from the novel Lolita.The character Humbert  who preys on Dolores Haze refers to her as nymphet describing her “the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognised by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power”.As this word was adapted into the english language it came to be a promiscuous young girl.The use of the word became leeway for others to claim that the nymphet community romanticised relationships with older men and enabled pedophelia.  This dark controversy highly contrasts the dainty and cute fashion sense that the aesthetic has. However the nymphet community claims that rather than glorifying such relationships they are standing with Doloros against their own perpetrators and others.Many find comfort in the character of Doloros as they related to her experiences and her girlish behaviour.To them nymphet was about finding beauty and enrichment in teen girlhood.Additionally according to community members there was a “self policing” within the community for those who indulged in such darkness. This hence led to the creation of edits and clothing that stated “Lolita is not a love story” to combat the belief the community glorified inappropriate relationships.On top of this mass reporting was performed on any accounts that attempted to prey on community members. However the self-policing was not enough and in 2018 tumblr and other social media platforms banned the hashtag and in turn community members.

In return, the coquette hashtag was born. Things were different this time.Although the Coquette community had the same values of girlhood and femininity as the nymphets, it has since strided away from Nabokov’s text and has become something of its own. The Coquette community on Tiktok, Pinterest and Instagram now centres around a form of hyper femininity, out of the influence of the male gaze. The style has since turned towards vintage florals, dramatic eyeliner and mary janes. Although Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds  still remains a large influence towards the style, books such as ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ by Ottessa Moshfegh and the movies of American actress and filmmaker Sophia Coppola, also have a major importance. Additionally there is now a lot of crossover between coquette, the off duty model look and the old money style and aesthetics.

The components of the coquette style include motifs of flowers, cherries, strawberries and hearts. Fabrics such as silk, satin and lace and brands such as Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville and O-Mighty have become synonymous with the increasingly popular aesthetic, with its central colour scheme of red, pink and white.The Coquette style of hyperfemininity is argued to be a rebuttal to the rising of androgenous fashion in street style and other styles such as dark academia.Coquette strives away from the idea the idea that embracing femininity is “basic” or old fashioned but instead suggests femininity is powerful and ammunition is a world saturated by toxic masculinity.

Despite its associations with girlhood, Coquette style can be worn by anyone.The aesthetic has come a long way since its problematic past and now, is often  even inspiration for luxury designers’ collections, such as Heaven by Marc Jacobs and indie designers such as O-mighty. The Coquette style demonstrates that fashion is much more complex than what you put on your body; it is a culmination of inspiration, aspiration and personal empowerment. 

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