Royalcore: The TikTok Aesthetic Is More Than Just “Playing Princess”

Royalcore: The TikTok Aesthetic Is More Than Just “Playing Princess”

The recent success of Netflix period drama Bridgerton, with its swoon-worthy Duke Simon making us all “burn for him” seemingly without even trying, has also brought a surge of new interest in the aesthetics of those European courts and their intrigues, the lavish costumes, the wildly romantic love affairs behind closed doors. Seemingly overnight, my TikTok feed was filled with memes, reaction videos, and of course that Bridgerton musical phenomenon! Add to that Gen Z’s discovery of Princess Diana as a style icon of the ’80s and ’90s thanks to season 4 of The Crown (another Netflix smash hit), and a new aesthetic/content creation niche was born: royalcore.

Now, you all know my fascination with cottagecore by now—that escapist, anti-capitalist, craft-based aesthetic largely inspired by our pandemic-based yearning for a simpler life surrounded by nature. Royalcore can overlap with cottagecore, but overall is quite different to those witchy-earthy aesthetics.

@lilli.blum#princess #princesscore #royalcore #astetic #princessgeorgiana #janeausten #bridgerton #cottagecore♬ оригинальный звук – zotov

To put it simply, it is all about fully living out your princess dress-up fantasies that you may have locked away in childhood. Cosplaying as princesses and kings is a key component of the royalcore experience, as is not being afraid to walk through modern day cities in your gowns, crowns, and sparkly tiaras, hair styled into elaborate, romantic updos. Or if you happen to live close to historical buildings, running down a set of dimly lit, columned hallways or decorative mansion stairways in slow motion will also get you in the royalcore mood. Bonus points if you happen to wear a mask, because masked balls are peak royalcore, mixing the romantic with the mysterious!

@cristinaviseuDark Aesthetic Picnic Setup 🖤 ##picnic ##picnicdate ##bayarea ##cottagecore ##cottageaesthetic ##darkacademia ##royalcore ##ghibli ##fyp##sf##pretty ##ghiblicore♬ 인생의 회전목마 (하울의 움직이는 성 OST) (Live) (Remastered) – 누보 오케스트라

The dress aesthetics are predominantly focused on continental European royalty and the history of royal European houses, but there is also a healthy splash of Jane Austen-esque, Regency era landed gentry fashion thrown into the eclectic yet playful mix. There is even a medieval royalcore sub-niche, especially popular among red-haired content creators! Historical accuracy is less important here—think Reign or The Spanish Princess, with their more romantic retellings of historical events. This is about the fantasy, first and foremost, about over-the-top luxury costumes that mash up various historical periods, often painstakingly hand-crafted or smartly thrifted.

@aclotheshorsecome inside Helen’s Tower with me #fairycore#princesscore#castle#irishcastle#lightacademia#aesthetics#fyp♬ Once Upon a Dream – Invadable Harmony

As a European who grew up close to the stunning Augustusburg palace, with my parents taking us kids on tours there quite regularly, I was admittedly at first a bit amused by this adoration of historical times that were really only fun for the royals. I mean, there is a good reason why the peasants revolted against those in their palaces and fancy mansions in the 18th century. And, well, most of these elaborate gowns and hairstyles were actually kind of uncomfortable to wear, and royal ladies were prone to passing out in the stuffy, badly ventilated palace rooms. Versailles, the epitome of European royal lavishness, was said to have stunk unbearably of urine and excrement because people would basically just relieve themselves in whatever corner they could find unoccupied. Most of them also didn’t bathe and just used heavy perfumes to mask their body odor. Sorry, I realize I am spoiling the fantasy for you right now, so I better stop before you also learn what lived inside and underneath those fancy 18th century wigs!

@alexandratealeafThis is how “princesses” get around in central London! ##princesses ##princesscore ##secretprincess ##princessgown ##royalcore♬ how would they know bad girls club – Chris Gleason

Despite all of this, the more I looked into the royalcore community, the more fascinated and enchanted I became. It started to dawn on me how deeply subversive all of this dressing up as princesses and acting out elaborate fantasy scenarios actually is! I noticed that a large number of royalcore lovers are Black and Asian creators, partaking in their own versions of a “costume drama”—a genre which had been gatekept from them for many decades, with the cast for these dramas usually being almost exclusively white. And, well, historically, minorities had also been banned from that extravagant European court life for centuries. If anything, the recent Meghan Markle interview showed us how deeply ingrained racism still is in European aristocratic families (and the whole of Europe).

@porsharenaehallWelcome to black girl #princesscore & #royalcore 👸🏾🕊 ☕️ #cottagecore#shabbychic#blackprincess#festivefashion♬ original sound – Natalie Pienkawa

So, royalcore as a whole, but particularly the beautiful cosplays you can find under the Black princess hashtag, feel to me like a fierce reclaiming of a fantasy life for which it used to be hard to find role models either from history or fiction. This, of course, is also why Bridgerton was such an important moment in costume drama history, with its racially diverse cast and a Black queen residing over them all in regal splendor. And thanks to its breathtaking success, we will soon even be able to see a Black Anne Boleyn grace our screens, with actress Jodie Turner-Smith playing the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII. The popularity of BIPOC-created royalcore content on social media really shows that there is a huge demand for these diverse shows centered around royalty and romanticism.

@porsharenaehallA safe place to be a modern day ##blackprincess ! 👸🏾 ##princesscore##royalcore##blackprincesscore##blackgirlmagic♬ original sound – Audios🥰

People can scoff at the “light” nature of the historical romance genre all they want, but it is a genre that has been predominantly created by women, for women, with an unapologetically female gaze that we can see reflected in the way Bridgerton filmed its intimate scenes. And it is an incredibly successful genre at that, with readers’ appetites for new dramatic, wildly romantic “enemies to lovers” storylines seemingly never satisfied.

@christinatavaya#blackprincess #blackprincesscore #princesscore #fairycore #royalcore #cottagecore #brigerton #blackgirlmagic #blackdisneyprincess #disneyprincess #♬ thank u, next – Vitamin String Quartet

Women have been mocked for enjoying supposedly “feminine” hobbies since the dawn of time, e.g., reading romance novels, dressing up, or using makeup, just to name a few. Heck, they even get laughed at when they enjoy hobbies usually seen as “masculine,” be it cars, video games, or music, always having to prove they aren’t just enjoying those things in order to appeal to men. Honestly, you can’t win either way. So, embracing your inner princess proudly and openly as an adult woman doesn’t actually strike me as silly or immature. It is in fact probably freeing for many who grew up hiding their enjoyment of pretty, sparkly things or “silly” romance novels.

@aclotheshorseI capture the castle in @chotronette dress✨✨✨ ##aesthetic##fairycore##castle##angelcore##cottagecore##princesscore##princess♬ original sound – 📖Copy Senpai🍥

Ultimately, royalcore isn’t so much about historical accuracy or academic knowledge, but rather about having fun imagining romantic scenarios of midnight balls, princess picnics in the park, or wearing that diamond tiara just for the heck of it. And honestly, I get the appeal! Royalcore, princesscore, and all the other royalty-themed subgenres are about the fantasy more than the nastier realities of those times, the escapist pleasure of living a life of extravagant luxuries and wild excitement, far away from the dull realities of our endlessly quarantined lives. Or maybe, maybe—it is just about having a reason to wear a corset and a crown for a day!


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