The Frazzled Englishwoman Aesthetic

A woman with messy hair and a scarf
Ella Pilson

Whether intentional or not, we can all relate to that ‘running out of the door’ look: the toothpaste on the side of the mouth, the odd socks and spilt coffee on a fresh blouse. While idealised in the movies, it can be accidentally actualised in that every-day morning rush. It’s the baker-boy hat, butterfly top, off-shoulder knitted white jumper and shiny brown boots. And Ella Pilson must say, she has a particular soft spot for this ‘Frazzled Englishwoman Aesthetic’.

Taking over from the ‘coastal grandma’ guise, this style is encapsulated by Kate Winslet in The Holiday, Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones, Kiera Knightley and Laura Linney in Love Actually, and Anne Hathaway in (the beginning of) The Devil Wears Prada. First dubbed in Australia’s ‘Russh’ by Fashion and Brand Features Editor Ella O’Keeffe, it has since sky-rocketed. The ‘frazzled Englishwoman’ search reached 30.1 million views on and was promoted by TikTok users such as @thethriftythinker.

This messy style doesn’t just enshrine a look of thick woollen cardigans and messy pulled back hair, but a whole archetype. The flawed romantic, the witty and flustered office girl. It came at the right time, fitting in with the ‘cottage core’ aesthetic and just as the old Y2K fashion trends rose in popularity once again.

There’s definitely something nostalgic and warming to this style

The good thing about this look is its disorganised style, the appeal being in its effortlessness and mismatched nature. What’s more, the chances are that you’ll already have lots of the basics in your wardrobe already (and if you don’t your mum definitely will!). These staples include: skinny scarves, knee-high boots, midi-skirts, claw clips, knitted sweatshirts and cardigans.

There’s definitely something nostalgic and warming to this style, with many noting how it reminds them of their primary school teachers, giving off a ‘Mrs Honey’ vibe. Although in the past it had been largely exclusive to these white female middle-aged, middle-class office-working women. L’officiel states that the look itself and its recent revamp has opened the door for chances of more inclusivity.

It has emerged both in the shops and on the catwalks, with Selfridges adding the ‘WE-AR4’ collection by Michele Rutigliano and Anna Bakst, and London brands like KNWLS taking up some of this muddled but simplistically mundane and mellow style. This is widespread, from Spain’s Paloma Wool to Australia’s ‘all is a gentle spring’.

It has greater appeal to the non-working teenagers than the real middle-aged office woman

However, not everyone has welcomed this trend. ELLE has described skinny scarves as ‘useless’ and argues against these ‘niche micro-trends’. Also, there’s a danger this style will go too far, focusing more on the relatability of these characters than any fashion appeal they might have. The world is able to sympathise with their ‘hopeless romantic plight’. Vogue has criticised its artificiality describing it as more of an American interpretation of a British ‘frazzled woman’. Also, it has greater appeal to the non-working teenagers than the real middle-aged office woman.

It is only natural that we feel an affinity and want to emulate that understated, disorganised look

However, I would argue like any fashion trend these goals are idealised and is definitely more attainable compared to most fashion trends such as the “clean girl” Kardashian look. I also think it does have relevancy and particularly currency amongst our generation. Having grown up with these 2000s actresses, like them, we are now the turning this age, starting our first jobs, internships, loves and heartbreaks. Therefore, it is only natural that we feel an affinity and want to emulate that understated, disorganised look.

Not forgetting that much of this aesthetic is practical, such as the knee-high boots for winter. The fact that these 2000s characters are finding so much resonance with modern-day TikTok trends shows its versatility and timeless appeal.

So, whether or not these skimpy scarves do actually keep you warm, you do find your soulmate on a festive reprieve to sunny L.A. or you are starting a new job in a high-profile fashion magazine, you can still try out this easy and familiar style. For other mimics and inspiration see: TikToker @Helenannee or @fffigs.

Ella Pilson

Featured image courtesy of Daria Nepriakhina via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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