You guys will never believe this, but I have stumbled upon something that is sure to enhance your enjoyment of life, and yes, even your self-knowledge and introspective insight! Yes. It’s truly incredible.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the definition of the word “aesthetic,” but did you also know it’s like a whole THING, too? As an adjective, aesthetic is precisely defined as: “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.” As a noun, it means “a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”

Now, we’re going to be using it as a noun in this case, and guess what? The particular artist or artistic movement is YOU. Yes, you, your damn self. YOU have an aesthetic. I’ll give you a minute to cool your exploded head space.

What, you might ask, is a personal aesthetic, and more importantly, what is mine (not mine per se, yours, in this case—I clearly already know mine and will share it with you henceforth.)?

Obviously, there will be quizzes involved. Many, many quizzes.

Let me see if I can find some for you here. Here you go:

Buzzfeed: What Is Your Inner Aesthetic
Here’s another one that is sort of stupid
Mostly about your looks

And oh! There’s of course outer aesthetic (the not at all haphazard or dumpy way one dresses) and inner aesthetic, which is somewhat more nuanced. Also, if you have a teenager, you are probably already well acquainted with this shit. Thanks to my 14-year-old initially creating a photographic montage of her interpretation of my aesthetic, thus opening Pandora’s box and introducing me to myriad online tests, it is clear to me that while my outer aesthetic is a pleasing combination of Boho and Vintage, my inner aesthetic is, oh fuck, I can’t remember. Hang on, I’ll have to take the damn tests again.

I am here to stump the aesthetic quiz machine.

Oh yes, my personal aesthetic is primarily Cottagecore and “light academia,” mixed with vintage and some Indiecore for good measure. I’m nothing if not balanced. Basically this means I wear flowy comfortable clothing to accommodate my pandemically enlarging waistline, thus exuding an illusion of carefree stylishness, but I really wish I could live in a cottage in the woods as a fairy who also enjoys learning about European history and who wishes she could wear 1920s head accessories and listen to 1940s French songs all day. See? SO concise! Also, pffft, NO, I totally do not have a secret Pinterest board dedicated to my aesthetic. I’m a 42-year-old woman for Christ’s sake!

In case you don’t want to take some crappy quiz (hahaha of COURSE you do, like you didn’t spend your entire adolescence taking quizzes from SELF magazine) or spend much time on this, allow me to provide some basic information on the type of aesthetic that YOU, potentially/likely Gen X Midlife Mom (No? Just me?), might possess. Sure, these quizzes may be the ugly stepsister of the personality test world  (Myers-Briggs; Enneagram; that color one), but they’re still fun.

I need you to understand, my friends, that the people who have created these aesthetic types are also the ones telling us that it is not ok and certainly not stylish that we part our hair on the side. What?? Who doesn’t part their hair on the side? Also, they apparently object to our wearing of, or ever having worn, skinny jeans, and they accuse us of using the laugh/cry emoji too much. Well, to that I say ???????????????????????? PISS OFF.

I shall be using my own photos as it is much too tedious to search for stock photos and navigate potential copyright infringement, so apologies for this half-assed production. Now let’s get down to business. Settle in, and grab some paper to jot down some helpful notes.

Potential Aesthetic Matches for YOU (Based on current pop culture’s helpful categories, of course)

1990s Nostalgia:

I’m sorry. But aren’t we ALL 1990s nostalgia? The 1990s were like 8 years ago, so “nostalgia” doesn’t even make sense. I mean, I get that Friends is popular now, but hasn’t it pretty much always been? And sure, folks are wearing flannel shirts again (some of us never stopped) but does this make it an actual trend? I reject this. Let’s move on.


Sort of, see previous category, right? Lots of darkness and black stuff and brooding alternative music? Some skateboarding? See also: Indiecore, which I think speaks more to your untethered, non-conformist, meaning-seeking SOUL, not so much your clothing. Oh, no, wait, the kids say that “Indie” is bright clothes and hoodies. (Shrugs)

Toddler Grunge


YOU GUYS. ACCORDING TO THE GEN Z FOLK, VINTAGE MEANS 1990s. AND MAYBE A LITTLE 1980s. Not the Roaring 20’s, not the 1940s, or MadMen era 1960s. Not even effing bellbottoms. They think vintage is 19fucking92. I say we take to the streets and reclaim the correct definition of the word vintage.



The fuck? I find this offensive. Someone who enjoys art and feels connected to nature is a “hoe” somehow? This is ridiculous—who is in charge of these labels?


Don’t be confused by this! You aren’t one, first of all. A baddie is not like a “counterculture badass”; it honestly doesn’t get much more mainstream than “baddies” in my opinion. Think makeup tutorials and pretty Instagram pages with fashion trends/beauty guru shit. According to my sources, baddies can also be known as “babygirl” aesthetic—how do those two mean the same thing at all? Which brings me to this little gem…


Um, Gen Z kids? I do not think this word means what you think it means. (Bonus points if you can identify this movie quote: see also Vintage/1990s nostalgia) According to the Internet, the Softcore or “softie” aesthetic is a light, feminine style, a person who is just SUCH a sweetie. Think pink. For those of us who grew up with even a basic knowledge of Cinemax, there is some profound cognitive dissonance to be found with this aesthetic.

Dark Academia:
Well, this one just delights me. This is apparently my daughter’s category, which to me, is like, think Hermione Granger, right? Classic literature, libraries, self-discovery, you know, but maybe in kind of a creepy way. Don’t confuse this with Witchcore, which is also freaking awesome.

I am so dark. And so academic.

Light Academia:

Pretty much the same as the dark one, except these folks actually appear to enjoy life. Seriously, that’s what it says. I think this one is for me because I like Downtown Abbey and historical fiction, but am also filled with joie de vivre and frequently succumb to fits of laughter.


Ah, Cottagecore, the original category I was assigned before I continued to dig and dig and DIG and speak softly to the Sorting Hat so as to further understand myself and give meaning to my life. Do you enjoy the notion of living in a cottage in the French countryside while having picnics and looking at water lilies? Do you enjoy gingham? Well, this one’s for you. (see also: fairycore, ethereal core (for real, tho? Come on.))

You know what? There are more, but I really think we should just quit. Skatercore, Spacecore, Hypebeast (just what?), Witchcore, Minimalist, need we go on? Oh, and here’s my personal favorite:

Midlife Core:

You effortlessly blend together the gorgeous decades from which you and your kinsfolk originate, incorporating the independence and cynicism of Gen X, the daydreamy nostalgia of watching period pieces on Netflix, an interest in food and culture as manifested by multiple hours spent looking up recipes for your Instant Pot and Air Fryer and watching The Great British Baking Show; a deep connection to coffee, dry shampoo for your side-parted hair, and slippers; soft feminism (showering, tinted moisturizer) when it suits you and hoodies (messy buns, stocking caps) when the world can fuck off, a wearing of skinny jeans BUT WITH AN ELASTIC WAISTBAND BITCHES ala a maternity panel despite not being pregnant for a decade; a oneness with nature or at least your backyard given that you’re trying to avoid the indoors because you’re a grownup with a sense of responsibility and these are pandemic times so stay home already; and lastly, the mastery of the art of home interior decoration, including taped up pictures your kids drew all over the walls, piles of laundry in at least 3 rooms, one room that looks pretty and tidy most of the time because you need to go somewhere to accommodate your Cottagecore and Dark/Light Academia needs, and the comfiest bed on the planet, piled with throws and weighted blankets and your pet and a stack of books nearby, because you finally know how to take care of yourself because you are a freaking badass worth nurturing.

Living my best midlife.

Fine I made that last one up. So. Which one are you? Happy hunting on your quest for self-knowledge! STAY RELEVANT OUT THERE, MIDLIFERS, LEST YOU BE CLASSIFIED AS A SOFTCORE ANYTHING.


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