It's no secret that the clean girl aesthetic has had a chokehold on social media, especially with its overwhelming amount of celebrity devotees. Influencers like Matilda Djerf and Hailey Bieber have shaped this look by creating some of its most iconic features (we're looking at you, glazed donut nails).
At its core, the clean girl aesthetic focuses on self-care and wellness, but at the same time perpetuates a thin, wealthy, and Eurocentric standard of beauty. The days of slicked-back buns, laminated brows, and minimalist makeup brought on by the clean girl aesthetic are coming to an end. With shows like Wednesday triggering a resurgence of the goth look, we've moved on from the clean girl onto something much darker.
Enter succubus chic, a term initially coined by Dazed Beauty. According to their article, our current goth revival isn't built around the trad goth look we typically think of. The trad goth subculture emerged in the 80s, with voluminous jet-black hair contrasted by ghostly white skin. Spiderwebs, chains, and bats may have made up key style features of the original goths, but that's not the kind of goth revival we're seeing. Our new goth is built on high fashion with a sexy and dark twist.
Author Alex Peters said it best, "Ghoul girls represent a darker side of the it-girl. Their prevalence shows that maybe the Wednesday Addams craze wasn’t a fluke, but a sign of a wider shift on the part of culture and fashion towards the goth."
Source: The Blonde Salad
Taking inspiration from pop culture icons like Mia Goth in the A24 film Pearl, Julia Fox, and model Gabbriette, the succubus chic look is centered around a much darker feminine energy. This edgy look subverts the male gaze by pushing the boundaries with experimental fashion and beauty, abandoning what would be considered "conventional" for a mysterious look that could kill.
Succubus chic is nothing if not experimental, in direct opposition to the clean girl. Inspired by Angelina Jolie's early 2000s "bad girl" era combined with a modern interpretation of the goth subculture, succubus chic is all about merging the macabre with seductive and untouchable energy.
Eyebrows are either bleached or plucked so thin that they're practically nonexistent. Whether by genetics, contouring ability, or buccal fat removal, cheekbones are hollower than a Tim Burton character. Eye makeup, specifically a smokey eye or smudged eyeliner, draws on the siren eyes makeup trend that rose to popularity on TikTok to further enhance the sultry look. The hair is gothically jet black but styled in a more polished and high-fashion manner. The look is further exaggerated by its hyper-specific posing that accentuates the ghoulish nature of this trend.
According to an article published in The Citizen, "The succubus chic look is particular, even down to the pose you have to strike — head tilted, pouting lips and a cadaverous look which is simultaneously a siren call and a deadly warning."
What really sets this trend apart from the clean girl aesthetic, aside from the obvious differences in appearance, is that it doesn't appeal to the male gaze of traditional beauty standards. Whereas the clean girl creates a guise of effortless natural beauty, the succubus chic embodies the female gaze.
Although the terms were originally applied in a cinematic context, their meanings have been adjusted to fit within the context of social media as well. In this context, the female gaze centers around dressing and doing makeup in a way that makes the wearer feel confident. In direct opposition, the male gaze strips this feeling of agency from women by creating a standard in which women feel pressured to dress in a way that pleases men, rather than themselves.
Even as more mainstream celebrities like Kylie Jenner have picked up the aesthetic, its defining characteristics are still considered to be undesirable under the male gaze for its "unnatural" look in comparison to the clean girl aesthetic.
Source: Harper's Bazaar India
With this beauty trend now working its way into the mainstream, it signals an overall shift in the way that we as a society view femininity by placing creative agency back into the hands of women. The male gaze will never completely vanish in our patriarchal society, but the increase in the popularity of subversive aesthetics shows that women are reclaiming their power.
The problematic tropes of the clean girl aesthetic, ranging from fatphobic body standards to the appropriation of BIPOC style elements, create an unattainable beauty standard fueled by the male gaze. Concerns regarding appropriation and fatphobia have also been raised around the succubus chic look, but what sets it apart from the clean girl aesthetic is the level of freedom it gives women to interpret the look for themselves, rather than being trapped within the hyper-specific mold of the clean girl.
Source: Harper's Bazaar
It's time for the curtain to close on the clean girl. We're embracing the dark side of femininity, and we're doing it for ourselves. Succubus chic might not be for everyone, but this high-fashion-driven trend shows all of us that we can, and should, look the way that makes us feel the most empowered. Sorry, Hailey Bieber.