Crocs with socks. Oversized t-shirts over teeny tiny shorts. Stanleys and Lululemon. There’s no doubt that Gen Z and Gen Alpha styles can be a bit of a head-scratcher. To make things even more confusing, known fashion trends from back in the day are now something else altogether. Take Izod polos and boat shoes: Better not call them “preppy” unless you enjoy having your tween or tween roll their eyes at you. In hopes of properly explaining Gen Alpha style for parents everywhere, we chatted with a Gen Z teen and got some explanations from mom and interior designer Kristina Kairis.

If you need more help decoding your kid, check out our guide to middle school slang and why kids are mewing in class.


Replying to @Kaitlyn I hope this clears some more things up! But if you need a little more clarification, I added the style guide to my bio! #genalpha#genx#fashion#coquette#coquettecore#preppy#preppyaesthetic#aesthetic#cottagecoreaesthetic#millenial#egirls#egirl#kawaii#kawaiiaesthetic#softgirilifestyle#baddie

♬ original sound – Christina | Designing Luxury


This Gen Z and Gen Alpha style revolves around ultra-feminine things like pearls, bows, pink, pastels, and soft, lacy, girly-girl clothes. Kairis explains it as “Marie Antoinette in modern times,” and our Gen Z teen confirms this is on point. The teen expert said coquette is also used to describe a current mood, as in “I’m feeling very coquette today.”


This Gen Z and Gen Alpha style is probably the most confusing to understand—at least for Gen X and Millenials. What we consider “preppy” a.k.a. polo shirts, khaki shorts, deck shoes, over-the-shoulder sweaters, and plaid, is NOT preppy for Gen Z and Gen Alpha kiddos. For them, preppy means bold and bright colors, Lululemon, Stanley cups, smiley faces, and for some reason, our teen expert says neon Nirvana hoodies are also preppy (our former grunge selves are SO perplexed).

Kairis mentions that the preppy look feels like upgraded VSCO girls, and the Gen Z teen agrees. There is also a good and bad way to use the word “preppy;” it all depends on how you say it, as Kairis mentions in her TikTok.

Aesthetic-Aesthetic (a.k.a. Vanilla Girl)

We all know that the term “aesthetic” is a favorite for Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids. But what you might not know is that it’s also a style. This style is all about the beige, the neutrals, the cozy, the soft, and the mellow—hence, Vanilla Girl.

Cottage Core

According to our Gen Z teenager, cottage core is a style that looks like you want to live off the grid, raise chickens, and make bread from scratch. So, all those homesteading IG accounts you follow? They’re living the cottage core life. Kairis explains it as the English countryside, going on a picnic, living a simplified life in an oversimplified way. Kairis also included long fancy nails in her cottage core style board, but our teen expert said acrylic nails are in no way part of the cottage core aesthetic.


This Gen Z and Gen Alpha style features a lot of black, overdone makeup, and mesh, so your brain might automatically think Emo, but E-Girl is a shortened version of “electronic girl,” and it is a blend of emo, goth, and Japanese and Korean street style. According to Wikipedia, the style gained popularity with the worldwide release of TikTok, a stark contrast to the filtered world of Instagram, which was the preferred platform of preppy girls.

E-girls wear baggy thrift-store finds, crop tops, platform shoes, plaid miniskirts, pigtails, and anime-inspired makeup. Our teen expert said that most e-girls are known to be streamers (they use Twitch) and wear headphones. Kairis says that the E-girl style is like “coquette meets goth” and that it almost feels like a “gothy, toned-down Harajuku girl,” which is pretty accurate.


The Kawaii aesthetic, which is also a Japanese street style look, is similar to coquette in that there are lots of pastel colors and lace. The clothes are almost doll-like in design and include fluffy skirts, scalloped shirts, patterned overalls, and anything that feels “cute.” There are also a lot of animal logos, Hello Kitty, jewelry, and keychains.

Soft Girl

This Gen Alpha micro-trend is a blend of coquette and Kawaii, with a bit of edge for good measure. Think eyelet fabric, pastels, gingham, and floral prints paired with platform shoes, bucket hats, and colorful hair clips. Cardigans and cropped jackets are also a big part of this look.

Kairis posted another video to get more details on what kids today call what we consider to be preppy style.


Replying to @Andrea MacDonald Mil She’s answering all our burning questions! #genalpha #genx #fashion #preppy #preppyaesthetic #aesthetic #millenial #genz #style

♬ original sound – Christina | Designing Luxury

Our resident Gen Z expert said she hadn’t heard the term “Old Money” and figures it’s a Gen Alpha phrase. This aesthetic is what millennials and Gen X would consider “preppy” fashion. It’s definitely in line with the silent luxury fashion trend that gained popularity thanks to Succession. Think simple lines, neutral colors, loafers, sweaters worn over the shoulders, leather tote bags, blazers, etc. There aren’t too many kids wearing this style, however.

If you’re wondering why you aren’t hearing too much about the style of Gen Z and Gen Alpha boys, it’s because while there are some e-boys and preppy guys out there, a majority of tween and teen boys tend to dress as if they’ve just rolled out of bed. They almost always wear Crocs with socks, t-shirts, and athletic shorts, something that hasn’t changed much since we were young—minus the Crocs, of course.

If you want more help decoding today’s fashion trends and micro-styles your tween or teen might be coveting, Kairis created a free Gen Alpha style guide you can download here.

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