Menocore is the New Normcore, and It’s a Lot More Comfortable

The other day I found myself fantasizing about moving into a lighthouse. In this not uncommon fantasy of mine, I am rocking a breezy yet put-together white outfit, the perfect menocore ensemble. Early summer is the perfect time to get into your 2000-present day Diane Keaton inspired looks, so I figured this post deserved to fill your feeds once again. Originally published in July of 2017 it is a timeless beauty, much like a good pair of linen pants. – Nora 

All I want is to dress like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give right now.

The realization dawned on me as I surveyed my closet at the beginning of summer. After a few weeks of mulling it over, I decided to pitch it as a style story.

“I want to style three looks inspired by the aesthetic of a middle-aged woman on a low-key beach vacation,” I said. “You know: lots of linen, tiny spectacle sunglasses, maybe a bucket hat, cozy knits, everything super flowy…” My voice trailed off as I searched my coworkers’ faces for a flicker of recognition.

“So many people are getting into that Eileen Fisher aesthetic lately,” said Amelia.

“Yes!” I said. “Exactly! It’s kind of a thing right now, right?”

“Maybe that’s why I keep dressing like a retired masseuse,” said Leandra. “Drawstring linen pants, open button-downs…”

“Yeah, very relaxed,” I said. “Unselfconscious-cool. Picture a 50-something-year-old woman who doesn’t care what other people think and just wants to be supremely comfortable.”

“Is this the new normcore?” Haley asked.

“Maybe,” I said. “I’m trying to think of how to describe it in that same vein. Middle-aged…menopausal…Menocore??”

The name stuck. Every time one of us walked into the office wearing an outfit resembling that of a mom in a Nancy Meyers movie or an eccentric ceramicist exiting her beach house studio or Blythe Danner on a solo bird-watching expedition in 1997, someone would inevitably say, “Well, well, well. Aren’t you looking menocore today?”

I started seeing menocore everywhere. I became obsessed with documenting it. My bookmarks folder on Instagram overflowed with evidence: billowy pants sporting elasticized waist bands, head-to-toe ecru, well-loved market bags, loose tops with bold prints, exposed bras, clunky sandals or sneakers, loose ponytails secured with scrunchies, a porcelain bowl of freshly-cut pineapple sitting on rumpled white bedsheets, jewelry that looked like something a kid might make in art class, unapologetic sun protection for unapologetic sun protection’s sake, tarnished gold barrettes and sequins just for the fun of it.

Like normcore, menocore isn’t tied to a particular designer or brand, but unlike normore, it doesn’t have an obvious uniform — no boxy jeans + turtleneck + clogs formula. Yet under the umbrella of menocore exists two archetypes: On one side of the spectrum, there’s the very neutral, head-to-toe white linen, rolled-up khaki pant cuffs, life-on-the-beach vibe propagated by middle-aged style icons like Diane Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg and Lauren Hutton. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the tropical print, silk cargo pocket, plastic bead jewelry, clashing print, cerulean satin jogger pant, waistless kaftan-wearing vibe espoused by the likes of Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, Miuccia Prada and Lucinda Chambers. Current pre-menopausal aficionados of the first look include Lucia Zolea, Nella Beljan, Subrina Heyink and Virginia Calderón; of the second: Frewa Wewer and Laurel Pantin.

“For me, the look is a sort of shapeless dress that shows my décolletage (I will always love a little cleavage), my massive jumble of gold and sentimental necklaces, flat strappy sandals and semi-frizzy hair,” said Pantin, Editorial & Fashion Director at The Coveteur. “I like the term menocore. When I’m shopping, I definitely have a mental image of an older Italian woman who wears a lot of Marni, Dries, classic shirts unbuttoned low, LOTS of old, gold jewelry and a big, overgrown garden.”

Menocore is by no means limited to these stylistic personas, though. I see plenty of outfits that combine them, and that’s what I tried to do while styling the shoot inside this feature. I think of them more as the minimalist and maximalist points on either end of menocore’s all-encompassing rainbow, with lots of variation and individual interpretation happening in between.

What I love most about the movement is how it pays long-overdue homage to an age bracket that is often ignored by the fashion industry. Our attention to youth has always been very much intact, and the octogenarian subset joined the zeitgeist awhile ago thanks to icons like Iris Apfel and blogs like Advanced Style, leaving women in the middle relatively invisible. Menocore is finally giving them the spotlight they deserve.

“Growing up, my mom was always my barometer of taste, always focusing on great pieces rather than trends,” said stylist Danielle Nachmani, who frequently incorporates what I would call signature menocore items into her shoots — bucket hats, thick gold hoops, khaki pants, linen blazers, etc. If the normcore-fueled proliferation of mom jeans was an ode to the clothes our mothers wore in their 20s, menocore is a tribute to the clothes they wear now. And it’s not just a fashion statement — it’s a mood. Or, at the very least, a projection of one.

“Menocore is such a great term for this,” designer Lucy Akin said when I reached out to her over email. Akin is the creator of Ciao Lucia, a brand new, California-based label I flagged during my research. “Fashion is reflecting our need for an escape from our current reality,” she said. “When the state of the world, or the political climate, feels uncertain, it’s only logical that we would want our clothing reflect ease, maturity and confidence. I turn 30 next year, and with Ciao Lucia, I was channeling an older version of myself who has life a little more figured out. My goal was to make a collection that felt happy and calm, with classic silhouettes and flowy fabrics. The overall look is timeless, comforting and comfortable.”

I agree that this movement goes beyond clothing, which is why I mentioned that photo of freshly-cut pineapple sitting on rumpled white bedsheets in my aforementioned list of examples — not because of what it was (chopped pineapple is not particularly remarkable), but rather, because of what is was not. It was not some trendy frozen cauliflower smoothie, or chia parfait dusted with ashwaganda powder. It wasn’t something that took hours to make, or something that ascribes to “shoulds.” It was something a mom might prepare as a snack for her kid or for herself, and therein lies the sweetness – literal and figurative.

Like the bowl of pineapple, the style element of menocore is also defined by what it is not: trendy, prescribed, price-dependent, impersonal. It started off the runway, propagated by regular people just living their lives and dressing in clothes that made them feel like the best versions of themselves (regardless of trend or designer name). Now that its begun to proliferate across industry darlings, indie designers and social media “inspo” accounts, I wouldn’t be surprised to find traces of menocore finding its way onto the runway, ever-so-subtly, come September fashion week.

“People are gravitating toward a simpler way of life in general,” Marie Dewet told me. She and her mother are the co-founders of Maison Cleo, one of the small, fledgling labels that, like Ciao Lucia, I consider representative of the menocore movement (and also a product of it, to some extent). “Not just with the clothes we wear, but also with the food we eat, the way we decorate our homes, the way we live our lives. “The thing about simplicity is that it doesn’t have to be boring, or even minimalist. It’s more about stripping away the noise.”

New York Magazine called normcore, “The aesthetic return to styles [we] would’ve worn as kids reads like a reset button—going back to a time before adolescence, before we learned to differentiate identity through dress.” In fascinating contrast, menocore is the aesthetic leap to styles we would embrace as middle-aged women, taking us forward in time to a more marinated version of our selves, our mothers and our world.

Or, I don’t know…maybe we all just wanted to start wearing comfier pants.

Photos by Edith Young. Modeled by Hema Barbosa of MSA Models; follow Hema and MSA Models on Instagram @gemzb_ and @msamodels

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

More from Archive