Curious About TikTok’s Dreamcore Aesthetic? Make Sure You Read This First

Before the eerie and the whimsy

The Dreamcore Aesthetic is the latest trend popularised on TikTok. It follows the rise of dalgona coffee, wolf haircut, ‘dressing up as ________’ videos, to name a few. But none of these are as weirdly intriguing as the Dreamcore Aesthetic. Be warned, though. It’s not as cute and whimsical as it sounds.

What is the Dreamcore Aesthetic?

It is defined by the Urban Dictionary as a vibe that “heavily relies on nostalgic things” as solidified by “bizarre imagery and objects.” It’s like having a very hazy dream where you’re in a place that’s familiar to you, but you can’t pinpoint what you feel about it. Think empty ball pits and playgrounds you might’ve seen as a kid; an empty corridor that you feel like you’ve been to before; hyper-realistic dreams mixed with the most obscure thing you can’t think of. That is Dreamcore.


Reply to @youngbradpittsarmpithair ⚠️derealization⚠️ welcome to the dream train 🚂 #shortfilm #weirdcore #dreamcore #aesthetic #jackstauber #horror

♬ original sound - jordan 🌼

If you need a clearer picture of what the aesthetic is like, one good example is this video by user @jgretznerd titled The Dream Train has around 2 million views as of writing. It’s trippy and mind-boggling; it’s both easy and hard to understand why people are into this type of content. It gives off one of those ‘I don’t get it but I can’t stop watching it’ moments. It certainly reminds us of the 2005 film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, only with the themes a bit creepier or filled with unease.

The Dreamcore Aesthetic’s relationship with the popular Lo-Fi Girl

The Dreamcore Aesthetic is often matched with Dream Pop music which mixes alternative rock and neo-psychedelic sounds popularised in the 80s. Dream Pop’s 2000s counterpart would probably be the music by Lo-Fi Girl, a YouTube channel founded in 2015.

The channel’s content is often referenced in discussions about the Dreamcore Aesthetic. It uses vivid anime-like visuals that accompany soothing beats curated based on a certain theme. Its most popular video is titled the 1 A.M Study Session - [lofi hip hop/chill beats] with 51 million views.

Lo-Fi and the Dreamcore aesthetic share an escapist allure; they give the viewer a sensorial experience that collides reality with what’s surreal. It’s like listening to the music reminds you of a certain memory, be it your own or just something you’ve seen or heard elsewhere, and relive that moment as you see fit.

The Dreamcore Aesthetic fashion

Unlike the E-girls or the VSCO girl trend where there are specific elements that make up the looks, TikTok’s Dreamcore Aesthetic doesn’t exactly have one. This is because Dreamcore banks on an eerie appeal that requires almost all of the senses. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to come up with fashion ideas for it.

A couple visual references we can turn to are Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat.

Both have very strong retro silhouettes reminiscent of the 50s, 60, and 70s. The visuals are then mixed with either overly saturated colours or pastels mixed with tulle and lace, topped with out-of-place grungy elements like chokers or studs, making it look like a collision of the 80s and the 90s. Again, the main point of the aesthetic is to create something that looks both soft yet eerily edgy, as if there’s something about to pop out on the surface of the look that’s hard to explain or imagine.

In East Asia, the closest reference we can connect it to is Japan’s Byojaku aesthetic, also referred to as a ‘sick-cute’ look. This is because TikTok’s Dreamcore Aesthetic and Byojaku share a charming allure on the surface but with unsettling elements underneath.

Most Dreamcore videos must and do come with a trigger warning

As exciting and intriguing as it seems, TikTok’s Dreamcore Aesthetic isn’t exactly for everyone. There are definitely certain warnings that have to be considered when dipping one’s toes into this new trend. For one, some (if not most) Dreamcore videos have very disturbing themes that lean toward depictions of horror, trauma, and phobias.

The ‘milder’ ones also have the tendency to induce anxiety as a natural response to the trend's often hair-raising nature.

On one hand, studies show that fascination with horror or the macabre can help people overcome their own feelings of fear of either the unknown or something very specific. But these studies also suggest that watching these types of content can have negative effects on both mental and physical health despite our brain’s awareness that what we’re seeing ‘aren’t real’.

What does this trend say about today’s viral culture?

The main root of TikTok’s Dreamcore Aesthetic is banking on nostalgia, much like most trends emerging nowadays. It taps into our curiosity by re-dressing familiar scenarios, characters or products into things that are more fit for our now-adult minds. However, the trend also makes us question the extent to which people are willing to tolerate viral trends despite their implications and possible effects on our mental health.

Since TikTok’s popularity and accessibility has become part of our norm now, this is where mindful content creation and consumption comes in. Just because something is on-trend doesn’t mean we have to be onboard with it. Sometimes, careful assessment and consideration of its elements have to be done in order for us to fully discern whether or not something must be made viral. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not judging those who enjoy the Dreamcore Aesthetic. But it’s always worth noting that there may be more to things than what meets the eye.

(Cover photo from: Marco Xu via Unsplash)

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