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The new 'dolce vita'? Explaining the 'tomato girl' summer trend

Antica Saroria, Sydney Sweeney and Dolce & Gabbana are all tomato girl fans
Antica Saroria, Sydney Sweeney and Dolce & Gabbana are all tomato girl fans Copyright Euronews/Canva/Antica Sartoria/Ernesto Ruscio/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Copyright Euronews/Canva/Antica Sartoria/Ernesto Ruscio/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Thanks to Gen Z and TikTok, we have yet another aesthetic trend on our hands - 'tomato girl'. It's not about worshipping at the altar of the top notch fruit but instead embracing the idea of an Italian summer, by any means possible.

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Gen Z are responsible for many trends, good and bad, but the latest has millennials - this one included - rather baffled.

Popularising aesthetics or ‘cores’ - think Barbiecore, goblincore and cottagecore - on TikTok, we’re now at the point where ‘Tomato Girl’ is a thing.

You read that right - but it’s not what you might expect. Even though no one would bat an eye at Gen Z getting obsessed with the fruity delight, the term actually refers to the idea of a perfect Italian summer.

With the hashtag #tomatogirls boasting millions of views on TikTok alone, it has very little to do with everyone’s favourite pizza topping but everything to do with the southern European nation.

Featuring red hues, fans of the aesthetic are into Italian summer weather, fruit and floral prints, feminine dresses, sun-kissed skin and headscarves a la Monica Vitti.

Touring Club Italiano/Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Tomato girl inspiration - fun on the beach in Viareggio, 1950Touring Club Italiano/Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Think the ever-popular coastal grandmother trend if it hopped on a plane to the Amalfi Coast.

The aesthetic, which emerged in May, is the antithesis to the ‘quiet luxury’ look, popularised by Sofia Richie-Grainge in the springtime.

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Original tomato girl: A holidaymaker on Capri in 1959Universal History Archive/Getty

There’s no place for neutral tones and stealth wealth here - although Dolce & Gabbana constantly put perfect pieces for the ‘tomato girl’, costing hundreds of euros.

Instead, the trend has something for everyone, with true cross-generational appeal.

Older fans might choose to embrace retro, full-skirted dresses, silk scarves and breezy shirts knotted at the waist, while Gen Z often plump for co-ords made up of bra tops and hotpants, all in bright patterns.

How to get the 'tomato girl' look

Style references can be found going back decades - from glamorous tourists on Capri in the 1950s to Sophia Loren, photographed with an off-the-shoulder blouse next to an array of vegetables for her 1971 cookbook 'In the Kitchen With Love'.

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Sophia Loren's 1971 cookbook 'In the Kitchen With Love'Amazon

While the term ‘tomato girl’ is new, the aesthetic itself isn’t.

Supermodel Christy Turlington featured in a Vogue feature back in 1992, subtitled ‘Postcard from Portofino’ and Italian brands like the aforementioned Dolce & Gabbana and Antica Sartoria, which has countless shops along the Amalfi Coast, have been peddling the look for years.

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Tomato girl c.1992: Christy Turlington in VogueConde Nast

Recently, too, the aesthetic was given a huge platform with series two of HBO’s smash hit ‘The White Lotus’.

Set and filmed on the island of Sicily, long lunches in the sun, vineyard visits and Vespas were a constant feature.

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At the time, the show’s costume designer, Alex Bovaird, told Vogue that she “wanted to infuse a bit of Italy” into the characters’ wardrobe clothes.

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Jennifer Coolidge channels Monica Vitti in 'The White Lotus'HBO

Tanya, played by the inimitable Jennifer Coolidge, in particular purposefully dressed as the late film star Monica Vitti and was upset when her look was compared instead to Peppa Pig.

While Tanya slightly missed the mark of achieving the perfect Italian in every way - no spoilers here - co-star Meghann Fahy as Daphne hit the ‘tomato girl’ aesthetic on the head. Throughout the show, she wore pieces from Italian brands like Pucci and Prada and striking prints of every variation, even on swimwear.

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Peak tomato girl - Daphne wears a bold 4giveness swimsuit in 'The White Lotus'HBO

Tanya and Daphne were clearly both very rich - they had to be with the hotel they stayed at, the San Domenico Palace in Taormina, costing upwards of €1,200 a night.

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But while quiet luxury is unaffordable for most, ‘tomato girl’ chic is far more accessible.

Evidently, not all of us can hop on a plane to southern Italy to watch the sunset with an Aperol Spritz in hand, but donning a sundress and going for a coffee at a pavement café is certainly achievable.

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Tomato girl print clothing on sale in Cefalu, SicilyValeria Ferraro/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Overall, the ‘tomato girl’ aesthetic is more of a vibe than a trend, an attitude as opposed to a strict set of clothing rules.

With temperatures in Italy reaching the mid-forties this summer, wannabe ‘tomato girls’ haven’t been able to fully embrace the lifestyle. In fact, the aesthetic - which doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon - may soon become nostalgic, yearning for the days of tolerable heat in southern Europe.

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Elle Fanning / Instagram
Elle Fanning is amongst those embracing a potato girl summerElle Fanning / Instagram

If you’ve been stuck in chilly, rainy northern Europe, you’re in luck. On the flipside of ‘tomato girl’ is ‘potato girl’. 

Named after the top half of the continent, known for growing potatoes rather than tomatoes which thrive in hotter climates, it’s worth embracing if your summer has been more filled with office blocks than aperitivo.

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