The mermaid trend started as a childhood fantasy, then matured to a teenage dream and has now graduated to being a nostalgic dip in the ocean. Walt Disney’s fairytales made mermaids, oysters, pearls and glitter seem whimsical, but the fashion crowd have claimed the look and given an urban edge to the trend for spring 2012.

Taking inspiration from the mood boards of a 12-year-old, the mermaid trend, or as Chanel’s loyal disciples would like to say, the under-the-ocean trend is a more angelic, clean, sexy and grown-up version of how Cinderella and Arial would dress up.

Unlike its origin and source of fame, this trend isn’t inundated with shaded ripples of blue, and neither does it necessarily entail coral prints. The spring 2012 runway has done it differently, by incorporating the trend in the season’s clothes, hair and beauty looks.

Read the full 2012 fashion trend report after the break. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter or RSS feed if you’d like to keep up to date with all of the latest fashion, hair and beauty trends.

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Past incarnations of mermaid fashion

From glitzy fishtail dresses to fishscale appliques, 2012 isn’t the first time mermaids and sirens of the sea have been used as fashion inspiration. The trend surfaced back in 2008 with a much more literal look to what it is now; with classical inspirations from art and literature given a glamorous turn. Now, it’s haloed in a softer and more subtle type of magic.

John William Waterhouse and Jean Paul Gaultier's mermaids
John William Waterhouse’s painting, The Mermaid; a 2008 couture outfit by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Urban mermaid: the trend in 2012

Karl Lagerfeld created some serious buzz when the entire fashion industry was given a taste of underwater luxury in Chanel’s spring 2012 runway show. The literal transformation of a bubble-wrapped underwater kingdom gave an insight into the expectations from this trend. However, like always, Lagerfeld pulled out the ‘surprise’ card, as the collection opened up a thesaurus of unconventional lady-like looks. The lack of fishtail gowns in eye-piercing colours put a refreshing edge to the minimalist ocean-themed collection. Pearls, lace and ruffles were used to update the trademark tweed suit, whilst the colour palette tilted towards keeping it fresh underwater.

mermaid inspired clothing
Mermaid inspired fashion at Givenchy SS12

Just as Lagerfeld directed a dreamy fairytale under the sea, Riccardo Tisci produced a fervent and poised sex-show amongst the bubbles. Givenchy’s spring 2012 collection was sharp, strong and full of lean silhouettes that connected with the aesthetic of a modern mermaid, vindicated with long free-flowing hair and understated metallic eye make-up. Tisci took inspiration from surfers, sharks and other sea creatures to create tailored suits, second skin pants and skirts that ended well above the knee.

mermaid fashion givenchy

The one thing that connects the two collections is their ability to break down the conventional meaning of the mermaid or ocean trend and give it a modern twist that’ll also work brilliantly well with the other spring 2012 trends.

The palettes for this trend are free from any patterns or articulate fabrication; they’re modestly clean with aplenty of creams, powdery blues and shimmery metallic shades.

But it isn’t just the clothes and the outfits that enclose the trend; the hair and beauty department have also proved to be considerate stakeholders in the popularity and success of the mermaid or ocean trend.

Mermaid hair and beauty inspiration

The adaptation of this girly trend into the hair and beauty department has been an interesting one. We say ‘interesting’ because, here at Fashionising.com, we started reporting on the hair and beauty looks from spring 2012 shows just as they came off the runway.

  • Fashionising.com did an in-house how-to beauty shoot for Givenchy’s gold sequin dotted eyes. This was a direct inspiration from the spring runway show, and an easy-to-achieve look.
  • Taking the hairspiration to a literal level, the wet hair look also tallies with this underwater urban mermaid image.
  • Glistening hair with dewy ringlets or a slicked back look is turning out to be a huge trend for the coming spring season. Slick it back in a ponytail, leave it semi-dry or brave the dripping wet style. A simple fishtail braid would also endorse the sea trend. And as seen on the Chanel catwalk, an embellished pearly updo is another way to add an oceanic twist to your outfit.

mermaid beauty look
Wet hair and shimmery eyes at Chanel

  • Beauty-wise, the obvious options for a mermaid look would be to swear by metallic eyes and dewy skin. The challenge is to create a pearly sheen, while also keeping it fresh and glowy sans any visible shine. This look was flawlessly presented on the Chanel runway, as the girls strutted out in their au natural avatars.

Mermaid inspired fashion: how to wear it

  • With outfits – go for feminine silhouettes without the obvious red carpet-type mermaid gowns. Opt for dresses and jackets that cinch-in and accentuate the waist.
  • To give your outfit an approval from the sea world, pick fabrics with gleam and shine as opposed to something opaque and sturdy. Sequins or paillettes give off a fish scale effect, but again work best in burnished gold, muted silver or semi-sheer plastics.
  • Pair accessories that adhere to the underwater trend, sequinned clutches or holdalls, or even a pearl-studded envelope clutch.
  • When choosing colours, stay clear from obvious choices like bright blues and algae green. This spring is all about whites, shimmery silver, and metallic grey with small glimpses from deep ocean blue.

mermaid bikini
On the runway at Chanel SS12

  • Be wise when choosing shimmery eye shadows, as you don’t want to look like a make-up virgin. The trick is to line your upper eyelid – as close to the eyelash line as possible – with a shimmering eye pencil or glittery cream eye shadow. Don’t dab the said eye shadow all-over you eyelid.
  • As previously mentioned, try the wetlook hair in a roughly tied chignon or ponytail to bring the watery effect.
  • Free-flowing long hair is sure to bring out your inner sea-goddess, and for that to get a beauty approval, the flowing, side-pinned waves need to be a major part of your hair regime.
  • A fast and easy ocean-approved look is to spritz sea salt spray in your hair, give it a rough blow dry and run your fingers through your strands. You are ready with your metropolitan mermaid look.

For more shimmering mermaid inspiration from the runways, visit the gallery above.

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