A few years ago, back when Nashville was the filter of choice, cozy season Instagram looked something like this: a bird’s-eye view photo of a woman dressed in the comfiest of knits, relaxing on a bed with a steaming cup of coffee in hand and a laptop resting in front of her with a low-light filter edited on top. These photos may have met the dictionary definition of cozy—“enjoying or affording warmth and ease,” according to Merriam-Webster—but they didn’t do it for me.
I didn’t only want to be toasty and warm in the comfort of my own home. I wanted that comfort to follow me as a trekked throughout the brisk New York City streets, when I’m stuck between strangers on a crowded subway cart, and especially when the temperature in the office dips so low I start playing musical chairs to find the warmest spot. Uggs don’t usually translate to “office chic,” sitting pretzel-style in a bed with a hot cup of White Chocolate Mocha doesn’t really align with company culture, and I hate the Nashville filter or any rustic-looking filter, if I’m being quite honest.
But scroll through your Instagram today, and a community of self-described “cozy girls” have a completely different aesthetic for wintertime warmth. For them, Air Jordan 1s and Nike Air Max’s take the place of fuzzy house slippers and down-filled puffers and tracksuits are the snuggly alternatives to throw fleece blankets. I’ve finally found my people.
I didn’t have to search too far to stumble upon the cozy girls of Instagram. She lives, eats, and breathes for swooshes (Nike) and stripes (Adidas) and everything in between; she punctuates each outfit with a statement piece, be it an Off-White crossbody, stacks of gold necklaces and rings, a bucket hat or sunglasses, and is frequently featured on Hypebae’s glossy Instagram feed.
She’s Christina Paik, the mastermind behind the @mykindofcozy Instagram account, known for her eclectic mix of streetwear and high end, like wearing an oversized Stussy button-down with a black billowy skirt from Junya Watanabe and a pair of Nike Tekno trainers. “Cozy isn’t about being in comfortable clothes,” Paik tells ELLE.com. “Cozy is being comfortable in your own skin. Be you and everything else falls in place.”
She’s also Jess Gavigan (@juicegee), whose Instagram bio begins “STAY COZY.” The London-based sneakerhead and owner of sneaker shop Small Feet Big Kicks adopted the #StayCozy hashtag as a way “of telling people that you can be sexy and be comfortable at the same time,” she tells ELLE.com. “Sometimes I feel my best in my baggiest boyish outfits and everyday sneakers, [especially] since In London, I’m always running around on my feet. Often times, I need a look that goes from day to night, so I learned to make comfortable a ‘sexy look’. We don’t need to be half naked to be sexy.”
After clicking through a bevy of Instagram accounts and hashtags, I found myself deep down the rabbit hole of “cozy girl” Instagram. There were females from all over the world whose versatile sartorial taste rely heavily on comfort and practicality, instead of following societal expectations of how a woman is supposed to dress. And many of them garnered a loyal following and big-name collaborations because of it.
Take Aleali May, stylist and FROW favorite, for instance. Her cozy ethos has helped her become a leader in streetwear culture, which eventually led to her becoming the first woman to collaborate with Nike on the iconic Air Jordan 1 silhouette in 2017, followed by her second Jordan collaboration released earlier this month.
To these women, “cozy” means more than dressing for comfort, they dress to feel good. Society likes to tell women that to look feminine means to wear heels, soft colors, and tight-fitting clothes or else you’d be labeled a tomboy, as if being both feminine and a tomboy were mutually exclusive. Curious to explore “cozy” culture, I polled a few streetwear enthusiasts about what the term means to them and how to get the cozy look.
Gia Seo (@giaxseo)
“Growing up in a small-town in Alaska, I didn’t understand traditional mainstream fashion because fashion was very much based on functionality and dependent on the weather. In that sense, all of that practical wear – snow pants, bunny boots with fur in them— became a natural adaptation of myself when I came to New York and something that I didn’t want to let go of. Everything that I own has to be really malleable to my body. I don’t like things that are super structured, don’t love denim, so in that sense I am really cozy. I love super soft fabrics, anything that is silky. A lot of the way that I dress is based on how the textures feel on my skin.
[Being cozy] is always about having a statement piece that you’ve worn before that makes you feel incredibly comfortable, like a jacket that you get a compliment on every time you wear it, so you remember that memory and take it with you the next time you wear it. It always starts with a statement piece. I have a huge jacket and sock fetish.”
Her cozy girl essentials:
- Snacks – “You cannot self-anoint yourself a cozy girl without snacks. I love anything gummy.”
- Statement jacket – “When it gets cold, I feel like I’m peeling off my disgusting summer skin and emerging anew. My mood is really based on the season so because it’s winter, I get really excited to put on my coats and boots and every accessory that comes with that.”
- Durable bag — “I hate carrying large bags so I like to find a medium-sized bag that doubles as a purse but also looks cute while running errands.”
- Classic pair of sneakers — “I don’t think they need to be a “hype” sneaker. But a classic pair like Adidas Stan Smith or Air Force 1 – anything that won’t be out of date because that shows that you have a level of understanding when it comes to your style.”
- Sweats – “I’m a sucker for sweats. I think the cozy girl aesthetic is the Aime Leon Dore customer. All of the clothes are immaculately tailored and it reminds me of a less buttoned-up version of APC. Also, any Nike thermal wear. I don’t like to wear thick tights in the winter because it makes me sweat so lightweight but still warm. Uniqlo heat teach is great, too!”
Nneoma Ajiwe (@nneomaluxe)
“A cozy girl is someone who puts their comfort first without jeopardizing her style. She dresses smart, not trendy. I really love to be comfortable and ‘lax at all times but I think moving to New York 2 years ago really solidified my cozy girl style. There are a lot of things about the city that make me uncomfortable, so dressing comfy kind of combats that. Also, the fact that I walk everywhere made me have to buy more sneakers and find outfits that work with sneakers. When I think of the typical “cozy” girl, it’s Kahlana Barfield. She’s literally cozy, but make it fashion. I aspire to be that once I get my money up.”
Her cozy girl essentials:
- Tapered sweatpants
- Oversized sweater
- Short or long-sleeved concert tee
- Nike Prestos
Leeanna Williams (@guvmanian)
“I remember looking through old photos of my mom when she was in middle school, which was in the 80s and is one of my favorite eras, and she had a very laid back look. In a specific photo where she had on the infamous baggy sweatshirt-spandex-shorts-high socks-dirty sneakers look, and I was so inspired to dive deeper into that realm of fashion. So when I think of a cozy girl, I see a woman who’s personal sense of style is all about staying comfortable. When I’m in a rush to go somewhere, I find myself reaching for my go-to comfy clothing pieces, but dressing it up with accessories or statement pieces. I am always put into a box when it comes to my sense of style, which usually varies from vintage to 90s, or Y2K, but what I really enjoy most is clashing different trends from different eras into one outfit.”
Her cozy girl essentials:
- Baggy jeans
- Chunky sneakers
- Men’s blazer
- Grandpa sweater
- Silver or gold hoops
- Silver ball necklace
Shavone Charles (@shavonec)
“I am 100% OK with the cozy queen label, mainly because I pride myself on feeling comfortable as my BEST self in whatever clothes I decide to wear. Cozy is more of an attitude and energy you carry with you. I define true, authentic cozy culture as living true in your own skin, regardless of what’s “in” and trendy. Cozy culture is defying all gender norms that say a person and/or woman is supposed to where “this.” True cozy culture is timeless and not at all trapped in today’s streetwear fashion paradigm. From being born and raised in Cali on the West Coast in gang territory, streetwear fashion for me meant more than just the actual clothing you wore, it was an attitude and a lifestyle – a real mentality you carried with you, as a reflection of who you were and your life experiences. Throughout my youth, I observed personal style as raw and unapologetic – especially for women in my neighborhood who decided to wear more androgynous clothing and oversized pieces.
Over time, I’ve grown to be more comfortable with my body, my curves and the way clothes wear ME, carefully striking a balance between my androgyny and femininity. As a woman of color, establishing your own personal style and comfortability in clothes mainly depends on how you view your body and sourcing clothes that reinforce positive emotions about you and your appearance. At this point, my personal style is anchored in statement pieces that reflect my personality or current mood, always with a classic shoe.”
Her cozy girl essentials:
- Unapologetic self love
- A classic white sneaker
- An oversized top or oversized bottom
- A vintage accessory
- Clear lip gloss
Aude-Julie Alingue (@aude_julie)
“I got my first real sneaker when I was nine years old—a pair of Prestos. The first day of school, boys came up to me like, “Oh, you’re sneakers are so cool” and I gained a lot of friends based off of my sneakers. Then, I started mixing sneakers and bags—I got my first handbag when I was 12—and my “cozy” style started from there. Of course, when I was younger I had once been asked why I didn’t wear skirts or dresses. I felt uncomfortable with these kind of questions so I forced myself to dress more feminine because I felt like I wasn’t a normal girl if I didn’t. But today I don’t really care, I dress in what I feel the most comfortable in.
Cozy style is a mix of comfy, trendy, and cool fabrics that will give you a nonchalant silhouette and feel, as if you just wore whatever you saw in your closet but you’ve actually put a lot thought to your look. I wouldn’t wear something restricting that I wouldn’t feel comfortable in. Cozy-girl style is having a style that’s your own but the most important thing is your comfort. I wouldn’t wear tops that make me hot or jeans that aren’t roomy and wouldn’t last me the whole day. When I choose an outfit, I want to know that I’m gonna be comfortable the whole day.
Living in Paris has definitely influenced my style when it comes to high fashion. Parisian girls are known for dressing very classy and in high heels, but that’s not always the case. When we’re dressed down, we have a high fashion bag or statement piece so that’s where my love of mixing high fashion and comfy pieces together comes from. Cozy style is all about being smart with your purchases, buying cool things that maybe in 10, 20 years are gonna be vintage and are gonna last me a long time.”
Her cozy girl essentials:
- A plain t-shirt or a logo t-shirt
- Vintage jeans Levis
- White sneakers
- Denim or a leather jacket
- A designer bag – “I’ve been really loving Prada nylon handbags, especially the pink one.”
Courtney Morston (@_corecouturee)
“Being cozy to me means to embrace athleisure and streetwear and incorporate it with my style in a feminine way. Cozy means not following the norms of what every girl is wearing and I do that through menswear—90 percent of my closet is menswear. It’s wearing baggy, loose-fitting, oversized pieces even though the fashion norm is to wear the opposite.
At first I did fear that dressing comfortably in loose fitting clothing would make me come off as less feminine. To get around this, I tried to incorporate feminine aspects such as vibrant colors, bold textures and accessories. With time, having confidence in who am is what really changed how I embraced my cozy aesthetic.
Now that it’s winter in New York, a big part of my cozy style has been layering. I’ll get dressed and look in the mirror like, ‘Oh wow, this looks too plain so let me throw a hoodie underneath to add extra dimension and depth.’ “
Her cozy girl essentials:
- Air Jordan 1
- Fanny pack—”It fits everything!”
- A pair of cargo sweats—”I love not having to wear jeans all the time.”
- Turtleneck—”Great way to adds a layer and can be worn with a t-shirt on top.”