While enough social media users probably have the disposable income to purchase and create content wearing the dress—a much larger proportion feel like Tantalus, reaching for strawberries just beyond their fingertips. “I think that’s part of its appeal—that the dress is almost within reach but not quite,” says Wahl. “It’s no fun to [create content about] a Gucci dress, which is thousands and thousands of dollars, because it’s so far out of reach to most people that you wouldn’t even bother. “If Strawberry Shortcake & Lana Del Rey had a baby,” is how influencer Tess Holliday described Matoshi’s strawberry dress earlier this year.
According to 20-year-old cosplayer and illustrator Avery Mayeur, who was able to purchase the dress after fans donated her the funds through her Ko-Fi account, the online virality of the strawberry dress can also be attributed to the fact that many of today’s highly engaged internet communities simply share an appreciation for quirky, cute fashion. “A lot of people who dress in alternative fashion may be a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “I’ve seen that association from studying fashion, being in the anime community, and interacting with the [queer] community—there’s a lot of crossover between them.
Many young people who are enamored with the dress but understandably find its cost prohibitive have taken to creating an entire genre of fan art in its honor. “Normally, if you like a product, you’re just going to buy it, but the strawberry dress is not really feasible for a lot of people,” says Amy O’Callaghan, an illustrator who posted her rendition of a girl wearing the dress on Instagram. “Most people on the internet probably can’t just casually purchase the dress, so that's their way of expressing their love for it, which I think is probably better, to draw it rather than go buy a knockoff,” she says. (Matoshi, who is dismayed by the proliferation of strawberry dress knockoffs popping up online, agrees.
While Matoshi says that sales of her strawberry dress have spiked over 1,000% in the weeks since late July, one unusual element of the dress’s popularity is the way it has accrued a fandom of young people who have found creative ways to enjoy it without necessarily ever purchasing or wearing it themselves, something she's incredibly humbled by. “It’s very amazing, as an artist, that the whole point of my idea is appreciated like this,” she says.
Until then, she’s frolicking in it in relative isolation and posting the proof online. “I think it’s just the epitome of what can be considered a beautiful object,” she says. “So many people just enjoy looking at it, like, it’s pink, it’s frilly, it’s made out of tulle, it has glittery strawberries all over it, it’s the height of soft girl aesthetic fashion, and I’ve yet to see a single person who owns the dress not look good in it.
Created by Kosovo-born, New York–based designer Likira Matoshi, the Strawberry Midi Dress (known online as simply “the strawberry dress”) looks like something a fairy would wear in a midsummer’s hallucination. It’s spun sugar with a low-cut hint of spice—a little bit campy, aggressively cute, pure feminine serotonin in garment form. I wondered whether I could justify buying such a piece given all the weddings I was set to attend.
In fact, the dress may have the perfect price point to encourage such a fandom, says fashion historian and professor Kim Wahl, Ph. D. , of Ryerson University. “I’ve watched TikTok videos of people expressing shock, being like, ‘Oh my god, this dress is $500! ’ But they still dream about it,” she says.