Can Moms Enjoy a Tomato Girl Summer, Too? Lessons from My Real-Life Attempt

tomato girl summer as a mom universal
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Coastal grandmother, Barbiecore—it’s not that I don’t pay attention to the trends as they bubble up on TikTok and Instagram. It’s more that my mom self can’t always visualize quite how to implement them. For example, a beige color palette as prescribed by Coastal Grandma sounds nice, but it’s not exactly kid friendly. (My 5-year-old son’s hands are a mix of paint and popsicle stains at all times.) Same with Barbiecore. Can I really see myself wearing bright pink heels to school drop-off? Pink Birkenstocks, maybe…but that’s the limit.

Still, that’s where the latest TikTok trend, dubbed ‘Tomato Girl Summer,’ peaked my interest: Best defined as a vibe that reflects “aspirational Italian leisure chic,” it felt dreamy, but also attainable, even in the midst of my mom life.

After all, according to those who’ve made the effort to make sense of it, a Tomato Girl Summer speaks to someone who “appreciates the slower, finer moments.” She can be found “lingering over an afternoon espresso,” “strolling along the beach,” or “sauntering to the farmers’ market for flowers.” (Also, tomatoes.)

Fashion is a part of it, sure—another aspect that felt appealing to a mom, who style-wise, tends to feel more frazzled than fabulous most days. Red—the hue of tomatoes—is the core color of the Tomato Girl, which feels bright and poppy and fun, but there’s no exact prescription for pulling off the aesthetic. Instead, it’s about relaxed and low-effort glamour. A floral print dress, an oversized pair of sunglasses, a head scarf. Think Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr. Ripley or anyone from the cast of White Lotus sipping Aperol Spritzes at sunset. Hell, it’s George and Amal Clooney, the Lake Como edition. Yes, please.

But back to my eternal question: Could I—kid in tow—channel a Mediterranean mindset? That out-of-office feeling while dashing from camp drop-off to my virtual office to the grocery store?

My first attempt was probably a bit too on the nose: I took my son to the farmer’s market to buy, you guessed it, tomatoes. I had a Pan Con Tomate dish in mind—Spanish, not Italian, in origin, but tomato-centric, so I figured it worked—and I wore red. (This beautiful dress from Duster screams ‘Tomato Girl’ IMO.) But in my rush to prep for an already stacked Sunday—errands, swim lessons, a trip to the playground, multiplied by the mental load all moms tend to carry—I forgot my wallet. After locating a vendor that accepted Apple Pay, my child whined impatiently as we waited in line. Feeling sweaty and rushed, I prodded my spouse to snap a couple of quick pics to document the experience. Tomato Girl? Not so much.

More attempts: I cued up Italian music while making the aforementioned Pan Con Tomate and tried to enjoy it al fresco for lunch in our backyard. My son rejected it in favor of mac and cheese; my husband enjoyed it but was “still hungry.” OK. Later that same afternoon, and still wearing red, I set myself up outside with a magazine and a glass of rosé. My son demanded my attention within minutes. That was nice while it lasted, I thought.

Later that week, I sifted through pics on my phone of pre-kid vacations along the Mediterranean where I felt closest to my Tomato Girl self. One to Cinque Terre. Others to Portugal near the Algarve. That was the vibe I was going for. Why was it so impossible as a parent? Was the Tomato Girl ideal about to get filed away with my feelings about the impracticality for moms of those other TikTok trends?

That evening, due to—you guessed it—kid-related issues on my part, I joined my co-worker for a thrice-rescheduled walk in the park along the waterfront. I wasn’t wearing red. I didn’t take a single pic. But I had secured some solo time, during golden hour no less, on a warm and breezy night.

That’s when it hit me that, perhaps for parents, Tomato Girl Summer could work, not as aesthetic, but as a flexible ideal. A Mediterranean mindset is required, but so is the acceptance that it might only last for mere minutes. Also, required: Being present enough to notice those vacation-like feelings when they hit.  

If I look back at my week of attempting to be a Tomato Girl, I did in fact experience those moments. Like when I made that tomato dish in my kitchen, it was the wafting scent of garlic as I scrubbed in onto the toasted bread. That blissful feeling as, rosé in hand, I read at least one page of my magazine in peace. That red dress. (It’s true: Dressing like I would on vacation for everyday errands does make the day brighter even if my child decides to derail my Zen.)

Maybe I can’t always document it, an aspect that seems to be part and parcel to so many of these social media trends. But if I can feel it, I can be it—and as a parent, that just might be enough.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...