Let’s just say the Y2K-obsessed content creator knows her way around a flea market.
For the TikTok generation, eyes aren’t necessarily the windows to one’s soul — that’s a job for social media bios. And in the case of Caroline Ricke, 22-year-old content creator and satirical rich girl, her soul speaks volumes. On TikTok, where she’s racked up nearly 3 million followers, she’s “affluent in seven languages.” (Her YouTube views are more than five times that, clocking in at more than 15 million.) On Instagram, she’s an “Ohio socialite.” Offline, meanwhile, she knows exactly what she’s doing.
Should you not already be familiar, Ricke’s online persona can best be described as that of Cher Horowitz fizzed up in a cocktail shaker with early-aughts Disney Channel stardom. Her character, which lives on TikTok under the handle @richcaroline, is as if Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods walked onto the wrong sound stage and landed a starring role in “Cadet Kelly.” Her fashion is a 2003-era tabloid masterpiece, down to the bedazzled bucket hats and candyfloss jewelry.
So where does @richcaroline, the avatar, end and Ricke, the person, begin?
“It’s not a costume,” Ricke tells me over a video chat from Los Angeles, where she’s now based after relocating from the Midwest. “People think it’s literally just for Instagram and for TikTok and YouTube. But my genuine style is very much what I wear in my videos. I didn’t know people didn’t realize that.”
Ricke is what you might call a professional thrifter. Her clothes are, quite literally, plucked from the early 2000s, handpicked with care across eBay and Depop. This makes her shopping philosophy especially unique: What she doesn’t wear straight off the rack, she nips and tucks with the help of her trusty sewing machine. Below, Ricke goes into detail about all of it. Fair warning: It may inspire you to search high and low for the perfect pair of baby-pink shield sunglasses. (I’ll save you a Google: Etsy has some great ones.)
“My mom always dressed me up. I look back at old baby pics and I’m like, ‘Dang.’ I guess, technically, that was my first exposure to fashion.
“Actually, this is kind of a weird story, but when I was in high school, I broke my back in a car accident. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was on the couch, I wasn’t allowed to move that much. So I was just on my phone — this was when I was like, 15 — and I was looking at fashion blogs and my Instagram Explore page. I started noticing what fashion is for the first time because I went to an all-girls private school, so we had uniforms every day and I always wanted to be able to express myself. I took that time while I was on the couch researching fashion and trends and how to DIY clothes and all that stuff. And that’s how I first got into it.
“I didn’t have any hobbies at the time, either. Looking back, I’m like, ‘What did I do for fun?’ Because now fashion is my main thing, and that’s what I do in my free time. I can’t even just sit down and watch a show — I’m always on Pinterest or looking on Depop for clothes. I have to multitask.
“I’d definitely describe my style as Y2K and Disney-inspired. The jeans-under-dresses, I’ve always loved that. Every time I say I love jeans under dresses, people are like, ‘Stop it right there.‘ Because that’s a fashion no-no.
“Justice was the store. I remember every Christmas, they’d always send a catalog to my house and I’d just sit there with it because my mom would never get me clothes from Justice. I did have some Limited Too clothes from my older sister. I always got the hand-me-downs.
“I don’t have very many basics. Everything I buy is a statement. Sometimes my outfits just end up being only statement pieces, which isn’t necessarily the best, but no one else has all those pieces because I’ve thrifted most of my stuff. It’s all one of a kind.
“Lately, I’ve just been shopping online. I thought in LA there’d be a lot of cool stuff at thrift stores, but since it’s a fashion city, I guess, the thrift stores here aren’t that good compared to like, thrift stores in Ohio, even the thrift stores in Kansas. When I was driving from Ohio to LA, we stopped at thrift stores in every single state, and the thrift stores in Kansas were so good. I’ve been shopping more online for secondhand stuff. I feel like that’s become bigger over the past few years anyway. When I was in college, I was a big Depop reseller. I’d sell all the clothes I didn’t want. I’d thrift them, wear them a couple of times and then resell them, so I constantly had a moving wardrobe.
“I’ll search for exactly what I want because sometimes I do have a vision. Other times, I’ll just go online or go into a thrift store and find weird pieces that fit my style. One time I had a dream where I was wearing these red and pink 2004 Jordans and I woke up and was like, ‘Those were so good, I need to have them right now.’ So I searched them on Google and found them on Poshmark — literally the exact same shoes. I ordered them, went back to bed and they came in the mail a couple weeks later.
“I wear a size 10 because I’m tall, so any Y2K shoe that’s secondhand never fits because they’re always a size eight, which is the most common size for women. But there was this pair of denim boots at this flea market I wanted. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to wear them a lot because it’s summer and they’re probably warm.’ So I put them back and started walking around the flea market again. When I came back, they were gone and I was upset about that for a few days. When I do regret not buying something, I’ll think about it for a week. I’ll beat myself up.
“I also got this pair of camo shorts at a flea market. I know people have a love-hate relationship with camo. I know it went out. But for some reason, I feel really attracted to it. I just bought a pair of camo pants. I ordered a camo cargo skirt on Depop. I had this camo hat that had a rhinestone-encrusted skull on it, but I lost it. It was so cute, and I could wear it with camo pants and I don’t think it’d be doing too much. I only want camo, but I know it was probably because I just watched ‘Cadet Kelly.’
“The styling in ‘The Simple Life,’ that was just an extreme of early-2000s fashion. I saw Paris [Hilton] wearing a poncho in one of the episodes. It had a hood and it was fur-lined, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I got a pink poncho off Amazon. That’s the closest I could get to finding something like she had, but I remember searching for it for months and I couldn’t figure out where she got it from. It was probably from Gucci.
“People genuinely think I’m 16, even though I’m 22. So maybe I should mature a little bit. I’m trying to milk it for as long as possible because I don’t think I could be 40 wearing the outfits I do now. But then again, maybe I will. [Laughs]
“I heard Iris Apfel saying in her documentary, ‘Who cares what you look like?’ That’s not the exact quote, but that changed my perspective on everything. It’d be so cool to be able to look back on your life and have all these stories of where you got your clothes. You can even pass on your clothes to your grandkids. They’re a piece of you. Clothes are like pieces of art, in my opinion.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.