We unpack why adults are choosing to dress like children

Words by Hannah Cole

Illustration via Twyla Mae featuring @lottaliinalove

Do we all just want to be kids again?

Fashion is often referred to as a cycle: from the lifecycle of a garments life in the sustainability conversation to the revival of trends. There’s a new cycle on the horizon, though – one where we rewind our wardrobes to emulate those of our childhood.

While fashionable babies are taking over Instagram, grown women are appropriating the looks once reserved for tiny tots. With a playful air, I’ve noticed an influx of hairclips, ruffles, beaded bags, socks and sneakers. The lines between adulthood and childhood have become blurred as we turn back the clock.

Followers of my favourite Dane, Lotta-Liina Mikaela, will be overwhelmingly familiar with the trend. She welcomingly sports flushed cheeks, making the innocent and humble blush cool once more. Lotta’s appeal lies in her ability to broach the adult world with a sense of childishness. But this is far from immaturity; it’s a joyful, YOLO approach to a world that often seems out to get us. Team bike shorts with thigh-high boots and micro-sunglasses just because we can. Add a beaded hair clip to that overly ruffled blouse look. Forget about taxes for a moment and live a little. 

Courtney Trop also heralds the look with her chopped bangs, billowy dresses, socks, sandals and shell anklets. All over my feed – from Alyssa Coscarelli to the Man Repeller team and French babe Sabina Socol – something is brewing. The wish to dress more carefree and playfully is surfacing. It’s got me asking: are we all just dreaming of being young again? Are we trying to distract from politically-charged climates and revert to the days of innocence and naivety?

Whatever it is, there are labels aplenty to satisfy this craving. Whether it’s about adding some more colour to a mostly monochrome wardrobe or playing with textures, it’s not hard to find the pieces to suit. Roxanne Assoulin has been promoting the look for years with her mix-and-match rainbow jewellery (designed to “make you smile”). While Susan Alexandra has conquered the beaded bag world, sucking us in with clementines, cherries and vibrant patterns. Nostalgia hits hard: memories of school holiday Hama Beads creating and Derwent pencil collecting. It’s a sartorial throwback to the days when we created without an end purpose, doing it “just because” to pass the time.

Whether these brands kickstarted a trend or they happened to meet us exactly where we needed them to be, we may never know. But the appeal for me lies in this “just because” sentiment. Adulthood means getting caught up in the world of money, work, health and life balance, leaving little time for the heart desire things. My five-year-old self would instead build a cubby, snuggle up and spend the day reading – just because I can.

So, sporting ruffles may not make a radical political statement, but it serves as a reminder to step away from gruelling adult-y thoughts. And the best thing about being grown up? I can curl up with my book, cute hairclip keeping strays at bay, while also indulging in a heart-warming glass of wine. Just because. Young Hannah would be proud.

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