Benjamin Button Fashion: The Return of Childhood Style


If you’ve so much as had your pinkie finger on the fashion pulse over the last few years, you’ve noticed the increasing numbers of children being dressed as little adults. Last year alone Chloe, Acne, and Marc Jacobs all launched children’s wear lines, and Burberry even opened a stand-alone children’s wear store in posh Notting Hill. Whilst Mini-Mes in adult clothing may be disturbing (cue conservative outrage that “kids are growing up too fast”), what is possibly even weirder is the flip side: Adults dressing up as kiddies.

Lately, we’ve noticed an awful lot of fashion trends that stem right from third grade homeroom. It seems that, in drumming home the mantra that we must preserve our youth at all costs, fashion has taken it one step too far. Here, we present the childhood throwback mishaps that the big labels are trying to sell to us:

The American Apparel Scrunchie: Did someone say 1993? Or, more accurately, did mom just say “Kaitlyn/Megan/Brianna/[insert classic ’90s name here], take that scrunchie out of your hair, you look like one of those girls from Salt’n’Pepa!”

The Babydoll Dress: This one comes in many incarnations, but almost inevitably features a bow, pleats, frills, or a pattern designed for Laura Ingalls Wilder. The proof that it is definitely not adult apparel comes from the fact that, if, as most adult women are, you’re blessed with boobs, you will have trouble squeezing into the flat-paneled babydoll. Also, maybe the name is a clue to its intended market?

Jelly Shoes: Previously the preserve of your family’s beach holiday, Jelly Shoes were the perfect summer kicks. If you were six years old. Given that this version comes with a heel, we suggest that you don’t accessorize with a popsicle, poison ivy from camp, and gappy teeth.

So what makes us, as adults, want to return to the styles of our youth? As we’ve mentioned before, children who want to look more adult in make-up and heels may feel creepy, but it’s long been attributed to a media culture focused on sexuality and claims that children want to grow up quickly, and are being encouraged to do so. But where do our adult desires to look like children come from? Is this a Freudian wish to return to the security of childhood?

Or are we overanalyzing? Could it simply be that oversize neon hairbands, smocked-top clothing, and rubberized sparkly shoes are due a comeback?