Is It Just Me Or Are We Dressing Like Kids All Of a Sudden?

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dressing like kids trend

Early in March when the COVID-19 crisis hit, most Americans were trapped within the walls of their home with nothing to do aside from picking up a trendy habit (looking at you, embroidery and sourdough bread baking). With few comforts of our previous life at arm’s reach, we collectively (and subconsciously) changed our dressing habits and started depending on the sort of pieces that acted like a sartorial serotonin boost.

Because who could look at a tie-dye fleece in shades of sorbet, soft pink and pale yellow and not crack a smile? Or at least feel just a touch better slipping a neon pink scrunchie on your wrist after reading a particularly distressing news article.

Yes, adult women were dressing increasingly like children, because it made them (gasp) happy.

dressing like kids trend tie dye

Tie-dye sweatshirts aside, March to August saw an abundance of oversized headbands embellished with pearls and gems, baby onesies masquerading as jumpsuits, beaded friendship bracelets strung together at home, bike shorts worn for comfort over style and so on. In fact, this September. Oshkosh B'gosh will release their signature overalls in adult sizes for the first time in 15 years.

molly sims overalls oshkosh b gosh
Oshkosh B'Gosh

Clearly, there’s nostalgia at play here. All of the aforementioned items are pieces that millennials wore as kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And, as it turns out, there might be a psychological reason why they’re turning back to them now. “Nostalgia is a fascinating way that people can feel more socially connected and satisfy their needs for encouragement and support,” explains Rutgers University–Camden researcher Andrew Abeyta. Plus, according to Edited, a trusted retail data firm, “Nostalgic fashion can be used as a form of escapism as consumers face global issues including the pandemic, recession and civil unrest.” In other words, while we were following stay at home orders and cut off from our usual social lives, we were inadvertently dressing in a way that created a social link to a simpler time when we were safe, cared for and, yes, spoon-fed apple sauce.

On a more personal level, I can attest that the one item I pined for this summer was a $20 H&M dress...that happened to be nearly identical to one my great aunt handmade for me when I was just a few months old. While the floral prints might have been done up in different color schemes, the tent-like silhouette and overall carefree feeling of the frocks—which were designed three decades apart—were nearly identical. And that's not all; I saw sparkly swimsuits that reminded me of my fave Limited Too purple one-piece that I wore in fifth grade, and even reverted back to wearing tiny denim summer-camp shorts (despite promising myself I'd aged out of them last year).

Even as our world starts opening up slowly, we’re clinging to these comfort-first pieces like they’re a security blanket, and we’re most certainly not giving up on last season’s ultra-cozy fabrics. (Think: teddy bear coats, plush fleece jackets and VSCO girl-approved socks and Crocs.)

Need more proof? Consider that Prada went so far as to put a cute pair of pale pink leggings on the runway back in July. Or the wild success of the now sold out Smash & Tess rompers that even celebs are loving (like Hilary Duff above). Or this pair of romperalls (yes, that’s a hybrid of rompers and overalls) covered in a splash of leopard.

Bottom line? If it takes a tie-dye onesie or florescent scrunchie to give us a moment of peace right now, I’m all for it. Just please don’t ask me to resurrect my Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt collection—it's too soon for that.

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Fashion Editor

From 2019-2021 Dena Silver held the role of Fashion Editor covering product recommendations, trends, and what you should be shopping this season.