Growing up is a mandatory procedure for everyone that exists in this world. As humans, we have negatively connected the term with responsibilities, being busy, having the freedom to exist but also bearing the heavy feelings that come along with it. Gen Z is constantly sharing online how rapid this shift has become, especially due to the “pandemic’s lost years”.
For most of us, one of the many coping mechanisms has been trying to live in the same universe as the one we were growing up in, as an attempt to chase the feeling of carefreeness, and the high of having no weight upon our shoulders. The younger form of ourselves that still remains in our adult version, can be healed, even though we are unable to actively travel back in time and protect our younger selves from challenging situations. Many also believe that we owe it to ourselves to find what we lost on the path to adulthood, cherish what was forbidden, and return what was stolen.
As a result, “healing your inner child” has become one of the most popular topics in social media among the audience in their 20s, with young people reclaiming old hobbies, or generally lifestyles and habits they never had the chance to experience.
BARBIECORE: Life in plastic, is actually fantastic!
Thankfully, the latest fashion trends are in favor of this attempt. The past Barbiecore trend during summer, being the most popular one among others, made many people, no matter what their age is, have the “excuse” of dressing up as their favorite childhood toy.
Barbiecore is not just about pink, it’s about whatever color is your favorite. Ιt’s about maximalism, about anything glittery or shiny, it’s romantic but bold at the same time, but most importantly is about you-being whatever you want to be!
Not only the movie theaters, but also the streets (and the award red carpets!!) were filled with Neon pinks, pastel blues, glittery accessories, plastic chunky heels, tiny dresses and skirts, showing that Gen Z never really stopped playing dress-up, but this time, we were the real life barbie dolls. Valentino’s signature pink had a massive impact on the trend, while Margot Robbie cosplayed different, each time, barbies on her red carpet looks, giving everyone the feeling that Barbie can actually be real.
The references to Barbiecore however are not recent in pop culture. Since the 2010’s Nicki Minaj had been channeling her inner Barbie with her fashion choices but also constantly referencing the doll in her lyrics, reminiscing an era that was more carefree and pure.
The Barbiecore summer reminded the audience that even in difficult and dark times we still had time to connect, and feel for each other, almost like little kids in a playground, all there for the same purpose: just to have fun and be ourselves.
The Boldness of KIDCORE
Another Gen Z favorite recent fashion trend has been Kidcore. Self-expression, gender liberation, the end of the corporate world, nostalgia for the early years, and the pursuit of simplicity are all potential motives of the kidcore aesthetic’s recent rise in popularity, which centers around bright colors, toys-inspired accessories and contrasting prints. A kind of style that, despite having many variations, can be accurately depicted with series characters like Jules from Euphoria or Harley Quinn from Margot Robbie.
The origin of this style however, doesn’t come from Gen Z’s Tik Tok parodical obessions with a certain type of style with the -core suffix, it actually comes from Japan: it would be impossible not to see a parallel between today’s Kidcore and the concept of Kawaii that rose in Japan in the 70s, which then beatifully blended together with the popularity of Harajuku style in the 80s and 90s.
Still, the cultural motivations underlying the two aesthetics are similar: responding to social pressures and solid gender norms, rejecting the social expectations associated with these roles, and redefining identities in opposition to a set of values that one does not recognize, while simultaneously gaining self-assurance and asserting the youth’s capacity for self-expression.
If you like it, put a BOW on it.
One more fashion item strongly associated with the years of carelessness and innocence is bows. It was Miu Miu along with the infamous balletcore trend that made bows “the 2024 version of 2012’s moustache trend” and the latest obsession to take the spotlight in the runway.
The origin of the bow in the Middle Age served mostly a functional purpose, to hold garments together. Ever since then, the bow has been a timeless style statement linked to femininity and is now an inspiration-giving element for numerous designers. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to place bows on the same page as the insanely popular but quickly forgotten micro trends that the younger fashion audience adapts from time to time. For the entire 20th century bows were among the most popular fashion accessories, appearing not only in celebrities’ looks but also enjoyed big runway moments such as the iconic Chanel FW 1995 collection, making bows a high end embellishment.
Of course, the sister-trend Balletcore, who made its first mass outbreak in the Miu Miu FW22 collection, made the ballet flats the hottest online sensation. Ballet, which is still seen by many as a high end art form and, often, has the sense of elitism connects deeply with Gen Z’s desire to be what they never once were. Not everyone who embraces such aesthetics is actually involved in the specific culture that the aesthetic gets its elements from. In short, whether someone was practicing ballet in a younger age or not, Balletcore can still be healing and bring comfort and a sense of a fragile, but at the same time empowered, femininity. People of all ages who never had the chance to actually practice ballet, or have never attended a ballet class in their life, now have the chance to unapologetically style themselves using the mainstream elements of ballet such as ballet shoes, tutus and boleros and channel their inner ballerina.
This LITTLE KID STILL LIVES inside of me
Regardless of the therapeutic value that Tik Tok names the “healing of your inner child”, it is undeniable that in times of uncertainty and dread, we seek solace in familiar and comforting things. Gen Z has mastered the art of achieving the little kid’s dreams and keeping them alive by the simplest means, just an everyday outfit with colorful and adorable hints that can also serve as a form of communication between each other by saying “I relate to you, I feel the same way too. We may have developed completely different personality traits now as adults, but we still somehow connect”.
In this generation, aesthetics no longer serve a series of “inspo” images, but feelings, sounds, smells, tiny pieces of everyday life that combine each unique human being.
Nostalgia, particularly when trying to reconnect with our inner child, is often characterized by a bittersweet and sentimental longing for the past. The yearning feeling that is associated with the desire to return to a time when life was filled with wonder and a feeling of “hunger” and desire, wanting to explore every little corner of the world, but most importantly the world that is us.
During this experience, that is blending fondness for the past with an awareness of the present, we are supposed to hug and protect our little inner child.
From bows, to friendship bracelets, to dressing up as your favorite childhood toy, there is a collective sense of empowerment and liberation that blends beautifully with the creativity that fashion has to offer. These colorful, impressionable fashion statements make a direct declaration about contemporary femininity: “I will wear whatever I want and I will still be respected for it.”