Unpicking the Psychology of Kindergarten Fashion

The fashion zeitgeist is brimming with imaginings of our five-year-old selves.

Image credit: Coveteur

Kindergarten style has been creeping into the wearable lexicon of fashion for several seasons now. It started with Millennial pink (or did it start with jelly shoes? A chicken and the egg situation to be unpicked another time), and then there were pre-school puffy headbands and tie-dye scrunchies, and now candy-coloured, plastic beaded mini bags, fruit-patterned dresses and novelty clips in glitter pink.

I’m not mad about it, who doesn’t want a cherry-encrusted handbag? But it has made me wonder – why are we all dressing like our pre-school selves? Unlike the hundreds of other ‘gram-bred trends (tiny sunglasses, I’m looking at you), third-grade style has become a mainstay of our popular culture’s aesthetic.

One theory points to society’s obsession with innocence. But rather than get bogged down in the Freudian, I like to think of “kindergarten style” as a pushback against the view that fashion is ‘dumb’ and pink is trivialising. There’s something defiant about dressing in banana-prints and jelly shoes. If fashion is a representation of how you want to be perceived, kindergarten fashion says to hell with those who measure intelligence based on sartorial choice.

Enjoying fashion doesn’t negate your intelligence, and liking cutesy things doesn’t stop you from being stylish. Kindergarten fashion is about reclaiming the joy of everything frilly, pink and adorable, and, moreover, taking strength from typical markers of femininity and girliness. It’s cute, but it’s for the wearer, not the onlooker.

Fashion that dazzles one’s inner child is for anyone, at any age, who wants to add a little sunshine to their day. And why not? Amidst the unsettling nature of our current cultural climate, even the smallest sliver of nostalgic joy can be healing.

Culture has long been a reaction to its surroundings. Would it be a desperate stretch to suggest watermelon earrings and almost-edible hair decorations are a riposte, of sorts, to the era of “pussy-grabbing” and #MeToo?  I would argue not. Regressing to a time of simplicity and innocence, albeit via a novelty headband, seems, if not inevitable, then entirely comprehensible.

What are your thoughts on kindergarten fashion? Let us know in the comments.