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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Fashion: Childhood & Now

Kids are fearless. Throwing on ‘whatever’, playing with identity, taking on any trend. Why can’t we dress like we did when we were children?

Childhood fashion knew no boundaries. Socks didn’t have to match; jewellery was preferably tacky and plastic; and Simpson Band-Aids were the perfect accessory. Hair tumbled any which way, and who gave a fudge if you couldn’t tie your laces.

We wore bike shorts, Velcro sandals, and highlighter peaks with the flaps. We did, and we looked damn good. We treated our clothes like the ones we’d cut out for our paper dolls—even cargo pants could become shorts at a pinch.

When Jellies ruled the world, life was a vibrant costume party; it was amazing the joy that throwaway fashion could give. A thousand wicker baskets full of a thousand multi-coloured tutus and fathers’ old ties is what dressing up comes down to.

Although we couldn’t always pull it off, we wanted to be like the big kids, and fashion was our vehicle for this. At some stage we were a bunch of mini-Madonnas, all the scarier for our small stature, with headbands and badges. Where was the tipping point where we turned from desperately seeking to seem older, to wishing we were young again?

Today, when you see a child dressed in a Spider-man costume at your local supermarket, you can’t help but smile or roll your eyes. Not because you’re imagining the conversation that went down with their parents before they left the house, super-tot in tow, but because you probably wished you were Spider-man too.

Our childhood and those scrunchies comfort us. Our Keds and Chucks today bring back memories of drawing on pavements with chalk. We look back fondly on summers draped in lolly necklaces because we can’t change the past. And sometimes, fashion trends of our childhood come back to haunt us. Maybe leg warmers and stirrups were resisted but those statement tees did make a comeback.

Even today, the best outfits are often the ones you throw on in a flurry for need of more time. Patterns and colours are more exciting when they don’t match, and different lengths and layers give great texture. Ironically, most people who regard themselves as fashion savvy try to look as effortless as possible, anyway.

We still dress up. This may be as a music lover, bookworm, student or skater. Subconsciously or not, clothes and identity have such a seamless connection that it is inevitable we will still swing from one ‘look’ to another. Growing is not just for children—our fashion changes as we do.

Back in the day, trends were always a little more unruly. Slouchy overalls were a law of their own. If you’re tall enough to go on your favourite carnival ride, you’ve probably outgrown the ability of pulling these off.

Still, there are fads—albeit none so of the moment as chatter-rings. We do spin around boots and pleated skirts. Just as knucklebones are now Deadly Ponies rings, trends are our extended childhood.

So why not dig deep into your closet and find your old box of ‘Keep Out’? With rose-tinted glasses, everything is in reach.

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