When people say, as they constantly do, that Americans are obsessed with youth, they are thinking of the perky bosoms of spring break porn and the scowl-free foreheads recreated with Botox injections. But when it comes to youthful fashion, we’re so over tacky clichés like the naughty schoolgirl. Some of the best fashion comes from our youngest citizens, little people who might accessorize a T-shirt and leggings ensemble with a splash of marker across the chin, or a grubby, tattered blanket tossed over one shoulder—fabulous!
Last fall, I worked as an aide in a preschool classroom. Having such intimate access to two- and three-year-olds proved a fascinating anthropological study, but I was even more interested in their outfits than their social dynamics and separation anxieties. I came to anticipate excitedly what the girls would be wearing each day. Pairings like a bright turquoise corduroy romper dress with pink suede ankle boots and yellow cable-knit tights (bunched up around knobby knees) made my head swirl with jealous admiration. Why can’t I wear that?
Well, there are many reasons why most adult women (perky-bosomed or not) can’t pull off such combinations, but there are elements we can borrow from our small friends, especially in the warmer months. For example, those little dresses that fit the shoulders snugly and then tent out slightly, ending abruptly just before the knees, can be flattering if done in a structured material that holds its shape, rather than clinging to yours. APC‘s balloon-sleeved denim “tunic” ($202) is a fine example. Their spring line also includes the most quintessential playground staple—the overall mini-dress ($158).
On rainy days, I was particularly pained when I weighed my drab waterproof apparel against that of my students. Why can’t my umbrella have ears? What the fuck? Why don’t my boots have a matching frog motif? Just because I’m the teacher, does that mean I’m no fun? In fact, it doesn’t have to. I have discovered that Tip-Top Shoes sells adult-sized rain boots in several different animal designs, including the classic frogs and ladybugs. They are made by Western Chief Kids and cost about $35.
The next step is to let my little brother (I don’t have one, but my boyfriend could fill in) give me an uneven bob while I’m asleep, perhaps pick up a smocked sundress at X-Girl, some bright striped polo shirts at Lacoste, and high-topped Keds in fluorescent green at David Z. I will avoid wearing it all at once, because, hard as I try to forget, I know I’m not actually five.