Heart-shaped sunglasses, pizza-printed jumpsuits, flower crowns, Mickey Mouse sweatshirts: These garments aren’t just a survey of what you’ll likely find if you walk into H&M this fall. According to Salon’s Christy Shoney, they are part of a new, haunting trend of women dressing like babies. Move over, Normcore: Toddlercore is so hot right now.
Taken collectively, sure, both cartoon sweatshirts and flower crowns are things that toddlers might wear. But those items of clothing aren’t exactly new to the scene. In an interview that she did with Style.com, Courtney Love took a stand against the floral headpieces for being old news. “If I see one more flower crown, I’m going to kick someone’s ass,” she said. “If you dig enough, you can find a 1986 Details magazine, I’m on the cover in a flower crown. OK?!…Flower crowns are fucking dead.”
Everything old is new again is the basic mantra of fashion. Nostalgia has always been one of the fulcrums of the industry. Birkenstocks are back, didn’t you hear? And to be fair, Shoney’s piece is in praise of the trend as a kind of empowerment for women: “Think about it: Toddlers have it all figured out,” she writes. “They exude confidence and laugh in the face of stylistic convention.”
This is true. But lumping Lolita shades in with rompers and claiming that it’s a new trend based on regressing back to childhood is misleading, not least because toddlers are also creatures that need to be cared for and tended to. Comparing women to toddlers, even just in their choice of clothing, is pretty dangerous territory. That’s especially true when “toddlercore” basically translates to “whimsical.” (Overalls, an example she cites, may be a staple of preschool wardrobes, but they are also a favorite of the 90s hip-hop crowd and originally developed as a sturdy working garment for men working outdoors. So maybe not so toddlercore.)
Indeed, calling a trend toddlercore implies that there’s a way that women are supposed to dress like grown-ups, and this is not it. Though the article is lighthearted, there is an implicit lament in the term, a longing for these women to grow up and put away the pineapple print. The uniform of adult femininity does not, apparently, include flower crowns.
Women who wear silk flowers in their hair or baby doll dresses or fruit-printed outfits are making a conscious choice to do so, and are every bit as much grown-ups as women who opt for stilettos and trenchcoats. So please, let’s not make toddlercore a thing. Adulthood and agency are not contingent on your outfit.
Follow Margaret Eby on Twitter @margareteby