I decided to recreate my favorite childhood outfits and see what I would look like as an adult.
It is the year 1998. Olivia Rodrigo is a five-year-old girl. I’m not sure whether I’ll spend my adolescent years listening to Paramore and my twenties listening to music made by Paramore fans. I have no idea who Hayley Williams, Lorde, or Olivia Rodrigo are. I am three years old. I have no acquaintances. If pushed, I’d say my father’s name was “mister.”
I started developing my own sense of style when I was three years old. This means I’d wake up knowing precisely what I wanted to wear and would cry for five to thirty minutes if it wasn’t allowed. That sense of style started to shift as I grew older. My classmates, friends, what I was listening to on the radio, who I was seeing in movies, season three of Gossip Girl, and the #aesthetic tag on Tumblr molded it more than I did (the Instagram Explore page of the early aughts).
When every outfit I put together seemed too listless for the breathtaking delight of sunlight, laughing, and embraces again at the start of this summer, I decided to turn the clock back to 1998 for inspiration from a time when everything could be a look if I wanted it to be.
So, when every outfit I put together seemed too listless for the breathtaking pleasure of sunlight, laughing, and embraces again at the start of this summer, I decided to turn back the clock to 1998 for inspiration from a time when everything could be a look if I wanted it to be.
I haven’t worn a bow in years, but something about that little pink barrette reminded me of how much I loved hair clips and huge floppy ribbons when I was younger. This wasn’t exactly a bow, but it was the right length to corral a huge amount of quarantine hair into a presentable ponytail (my hair ties have given up).
Sleeves with puffs
Sleeves with puffs! For me, this appearance lasted far into primary school. Anne of Green Gables was one of my favorite books, and she like puffed sleeves, so I did as well. When I began cooking, I stopped wearing them as much—giant sleeves and open flames don’t go well—but they’re so gratifying that I believe they’ll be making a comeback this autumn.
This jumpsuit was a birthday gift for me, and it’s brighter than almost anything else I possess, but the fact that it’s all one piece made it easy to wear all the colors. In the greatest manner, it makes me feel like a character from an animated film!
Anyone who grew up wearing dresses in the Midwest knows how to “winterize” summer dresses by layering wool tights and long underwear underneath. This costume was dubbed “gothic Ren Faire” by my roommate, but I adore it since it makes me feel punky and strong. (It also helps that I’ve lost thirteen inches of hair since day one.)
I am not a sweatshirt person, apart from a couple old, wildly-soft-but-have-seen-better-days hoodies from college. They’re wonderful for wearing over pajamas to take out the trash or layering over thermals for autumn runs, and I enjoy getting them as work/school/volunteering/etc. apparel—who doesn’t love free stuff!—but I don’t typically purchase them for myself. Then, last winter, when looking for loungewear on the internet, I came across these embroidered album art sweaters and became hooked. Why hadn’t anybody told me how great sweaters are?
(Everyone informed me.) I am obstinate. Everyone also advised me to update my seven-year-old phone, which I did, as you can see! Please accept my apologies for the poor quality of the preceding images.)
During difficult circumstances, every therapist I’ve ever had has instructed me to perform some variation of the same exercise. They say, “Imagine your younger self.” “Look at her, she’s there in front of you. Take her onto your lap and assure her that everything will be OK. You’re going to take care of it.”
I like doing that exercise because it reminds me to appreciate this version of myself: a grownup who handles her taxes and decorates her home, finds time for the people she cares about, advocates for the causes she believes in, and never forgets where she belongs. Someone who is capable of handling it.
But, more lately, that practice has reminded me to be thankful for all of my younger selves. At the age of three, I was amazing! She felt what she felt, said what she needed to say, and kicked, shouted, and demanded until the world gave her what she desired. While her spontaneity, sense of play, and pure nerve are clearly not traits I want to imitate in my everyday life, I hope I can channel some of her spontaneity, sense of play, and sheer nerve in my daily life. What’s more, all of the individuals we’ve been may continue to teach us new ways to be.