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Cartoon Icons of Weird Girl Childhood

Gen Z has a stellar legacy of out-of-the-box girlhood starting from mother's infancy, having been raised by bobble-headed cartoon fashionistas and their respective fashion dolls. We been knew about belts, the size of skirts, lip gloss for the gods, and the power of dressing differently. Bratz and Monster High were the bread and butter of the twenty-somethings who currently have their well-manicured fingers on the pulse of fashion in 2023. Gen Z has a unique relationship with nostalgia, and the cartoon fashion influencers of our childhoods can be seen through the looks that make us go gaga to this day. We are a generation who likes to play, eagerly swallowing aesthetics whole and making them our own. We get it, honestly, not from our mamas but from our older sisters.

Bratz is pretty much the only childhood staple that seems to truly get it, cleverly recreating iconic pop culture moments in their signature art style and curating their Instagram to their now adult audience. And, they don’t simply rely on their (admittedly iconic) legacy. Bratz is actively creating content, recreating fan favorite lines, and partnering with kick-ass designers to create new collectibles. In December of 2022, Bratz blessed our eyes and cursed our wallets with their collaboration with Nigerian-born, London-based designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. The designs feature electric yellow hime-bangs, shaved eyebrows, red vinyl cohorts, and drool-worthy platform boots that had many kicking, screaming, and slamming their credit cards on the table. Our childhood It-girls were wrapped in a deliciously high-fashion bow, and our continued inspiration was validated. By growing with its fan base, Bratz has successfully catapulted itself out of strict nostalgia and into modern-day relevance.

Bratz x Mowalola ©

We have not abandoned the old gods. And those of us that resonate more with alternative fashions have stayed truer to the source material, especially pulling inspiration from Bratz’s spooky sister— Monster High. Monster High is a collection of movies, shows, and fashion dolls following the lives and friendships of the thot daughters of classic movie monsters. They are Freaky and Fabulous with outfits coordinated to their ghoulish themes, from their spiderweb sunglasses down to their skull-shaped platform heels. Maybe it’s the killer color coordination or the impractical and hardcore girliness of the styles, but many of young, impressionable minds seemed to have latched onto these dazzling dolls as we now walk the streets like Monster High dolls come to life. You can see it in our obsession with Demonias, experimental makeup looks, and unique hairstyles. 

Monster High ©

So what did these childhood icons have that Barbie just… didn’t? Maybe they just have that It factor. Maybe I just saw more of myself in them since both Bratz and Monster High boasted a far more diverse lineup before it was the standard. Maybe it was just fun to see my dolls doing something daring with their wardrobes which I yearned to do even from a young age. As terrifying as Bratz may have been to some parents who thought my girls Chloe and Yasmine were sluts (and what’s wrong with that anyway?), they were equally thrilling as a young girl. They were my first taste of radical girlhood that embraced its quirks regardless of the norm. And their impact rings true for Gen Z to this day as we are a generation that is ravenous for out of the ordinary personal style. We celebrate and uplift the daring and alternative and embrace the scantily clad. After all, we learned from the best.


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