As a kid growing up in the '90s, I had some pretty specific ideas about how I would dress as an adult. They were all based on legwarmers and shoulder pads, pulling inspiration from my little kid world. I'd flip through my Barbie coloring book and see it as a Bible, folding down corners on pages with Barb, getting ready for dates while wearing leotards and spandex, or washing the car in flippy babydoll dresses (because you know you need a whole new outfit to soap up your convertible).
I figured I'd dress like Claudia from Baby Sitters Club once I hit high school, and then work my way up to Ashley Banks status. And once I hit womanhood — well — I'd begin to either channel my mother's wardrobe or Clair Huxtable's. I was fine with both, though, as long as I got to put on lipstick without anyone yelling at me.
As you can imagine, however, my preconceived notions of how I would dress and act as an adult didn't, ah, quite stack up. Sadly, there are no legwarmers in my drawers, and I can't say I own any Macklemore-approved sweaters to fulfill my '90s wardrobe dreams. Below are seven expectations I had as a kid on how stylish I was going to be as an adult, versus the reality of how it turned out.
1. Getting Ready For Teenage Dates Would Have A Specific Uniform
When I was in kindergarten, I had a really particular idea of how I'd look while getting ready for dates. It always went like this: I'd be sitting in front of a vanity with the lights turned on bright, and — with my outfit already picked out and lying on my bed — I'd be teasing my hair while wearing a leotard and leggings, my blue eyeshadow palette ready by my elbow. Don't judge me. I blame my Barbie outfits. Why did Barb have to have such specific looks for every activity? She completely warped my idea of what a wardrobe was.
And the reality? My getting-ready-for-a-date outfit is the pair of sweatpants crumpled closest to my bathroom door, which gets scooped up as I rush out of the shower, already 15 minutes behind schedule. Not as glamorous. Sorry, Little Me.
2. My Sweater Game Would Be Tight By The Time My Babysitting Career Launched
You have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Little me always knew that by the time I hit my teens, I'd have a lucrative babysitting empire underway. By 14, I'd have fifth graders in my employ answering phone calls and fielding my schedule. Not only would I offer a nice salary of $3,000 an hour (my concept of money was ... rough), but I'd also offer a 401k matching with Lisa Frank stickers.
And my dress? By the time my S-corp was filed, I figured I'd have a nice collection of chunky sweaters underway. It'd be like a "young professional starter kit," but instead of business suits and no-tear pantyhose, I'd have itchy knits in aquamarine and fuchsia colors.
But the reality? By the time I hit 14, I had an unimpressive arrangement of sweatpants and kid clothes that I still hadn't quite grown out of physically, but had definitely left behind mentally. Do you know how cringing it was to wear dresses with bibs and watering can prints to church? Gawd. And the babysitting career? Like most small businesses, we folded before the first year was over. It's a rough economy.
3. High School Would Be All Overalls And Eyeshadow Skills On Fleek
Overalls where such a quintessentially '90s thing that I couldn't imagine wearing anything else by the time I hit high school. I would be like a cartoon character: If you opened my closet, you'd just see the same baggy denim spanning the whole rack of hangers. If overalls were cool enough for Will in Bel-Air and Sabrina in Greendale, then they were cool enough for me.
On top of that, I figured I'd probably know my way around an eyeshadow palette by then, so I was totally planning to have blue shadow playing up to my eyebrows as I walked to and from class, á la my mother. I was going to be so grown up and cool.
While I did own overalls when I went to high school, I would have transferred schools had I been forced to show up to class in them. And makeup? Yeah, younger me was a little too ambitious. I didn't even figure out what mascara was until I was a junior in high school.
4. Every Saturday Would Be A Night Out In Lights
When I'd watch my mom getting ready to go out on a date with my pops, I'd stand in the doorway of the bathroom and follow every move. She'd lean closer to the mirror and line her eyebrows with pencil, filling them in to glorious Madonna proportions. She'd lean back her head and blast half a hairspray can worth of aerosol, making sure her locks froze like a Ken doll's.
And the outfits. Oh, the outfits! Beaded, shoulder-padded numbers that would shimmer and rustle with every shift. Long rayon pieces with geometric shapes stitched in gold thread. Baggy business-like suits with jackets that were reminiscent of an '80s keyboard musician. It was amazing. I figured every Saturday was a night I'd do the same: Fuss in front of mirrors, pull out my best pieces out of plastic covers, and be taken out on a night on the town.
Oh sweet, sweet Mar. You romantic, chubby-cheeked fool, you. Saturdays are the days I finally do my laundry, put on a face mask that probably does nothing, and hack into my friend's Netflix account to watch BBC shows that were abruptly cancelled mid-season. Ain't nobody stepping out underneath any lights.
5. My Adult Uniform Would Be Tweed Skirts And Graphic Tees (Like My Mom)
Let me give you some context. My mom is foreign. We're a coupon-clipping, clearance-rack-digging, off-the-boat Slavic family. And growing up, we dressed according to an unspoken immigrant dress code. That means (for you ninth-generation Americans) dress like you ain't got a clue. Basically, if it's labeled "final sale," you have to have it. And a whole closet consisting of 90 percent mark-down, everything's-gotta-go pieces? You have yourself a neat hodge-podge there.
This is why I thought that I'd have the stylish wardrobe of tweed, Chanel-like skirts paired with "90 percent angel" graphic tees as an adult.
I'm really relieved to share that I don't have either item hanging in my closet. Like, really, really relieved to share that.
6. I'd Be A Businesswoman With Scary Shoulder Pads
Even though the babysitting empire crumbled, a successful career woman knows that she can't go through life without a few failures. I figured that when I graduated college and be out in the work force, I'd power walk my way from the train to downtown Chicago, my trusty white (light-up!) sneakers taking me the distance to my high rise office. My nude pantyhose would sheen and my pencil skirt business suit would be immaculately tailored, with giant lapels and shoulder pads that could take down a defensive line if I so chose.
And the best part? I thought the more successful you were, the bigger the shoulder pads had to be. So if I was head honcho of my office, I'd better have had some seriously intimidating shoulders.
Well, I work from home now. My career wardrobe consists of the pair of leggings not currently in the hamper and my cat-face slippers. Again, sorry, Little Me. No pantyhose in this apartment.
7. I'd Walk In Heels Everywhere
I didn't know much about the statutes and regulations of adulthood by age seven, but one thing I did know was that women wore heels. It was law.
But the reality? Um, I never learned how to wear them.
You hear that thin, echoing scream that seems to be coming from 1994? That's Little Me giving up on life.
Images: Marlen Komar