Adults are getting on the social media trend defined by bright colors, wacky accessories and carefree instincts
“Hi everyone! So today I want to dress up in an outfit that I would wear on a first date”, confides a smiling young woman on TikTok. Her makeup is impeccable and exaggerated, with heavy pink blush and pale green eyeshadow, and her face is framed by a dark bob highlighted with iridescent blues and greens.She holds a long aquamarine lace dress, then adds a peach negligee and two-tone tights. Accessories include a multicolored knit balaclava, long arm warmers and a neon green tote bag. Among more than 13,000 comments, there is a recurring sentiment: “I can’t tell if you’re kidding or not. “
This is not a joke. Sara Camposarcone is an ambassador for kidcore, a trend defined by flashy prints, bright colors, cartoon characters and goofy accessories that would fit in a toy box or ticklish trunk. She’s amassed nearly 400,000 TikTok followers by documenting her daily outfits, which typically fall somewhere on the continuum between “quirky art teacher” and “birthday party clown.” She’s been asked if she wears these outfits in public so often that she recorded a video at a grocery store, strutting down the aisles in purple platform boots and a set of tailored cerulean pants and a loofah-trimmed top. . In another popular video, Camposarcone dresses up for a job interview. Her ensemble is built around a cat-print corset, which she layers over an embroidered white dress and neon orange tights, accessorized with an oversized heart pendant and an electric green plush handbag studded with dangling beads. . “For a nice pop of color,” she says, referring to the handbag. “Because this look is more neutral for me.” (Camposarcone got the job, working as a marketer with Toronto clothing brand Cakeworthy.)
Camposarcone’s style is undeniably bonkers, but then again, the past two years have separated fashion from reality. The pandemic has led to a massive withdrawal from public life, and with it all the occasions we dress up for: meetings, weddings, vacations. Many of us have retreated into our sweatpants, but some people have gone the other way and found audiences for their bravery efforts online, especially on TikTok, where the hashtag #kidcore has more traction. 1.1 billion views.
Social media has eclipsed the runway as the vanguard of emerging trends, and TikTok is where new styles are conceived, adopted and dropped. Because TikTok requires users to scroll from video to video, content creators must type viewers’ attention and hang on to it. This has has affected the way fashion is presented on the app: style influencers often put together their outfits one piece at a time, like a burlesque show turned upside down. The more surprising they are, the more likely you are to keep watching. When someone brandishes a cat print corset, you want to know what they’re going to do with it.
As a result, the aesthetic is elaborate and very specific. There’s a dark college, complete with tweeds and woolen slacks, the kind of attire a Donna Tartt character might wear while contemplating murder at a cloistered liberal arts college. There is something delicate Victorian-tinted cottagecore, perfect for a Jane Austen festival or posting dreamy dispatches from a lavender farm. TikTok fashion is all about fantasy. Trends are designed around atmospheres and emotions, scholarly, romantic, bucolic. If you want to pretend you’re a Scottish literature teacher, there’s an outfit for that.
This escape channels fashion’s purest purpose, which is to achieve a kind of alchemy that transforms the wearer from the outside in. Put on a certain dress or accessory, and become the version of yourself you’ve always wanted to be. And kidcore suggests that confidence can be found in deviating from fashion norms rather than adhering to them. It evokes not only iconography but also the carefree instincts of childhood, when one did not hesitate to put on a tutu over a snowsuit. “People like to feel that little bit of nostalgia,” Camposarcone says. Speaking to me on Zoom in late April, she wears a green baseball cap over her Day-Glo-orange bucket hat and a cherry-red sweatshirt, both emblazoned with Mickey Mouse. “I feel like I did when I was five, wearing this.” Her adoration for Disney was recently rewarded when she was asked to collaborate with the company and create a look inspired by Cruella de Vil for its TikTok channel.
Camposarcone, 26, grew up in Ancaster, just west of Hamilton, Ont. At her Catholic high school, she was regularly sent to the principal’s office for violating the dress code with colorful accessories or mismatched socks. None of her friends were into fashion, so Camposarcone spent a lot of time on YouTube, seeking style inspiration and learning how to do her makeup from video tutorials. She discovered thrift videos and began venturing into her local treasure village, quickly becoming addicted to the scavenger hunt aspect of second-hand shopping. She studied visual merchandising at Sheridan College, and when she graduated in 2018, she landed a summer internship with a fashion blogger in Milan. “I remember thinking, Everyone here is so effortlessly cool and has their own thing,” she says. “No one cares what other people do.”
There are hints of her current aesthetic in videos she posted in 2018 and 2019: hot pink tights, a Hello Kitty handbag. But the pandemic has been a catalyst. “I started playing in my closet, mixing a bunch of things,” she said. His first online viral experienceity arrived by way of a full puppy-print outfit, and while feedback was decidedly mixed, Camposarcone was thrilled that so many people were watching. “I know it’s a good outfit if I’m walking down the street and 10 people turn around to look at me,” she says.
While you may never see full-fledged kidcore in real life, many of its elements have leaked into the main stream. Women of all ages wear oversized detachable collars, candy-colored resin accessories, pinafores and overalls. Fast fashion ouroboros are already devouring kidcore – now you can pick up a SpongeBob patterned leisure suit at Forever 21. But zest for life is harder to co-opt. What’s most striking about Camposarcone’s videos isn’t her collection of fancy dog-print clothes, but the fun she takes in it as she twirls and screams through her videos. Looking at her, you think, I want to have as much fun dressing up.
This article appears in print in the July 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here or purchase the issue online here.
Do you want more ?
Get the best of Macleanis sent directly to your inbox. Sign up to receive news, commentary and analysis.