What a girl wants

Once a girl hits adolescence, gone are the glittery lipglosses, ballet classes and all pink everything bedroom. Maturing and growing out of things are inevitable and healthy, and often we must shed the old to discover the new. It is the rejection of these innately innocent and feminine interests that continues the cycle of young women feeling inferior, and under pressure to act and dress a certain way. Girlishness does not have to be all you are defined by and it certainly does not have to abide by the surrounding societal connotations of naivety and the ‘airhead’, or follow the conventions of sexualised youth in modern society. By experimenting with and embracing the concept and aesthetic of girlishness during adolescence, it can be reinvented and metamorphosed into a unique and empowering interpretation of the ‘girly-girl’, giving it a sense of confidence and strength.

“…there is no inherent contradiction in reading books and in 
wearing blue glitter eyeshadow.” (Zaleska, 2015)

Anyone can be a girly-girl, all that matters that we are able to accept and express who we are openly, whether that’s a girly-girl or not.
Molly Goddard’s Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-To-Wear collection epitomises the clumsy, girly, and awkwardly punky charm of the Molly Goddard girl. Goddard creates many of her dresses from delicate tulle, yet the scale, styling and ultimate impact of the finished looks neutralise the sense of vulnerability in the clothes.  

“I think there’s something fascinating about that stage where you’re
 not totally in control. You’re not defined yet as a person, and that is what interests me.” (Goddard, 2015)

Awkward adolescence and transitioning from girlhood to adulthood while holding onto youth is inherent in her designs. The dress has the general silhouette of a ball gown, yet features a dropped waist and loose fit, skimming over the female body of the model. Goddard shows a reluctance to design overtly sexualised pieces, and her dresses reminisce a girlhood dressing up box, with the suggestion of clothes containing a fantasy element (Guy and Banim, 2000). Goddard explores the empowering feminism of dressing to please only yourself, adding an avant-garde twist by incorporating unusual fits and dramatic silhouettes. Molly Goddard’s own interactive exhibition ‘What I Like’ featured six seven-metre long dresses hung from the ceiling on pulleys that visitors are encouraged to embroider into. This appeal into the mainstream shows that this revival of girlishness is not frivolous fashion, but rather a significant advance in the way women and feminism are perceived by society, and reflects the respect that this fashion is now receiving. (Brande, 2014)

This image is taken from a photoshoot by Petra Collins and curated by Tavi Gevinson and Edward Meadham for Issue 1 of Garage Magazine, entitled ‘Vomit Pink’, and depicts a young girl, with bleached hair sporting a cheerleading uniform, pink sash reading ‘princess’ and a tiara: the stereotypical image of an all-American teenage girl, only tarnished by the make-up smudged across her face. It’s a poignant visual, commenting on the pressures, sexual and otherwise on young girls and women nowadays. Also highlighted are the challenges of adolescence, offering the familiar image of smeared lipstick and running mascara that will be recognisable to many young women. 

“At the awkward age the girl is torn between the wish and the 

refusal to display herself” - Simone De Beauvoir

In a similar sense, in the image the model is partially concealing her face behind flowers showing the shyness that often comes with girlhood in particular, and when comparing this image to the styling of Molly Goddard’s model in the previous exhibit it’s interesting to note that the hair and make-up in each is somewhat disheveled, suggesting unsure girls still finding themselves.  The growing prevalence of ‘girly-girls’ in the 21st century has been associated with post-feminism, a movement that encourages women to define their own femininity. The styling of each image feeds into the notion that a ‘girly-girl’ does not necessarily have to be perfectly made-up or conventional, and can simply be one part of a fully-formed identity. 

The resurgence of the girly aesthetic in recent years has everything to do with the postfeminist idea of defining femininity as whatever you want it to be. As a result women and designers alike have been throwing out the traditional connotations of inferiority and naivety associated with girlishness, reclaiming and reworking the style to suit the modern, multi-faceted young woman. What a girl wants is to feel comfortable and confident in herself, able to develop her own personal style without society dictating how she should evolve when transitioning from girlhood to adulthood, and beyond.

- Words by Hebe Iris Blackett 

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