Cartoon Couture? by fightclubsandwich

Originally posted by fightclubsandwich in October 2008

And now, an article for the girl who considers the Vans slip-on a more iconic shoe by far than anything by Christian Loubouwhatsit. Why spend all that money on Vogue or Cosmo or Glamour to learn about expensive, exagerated clothes being worn by models with ridiculous figures, that are difficult-to-the-point-of-impossibility to translate into real life? You can learn how to navigate your way around the convoluted, controversial world of fashion by remembering the cartoons you used to watch as a child!

Mona The Vampire

It’s pretty clear from the outset that Mona The Vampire is a child of the 1990s. Firstly, she embraces the grunge look, with dreadlocks, Courtney-Love-style exaggerated make-up (her eyelashes were about as long as her fingers, and those porcelain-doll-parody red spots on her cheeks must be some statement use of blusher) and baggy clothes that are often quite lumpy and misshapen, but in a cool way. On the other hand, other items of her attire, such as her loafers and knee socks are SO this summer, if you’re into the whole trend-spotting thing. Not to mention that Goth is supposed to be coming back in a big way this year (and if you’re anything like me, that is EXCITING NEWS).

However, Mona’s overall look is mostly reminiscent of the mix-and-match street styles torn straight from the Fruits books and magazines, and blogs such as hel-looks. com. The button up shirt is so Lolita-esque, especially accessorised with the over-sized neck bow and hair ribbons. Then there’s the clashy-clashy colour scheme- the cape alone is deep purple with lime green and mustard flowers, and worn with a red blouse! The reason that the likes of the Fruits books fascinate everyone is the sheer inventiveness that the subjects show, pulling off eclectic looks that make you wish YOU’D thought of that, and that mix is Mona’s look in a nutshell.

Babar The Elephant

Babar is an elephant who is adopted by an Old Lady (referred to perhaps excessively bluntly as the “Old Lady”, and no, not in the sense that she was Babar’s “Old Lady”, it’s absolutely not THAT kind of a cartoon) and is taken to France, where he is dressed by Parisian tailors in what we must assume to be an extremely well-made suit. These guys designed and made clothes for an ELEPHANT, if you’re going to take on a challenge like that, you don’t do it by halves.

Anyway, then some more things happen, and Babar goes back to Africa and becomes King of the Elephants, bringing back many elements of French culture, in what may or may not be an endorsement of Western imperialism and colonialism, but I am not one to let Wikipedia ruin my childhood memories. Besides, all that subtext has nothing to do with the clothes. Does the possibility of a morally dubious underbelly to a children’s story really detract from the genius shade of green of Babar’s suit? It’s bold enough to be a personal trademark, but not too ridiculous or silly to undermine him or his role as a leader. Not to mention that the cartoon series at least show him wearing the suit as a very young elephant, (ambiguously aged, but I’d peg him as a teenager) as well as when he grows up to become a parent himself? This shows a sensibility about his style and teaches the kids from a very young age that there’s nothing glam about never wearing the same thing more than once, and a well-made item that will last you a lifetime is an infinitely wiser choice.

Madison from Cardcaptors

Like many children’s television programmes, Cardcaptors revolves around a young girl who has magical powers, blah blah blah, save the world, blah blah blah, cute little animal companion, etcetera. The aforementioned world-saver, Sakura, has a best friend who insists on designing beautiful outfits for her to wear whilst doing the whole magical thing, and if the characters’ school uniforms weren’t cute enough to leave any regular schoolgirl green with envy – those cute little berets! The bell-shaped sleeves! The red detailing on the collars! – Madison’s glorious garments raise Cardcaptors to the status of Sex & The City for ten year olds. It’s probably best to put any questions regarding the sewing skills of a child who is still in primary school in the back of your mind. Just open your eyes and let them water at the fabulous wardrobe she is responsible for.

Madison’s design trademarks (although she doesn’t actually wear the best stuff, it seems unfair to credit Sakura as the stylish one since she doesn’t seem to wear anything other than her school uniform when not in Madison’s creations) include lots of matching and co-ordination, small details such as buttons and bows that tie the outfit together and playfully feminine headgear such as ribbons, berets and even bunny ears. Her outfits almost always include tiered skirts with lots of petticoats, and she often matches them with knee socks or high boots, and capes that offer an interesting set of lengths. She also pays a lot of attention to her sleeves, with lots of puffiness around the shoulders, detailed cuffs or supplies very long gloves instead of sleeves, for something a bit more modern.

X-Men

If the girly eccentricities of Cardcaptors are analogous to Sex & The City, then X-Men is more like Dynasty. I am not talking about the more recent movie tie-in series X-Men Evolution; this is the early nineties attempt at telling the X-Men story, and the 80s influence is all over the character design. To start with, there’s a lot of really big hair. In retrospect, I suppose it’s odd that my six year old self was never in any way perturbed by the fact that Jean Grey’s hair was bigger than I was. The best X-Men hair of all, however, has to be Storm’s. Although she has some stiff competition – Quicksilver also did the edgy ice blonde thing, (and is probably the role model of Jay Manuel from America’s Next Top Model) and Rogue’s two-tone ‘do is one of the most recognisable looks in the Marvel Universe – Storm’s utterly awesome mohawk phase makes her admirable not only from a fashion standpoint, but is indicative of her role as one of the fiercest of all female comics characters, like, ever. It may not be a particularly shocking haircut to the likes of you, dear reader – and if it is, just go to your nearest Green Day concert or easily available alternative, where they’ll be ten-a-penny – but for a children’s cartoon? A character aimed primarily at young girls? It’s a pretty big difference from all that Disney Princess Hair, for sure.

Anyway, these mutants also love their statement pieces, (as I believe they’re referred to in actual fashion magazines) from Jubilee’s bright yellow trench coat to Shadowcat’s exaggerated preppy lapels and Jean Grey’s thigh-high boots. This is in keeping with the central theme of the show of every character having their own unique abilities, of everyone having some aspect of themselves that’s special and unique. My favourite character at the time was Rogue, and her pairing of a scruffy khaki jacket with bright yellow and acid green spandex is a distinctive, punky, experimental look that few could pull off – and with the aforementioned two-tone hair, too!

Top Cat

When you see a bright yellow cat wearing a plum-coloured waistcoat and fedora, you know that this is a creature who is utterly fearless in his fashion taste. Kate Moss later stole the whole fedora-and-waistcoat combo idea, but with none of Top Cat’s pizzazz nor courage. Denim and black may be in tune with her rock ‘n’ roll image, but it’s less interesting, for sure. Top Cat not only succeeded with what could have been a tricky monochrome look, but also made it work as a successful day-to-night outfit. Admittedly, when you’re a cat who lives on the streets, you may not get invited to a lot of fancy affairs that may warrant a “night look” but hey, at least he doesn’t look as dated as Choo-Choo (that’d be the pink one in the white polo neck) who – now that it’s not the sixties any more – just looks like some sort of practitioner of some sort of strange, new-agey healing technique. And that’s just weird.

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