Fashion in animation: How Minnie Mouse made a come back

Bold is back, only with Minnie Mouse ears, purple hair and neon socks. The cartoon look at it’s biggest and brightest 

Fashion credits the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O and Marlene Dietrich as icons of style – marking their understated elegance (not to mention unparalleled beauty) as the bench mark for polished glamour. Millions have tried, and often failed, to replicate their exquisite look, but is this pared-back, minimalist appearance always the epitome of style, or do people sometimes want a bit more fun in their fashion?

Fast-forward to 2014, where some might argue that those biggest on the modern fashion scene – bloggers, journos, editors and buyers – are no longer mirror images of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Although some still opt for the understated look, there are many whose idea of a good ensemble is one with bright polka dots like Minnie Mouse’s dress, or shimmering sequins, like The Little Mermaid’s tail.

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If you’ve been ogling last month’s LFW street style you may be aware of this growing breed of fashionistas. Print-clashing boys and girls head-to-toe in enough fur and animal print to rival a Jungle Book screen shot, this style set can’t get enough of clashing aesthetics and bold colours. If they’re not wearing comedic accessories akin to a Disney star, they are, (perhaps unintentionally), formulating their very own cartoon character or alter ego.

The cartoon influence is not just felt through singular pieces, but through mishmashing technicolour neons with Cruella De Villes style fur. Although there might be talk of normcore, (a trend that focuses on brandless fashion), a quick perusal of street style snaps from the recent fashion weeks will tell you there’s more than enough bright and brash dressers out there to inspire Disney Pixar’s new feature film characters for the next 20 years.

By looking at the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, there’s no denying that neon shades and curiously cartoon-like aesthetics are part and parcel of contemporary fashion and pop culture. It’s a bevy of ever-changing rainbow hair, kitsch candy-imagery and an outfit made entirely of kermit the frog cuddly toys.

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Even Seapunk – a whimsical web-based trend immersed in 90s pop and fantastical sea creatures – is an example of how cartoon dressing can influence fashion and popular culture: Proenza Schouler’s 2012 promotional video had underwater avatars and swirling oceanic blues and greens and Azealia Bank’s music video for Atlantis featured her in a Seapunk outfit.

There’s certainly something in the water (sorry) that is encouraging people to dress as colourful as they can, and designers, stylists and producers are lapping it up.

Even usually chic fashion-show regulars like Olivia Palermo seem to be taking tips from animators on how to look lairy: she was recently spotted in New York in clashing spotty prints, an enormous fur coat, purple fur heels and rather dodgy-looking shades. Add usually muted Alexa Chung’s recent outing in a metallic green coat to the mix and it seems that even the biggest modern tastemakers aren’t escaping the lure of this intrepid style.

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Vogue Japan’s editor-at-large, Anna Dello Russo has the cartoon character look down to an art. And unlike the restrained elegance of Victoria Beckham or safe Anna Wintour, ADR rocks lime green shaggy fur coats, giant shiny cherry headpieces (complete with obligatory funeral veil) and more neon print than you can shake a stick at. And who could forget the Comme Des Garcon Mickey Mouse ears Russo wore to Paris Fashion Week last year?

For Spring/Summer 2014, Prada opted for huge faces and bold crayon colours. Fabrics were laced with adornments and rainbow hues. Art inspired, yes – the collection was surrounded by the works of dozens of mural artists – but Muiccia’s painted faces had just enough of the surreal about them to generate a collective fashion smile. Valentino for Autumn/Winter 2014 is all about big colourful spots, and Dolce & Gabbana have just brought out coats and dresses with woodland creatures for Autumn/Winter 2014, with their take on the dark and treacherous side of fairy-tales.

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If the thought of neon fabrics and clashing colours make you, like me, come out in fashion hives, then I’m sorry because ultimately this is no short-lived trend. Fashion’s penchant for bold colour and kooky aesthetics is nothing new, (see Missoni, Emilio Pucci, Vivienne Westwood et el.), but what’s on display now is the hyper-stylised people clashing prints, juxtaposing colours and comedic accessories. This all culminates into one big, bold look that actually looks, well, pretty damn good.

Cartoon fashion is about raising a smile, having fun and getting as creative as a kid at an ice-cream and candy factory. Style? That’s an after thought. And maybe that’s why – given the alternatives of minimalism, elegance, and subtlety – this look might just be the most stylish of them all.

Featured image: Fifi Fresh, Model: Jemma Morris , MUA: Janine Valentine. Images: josieloves, Blanche Macdonald Marc Jacobs Intl via Instagram, YouTube.