If you're a millennial or Gen-Zer, chances are you've seen a couple of familiar faces—ahem, doll faces—from your childhood scrolling through Instagram and TikTok in the past couple of weeks. The reason? Well, it just so happens that the iconic American Girl Doll franchise has made its way into the cultural conversation (see: "we need an American Girl Doll who" memes), and on the fashion front, 20-somethings have realized they have been subconsciously taking cues from the iconic dolls for months (maybe, even years).
Confused? It can be easily summed up by this tweet from @mlefaye, which shows a side-by-side comparison of OG American Girl Doll Felicity and a Reformation model wearing a dress eerily similar to Felicity's signature frock. Scroll through the thread, and you'll see other Twitter users sharing their own comparisons between favorite outfits and beloved dolls. Reformation even leaned into the trend with an Instagram post featuring American Girl Dolls wearing Ref's most popular pieces.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, fashion trends for a few seasons have taken inspiration from the past. American Girl mainstays like Josephina's flowing silhouettes, Felicity's Revolutionary Era ruffles, Kit's dainty florals, and Samantha's puffed sleeves, just to name a few, have dominated summer wardrobes. Sound familiar? Probably because the cottagecore aesthetic, which rose in popularity during quarantine, is basically the American Girl Doll all grown up.
Not to mention the “Nap Dress” phenomenon, which quickly became a clothing must-have while at home during the pandemic. Puff sleeves are now a staple of both going-out tops and office-friendly dresses, and feminine toile and corsets are as easy to find as classic stripes. Brands such as Hill House, Sezane, Reformation, and & Other Stories have all embraced this trend, and honestly, we could see the American Girl Dolls outfitted in any of these brands if they existed today. Even edgier companies like the Julia Fox-approved Miaou have been playing with patterns that are just as suited to tiny corsets as the dolls' flowy dresses.
The American Girl Doll's current influence could be blamed on a new type of early 2000s nostalgia. Longing for simpler times before cell phones and grown-up jobs take shape in glittery Y2K trends and hot pink accessories. Maybe our American Girl outfits are just a more subtle way of embodying that era.
American Girl Doll (the brand) has also intentionally inserted itself into the fashion conversation. In an attempt to connect with former doll-owners through clothing, AGD debuted collabs with popular millennial lines, Stoney Clover Lane in 2021 and LoveShackFancy in early 2022. Stoney Clover Lane came out with a line of bags and pouches inspired by the original six American Girl Dolls: Felicity Merriman, Kirsten Larson, Samantha Parkington, Addy Walker, Josefina Montoya, and Molly McIntire, while LoveShackFancy created a collection for dolls with matching outfits for children and adults.
The brand also partnered with Harlem Fashion Row in September 2021, offering three modern-day dolls from diverse backgrounds (one is Black, one is Latinx and one is of mixed race) and asked three emerging designers from Harlem Fashion Row to dress the dolls. The looks from each designer were released on American Girl’s website for doll owners to shop.
If you aren't already convinced, the meme community will get you on board with Instagram pages devoted to the dolls and their clothing. The account leading the charge on social media is @hellicity_merriman, a page best known for the “we need an American Girl Doll who” trend. One of its other recurring series, the “American Girl Doll fashion report card,” offers an “in-depth” review of what each doll is wearing along with a letter grade rating the outfit.
If this all seems like a stretch, it's possible you're not familiar with this particular doll-dominated corner of the internet. But, for a certain cohort who grew up with the brand, there's no escaping the American Girl Doll influence. Maybe we're all just really into florals? Perhaps identifying your style with one of your former dolls is a way to hold on to a bit of the past? At the end of the day, American Girl Dolls will always be fashion icons, and at least they're finally having their moment.