Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Claudia Kishi: Style Icon

This past week, I read the new and much-anticipated [by me] Baby-sitters Club prequel, The Summer Before. The book was just released in April, and I flipped through each page with bated breath as I watched Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey plummet forth toward their Baby-sitters Club destinies.

Those of you who, like me, were adolescent girls in the 90s probably remember Ann M. Martin’s iconic Baby-sitters Club series, and those of you who read the books are surely familiar with Claudia Kishi – my favorite BSC member and personal style icon. And those of you who aren’t definitely should be.

Claudia is the Vice President of the club, she has her own room with her very own phone line where club meetings are held, she loves art, Nancy Drew, junk food, babysitting, and – perhaps above all – fashion. Each book in the Baby-sitters Club series is filled with descriptions of Claudia’s trendy, sophisticated, artistic and jubilantly out-of-this-world ensembles.

I have loved Claudia since the day I met her, when I was in second grade and she was in seventh. I was completely obsessed with her style sense when I was in elementary school, and I dressed to the nines every day in enormous earrings, side ponytails, fluorescent pants and oversized t-shirts in the name of Claudia. I’ll never forget the morning on the school bus when fellow BSC-aholic Jessie W. said of my giant homemade earrings and sneaker-shaped purse, “You’re just like Claudia!” It affected me in ways she never could have known.

Clearly I was not alone in my Kishi-mania. I’ve bonded with plenty of women my age over the wonder that is Claudia Kishi. And Kim Hutt’s mind-blowingly awesome & hilarious blog What Claudia Wore focuses on the Kishi aesthetic, and features new clothes from contemporary designers that Kim deems “Claudia-approved.”

Claudia approaches each of her outfits with a true artist’s eye. She operates joyfully within the wonder, awe and naiveté of the suburbs –and of adolescence – and her fashion sense’s scope is seemingly endless. This girl dwells in possibility to the max. Far from the fashion oppression of designer logos and status symbols, Claudia’s relationship to fashion is purely about freedom, expression, art and fun.

As quoted on the Scholastic BSC homepage, Claudia says, “Clothes are my trademark. I think clothes make a statement about the person inside them. Since you have to get dressed every day, why not make it fun." You said it, sister.

Here are some amazing descriptions of Claudia’s outfits from the original books in the series. Go forth & be inspired:

From Kristy: “I rang the Kishis’ bell. Claudia came to the door. She was wearing short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, and red high-top sneakers without socks."

From Mallory: “Claudia was wearing a pair of soft, balloony purple pants; a neon green long-sleeve leotard top; a wide, red braided belt; and a pair of soft, red ballet shoes. Her hair was swept into a French braid with wispy tendrils hanging loose. From one ear dangled a long earring made up of small papier-mache tropical fruit. In the other ear, where she had two holes, Claudia wore two small papier-mache hoops.

From Jessi: "Claudia's style is unique. She doesn't often wear jeans, but she was wearing them today - only she'd cut patterns in the legs of the jeans (which were major faded) and was wearing leopard tights underneath so that they showed through. She was wearing her Doc Martens with yellow shoelaces, and she'd used matching shoelaces to pull her hair back into a thick, long braid. Her earrings were a pair she made herself, out of little yellow feathers and black beads. And she was wearing a black and yellow striped flannel shirt buttoned up to her throat, with another pair of shoelaces made into a sort of bow tie."

Kishi, you brilliant maniac!

The Summer Before finds Claudia & the other sitters on the brink of the seventh grade, and Claudia is just entering her role as Stonybrook’s lead fashionista. Her family and friends watch on in wonder as a style icon is born:

“Wow, look at Claudia,” said Kristy breathily.

Claudia was wearing willowy black pants, cinched at the waist with a drawstring, and a boldly patterned summer shirt with ties that she was adjusting around her midriff. Her midriff would have been bare, but Claud had slithered into a lacy black tank top before she’d put on the shirt. On her feet were delicate silvery sandals, and her hair, which was looooooooong and thick, was held away from her face with two silver combs.”

Quite an outfit for the summer before 7th grade, if I do [breathily] say so myself.

Here’s Claudia getting ready for her first boy-girl pool party:

“My bathing suit – a new bikini – was fine, but I had to make it into An Outfit. I looked through my hats. I looked through my jewelry. I looked through my sandals. I pulled flimsy tops and summery pants out of my closet and tried them on over the bikini. I even experimented with making a beauty mark on my cheek with a glop of mascara…”

Upon seeing Claudia on the first day of school, Stonybrook newcomer & Claudia’s best friend-to be describes Claud’s outfit:

“She was by far the most fashionable dresser I’d seen at school, with her big earrings and chunky bracelet, her bell-bottoms (which I was pretty sure she had decorated herself), and her fluorescent-green hat that looked like a bejeweled engineer’s cap.”

Ahhh, what!!! Bell-bottoms she decorated herself and a bejeweled neon green engineer’s cap!? On the first day of seventh grade. Be still my beating heart, Claudia. You’re so psycho & gorgeous & amazing, and I love you so much, more than ever, forever and ever.


  1. I don't know what happened to my comment but Marisa you will love

  2. Oh, I do! It is amazing -- when I first discovered it I was at once SO HAPPY that it existed, & so horrified that I didn't think of it myself!