The Babysitters Club: Lessons in repackaging nostalgia for Gen-Z
How Netflix's reimagining of the classic book series will resonate with the next generation.
While millenials will be tuning into Netflix’s The Babysitters Club for the nostalgic value, the reimagining of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn and Stacey as modern-day tween icons with strong personal values and individual styles will capture the hearts and wardrobes of Gen-Z.
The classic Babysitters Club (BSC) characters many millennials grew up with have resurfaced as both realistic and aspirational role models for Gen-Z. Find out how to channel each member’s signature look into your assortment and the stories to promote to win over this customer.
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The show’s themes
Though not perfect, the show’s ability to weave in underlying themes that would resonate with the younger generations’ appetite for positive change and social causes has earned it critical acclaim.
Setting the stage for the next generation of feminists, there’s an emphasis on girl power within the club. The series is written or co-written by women and eight out of the ten episodes are female-directed. Of the BSC, Kristy stands out as a staunch feminist and laments that she wouldn’t be labeled ‘bossy’ if she were a boy. Menstruation is normalized as viewers witness Kristy’s first period and Claudia celebrates the subject in her art.
Working to normalize disabilities
Stacey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before she relocated to Stoneybrook from New York and is ashamed of her illness after a cyberbullying incident at her old school combined with the constant worry from her parents. When she finally tells the BSC about her diabetes, they support her and help spread awareness to their clients.
Sex and gender
Characteristically shy Mary Anne babysits for a trans child who falls ill and finds her voice standing up to the doctors who refuse to acknowledge Bailey’s chosen identity. Though not specified in the books, some of the parents of the BSC and their babysitting charges have been recast as same-sex couples.
In the series, Mary Anne is reimagined as mixed race and Dawn (originally a ‘Californian Blonde’) is Latinx. Claudia is Japanese-American and inspired the Netflix mini documentary ‘The Claudia Kishi Club,’ where she is celebrated as one of the few Asian characters in the 80s/90s written as aspirational instead of tokenistic. Though we only meet Jessi (a later addition to the BSC) in the final episodes, in the books she’s the only Black member of the club and much of her storyline deals with everyday racism.
Social and environmental justice is championed through Dawn, an eco-warrior who uses her platform as the morning announcer at summer camp to share facts on climate change. Claudia learns her beloved grandmother Mimi spent three years in a Japanese internment camp. Older sister Janine muses, “it’s still happening now”, referencing families still separated at the border in 2020 and sparking Claudia’s interest in social activism.
Wealth and class
When the club goes to Camp Moosehead, Claudia and Dawn are upset that only the rich kids are allowed to partake in the fun activities and stage a protest demanding equality. When Kristy’s mother remarries into a wealthy family, she questions her values as she has always been taught to be a strong independent woman and make her own way into the world.
Kristy Thomas: Normcore, loungewear and varsity influences
The club member with the most commercial style to emulate, Kristy’s penchant for no-fuss sweats and sportswear strikes a chord with today’s home-schooled tween customer.
Loungewear and athleisure should already be a staple in retailers’ assortments. With uncertainty surrounding a return to in-person learning, core and essential styles are of the utmost importance with a heightened focus on comfort and functionality. The introduction of varsity styling in athleisure and outerwear can help uplift school spirit and headerwear such as baseball caps, visors and bucket hats can serve as an entry-level offering.
Normcore is back in the spotlight with the dawn of the recession ushering in a return to minimalism. It checks the box for nostalgia and goes hand-in-hand with slow fashion and sustainability through investment in classic pieces, cementing it as a trend to be represented for every age group.
Claudia Kishi: Artistic and experimental
The Babysitter everyone wanted to be, Momona Tamada’s interpretation of Claudia in the Netflix series is set to make a new generation fall in love with the character and her wardrobe.
While she struggles with schoolwork, Claudia finds solace in her art. She often makes her own clothes, further adding to the resurgence of DIY and crafts during lockdown popularized on TikTok. The character draws on inspiration from her Japanese heritage through prints and silhouettes – something to take note of for 2021 with interest in the country poised to surge with the postponed Tokyo Olympics finally taking place in July.
Clashing prints and mix and match sets underpin the character’s experimental aesthetic. Daisies are a recurring motif through patterns and accessories. Claudia is also often seen wearing fruit earrings – a fun low priced buy-in to pay homage to the character.
Mary Anne Spier: Functionality first
The series opens with Mary Anne dressed conservatively in dungarees, carrying a wheelie bag with her hair in braids as dictated by her father. As she develops, Mary Anne explores styling her natural curls and her fashion matures while still holding on to core details.
The character is sensible and responsible, where her wardrobe reflects this through functional garments and technical fabrics. You just know IRL Mary Anne would have face masks and hand sanitizer stashed in her ‘Kid Kit.’
Plaid is the character’s defining pattern, applied to pinafore dresses and trousers. Mary Anne’s affinity for romanticism, cardigans and knitting with ‘funky yarn’ wink at the Cottagecore aesthetic, which modernizes wholesome activities for the TikTok generation.
Stacey McGill: Polished and sophisticated
In the books, ‘sophisticated’ is the adjective used to most commonly describe the native New Yorker’s style. This translates on the screen with the character dressed more maturely than her peers.
A turning point for Stacey’s style is the introduction of personalization when she is no longer hiding her diabetes and customizes her insulin pump into a fashionable accessory.
Berets, fine jewelry and micro cross-body bags are an entry price point into this look for mass market fashion brands. Retailers can invoke this aesthetic through trends that work well for adults sized down to the teen and tween markets such as mesh puff sleeves and leather jackets, as well as emphasizing mini-me dressing for a younger audience.
Dawn Schafer: Spiritual eco-warrior meets grunge
Arguably the character with the biggest glow-up from the books, Dawn’s Californian style is uprooted from surfer girl into skateboard culture. Her wardrobe consists of Vans, camo print clashed with acid-washed denim and checkerboard patterns. 90s grunge is leaned into with the layering of long-sleeved printed shirts under T-shirts.
Dawn is revealed to be a vegan, making sense that her character would favor animal-free leather. Her participation in activism for the people and planet resonate with the purpose-driven consumer group, along with brands taking a stance during the pandemic.
In episode four, Dawn takes Mary Anne to a new moon celebration, creating further interest in the new age of witchcraft trend resurfacing from the 90s.
How to promote
Though no explicit references to the series are made, the above trends mentioned lend themselves to nostalgic trend stories focusing on the 80s and 90s for now and next season. Additionally, the trends are a playful update to Back-to-School dressing in the face of uncertainty.
Camp communications have emerged at Levi’s, highlighting the activity in a time where local tourism is favored. Comradery is a theme binding the show and book series together, making BSC dressing ideal to tie into upcoming International Friendship Day communications, slated for July 30th.
International Friendship Day
The next generation of influencers
The BSC cast members have taken to social media with some using their platforms to align their values with the show’s aforementioned themes and are starting to gather an impressive amount of followers. Besides bookmarking the main girls, consider the actors who play junior officers Jessi and Mallory as well, who will earn more screen time if the show is renewed for season two.