How Bratz Dolls Became 2021’s Biggest Style Muses
From chunky boots to micro-mini skirts — if today’s top trends look familiar, you probably saw them on a Bratz doll first.
My parents never let me have Bratz when the pop culture-inspired dolls were all anyone under the age of 13 wanted in the early '00s. (The name, a reference to “bratty teens,” didn’t sit well with them.) In banning the sought-after toy, though, they only drove me to want one more. As a clothing-obsessed tween, all I wanted was to dress like Cloe, Jade, Sasha, or Yasmin — it didn’t matter which one — in go-go boots and leopard print tube tops. Maybe it’s no wonder that now, roughly 18 years later, I still think about them.
No, I’m no longer dying to get my hands on a faux-fur-clad figurine. However, I have recently found myself trying to dress like a Bratz Doll again, big-foot-inducing boots, micro-mini skirts, cropped cardigans, and all. And I’m not the only one.
Two years ago, Bratz, founded in 2001, experienced a second wave of popularity when makeup artists, beauty influencers, and more began recreating the dolls’ vibrant eyeshadow and glossy lips on Instagram. By 2020, #BratzChallenge had surpassed the beauty space and made its way to TikTok, where, today, it has more than 161 million views. Today, style-minded fans are fully on board with the trend, recreating outfits worn by their favorite doll to the soundtrack of the brand’s theme song. Just in time for the brand's 20-year anniversary, Bratz dolls became 2021's fashion muses.
TikTok user Syrena, or @fauxrich, 22, posts videos mimicking her number one Bratz doll’s looks. “Channeling Miss Yasmín today,” she captioned one video featuring a fur-trimmed purple cardigan, feather-hemmed flare pants and a matching crop top, and a denim mini skirt paired with heeled boots and a newsboy cap. Isidora Fernandez, or @isiifernandeez, 17, also recreates the dolls’ looks for her TikTok, which has over 21,500 followers. Think: sheer socks paired with break-your-ankle platforms, tiny camisoles layered over cap-sleeved baby tees, and plenty of tiny plaid skirts.
According to Fernandez, the draw is in the fact that the dolls’ unique styles complement their personalities and encourage self-expression. “Every time I see myself in the mirror wearing some Bratz-inspired outfit, I feel I'm showing to the world who I am — how good I feel in my skin,” she tells Refinery29. “[It’s a way] to gain confidence and self-love.” Vanessa Campana, or @v_camps on Instagram, 23, dresses like a Bratz doll because, now that she’s in charge of her style, she can: “I love the Bratz [dolls'] clothing and always have, so now that I’m an adult and can wear mini skirts and giant boots, I will,” she says. “I love the look of … channeling my inner Bratz doll.”
Via fluffy fabrics, matching sets, platform boots, and asymmetrical silhouettes, Bratz dolls did more than inspire young fashion lovers the opportunity to experiment with clothes. Some even went on to design their own. Jasmin Larian, the founder of popular fashion label Cult Gaia — worn by Emily Ratajkowski, Ariana Grande, and Hailey Bieber — grew up with Bratz dolls just like many Gen Zers and millennials did. As the daughter of Bratz doll creator Carter Bryant though, her time with them gave rise to her career.
In a 2017 interview with L’Officiel, the designer said that the world of Cult Gaia was “inspired by the aesthetic of the Bratz dolls.” “I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she told the publication. According to Larian, she spent a lot of her childhood with the fashion designers that created the dolls’ clothing; it was at MGM design studios, where Bratz dolls were created, that she said she first learned how to sketch clothing. Years later, and Cult Gaia is responsible for the most recent Bratz doll-like trend: the pin top.
Cult Gaia isn't the only brand that draws inspiration from the dolls. On August 26, U.K.-based fashion label Daisy Street launched a collaboration with Bratz on ASOS, featuring butterfly halter tops, baggy cargo pants, and animal print sets.
While many are dressing specifically to fit the Bratz aesthetic, it should be noted that most of the trends worn by the dolls — tiny skirts, clashing prints, platform boots, mini bags, and fuzzy accessories — also align with the current return of Y2K fashion. This might explain why Olivia Rodrigo, Emma Chamberlain, Iris Apatow, and other Gen Z influencers appear to be dressing like Bratz dolls, too. In June, Rodrigo posted a slideshow of photos featuring herself wearing a corset-like plaid mini dress with knee-high patent leather platforms, her hair tied in two tiny pigtails. Below the photo, Instagram user Stephenie Smith commented what we were all thinking: “Jade Bratz doll IRL.” The “Deja Vu” singer continued the streak in the just-released music video for “Brutal,” which featured Demonia platform boots, a rhinestone tank top, butterfly clips, and multicolored hair extensions — a Bratz signature.
As someone who never got to experience the Bratz World up close, I've been patiently awaiting the return of Bratz doll fashion. Finally, not only can I own a Bratz doll — all four original dolls were re-released in June 2021 — I can dress like one, too.