The Duggar Girls: A Style Chronology

It’s no secret that we’re a little fascinated by the Duggar family.  I hold the same befuddled interest in them that leads people to read ethnographic studies in National Geographic. I may not have seen their TV show for years, but we’ll always have fond memories of creating a slightly sarcastic Duggar Facebook group – only to be inundated with Duggar groupies.  I promise, we’re even going to do a C+S Book Club post on the Duggar girls’ book — as soon as we gather the mental fortitude to read it.

Jill’s wedding this past weekend has me thinking about why this family is so fascinating. Sure, part of it is that they have 97 kids and a lifestyle that is completely foreign to me. Part of it is hate-watching for hints of Vision Forum creepiness. But I think a good bit of why this family has such a huge audience is getting to see the variations in how the kids all go through their childhood and teen years. There are so many Duggars that you get to see all of it — the carefree tomboy (Joy-Anna), the girl who’s too cool for her family (Jinger), the gawky teens who manage to become really pretty (Jill and Jana), the golden child who wouldn’t know an awkward phase if it hit her in the face (Jessa). You get to experience all the awkwardness of trying to find your style footing as a teen, without having to be the one to go through it yourself.

When the Duggars first hit the airwaves a decade ago, they looked like something out of Little House On The Prairie. I distinctly remember Jana sewing bonnets for her sisters. They wore matching teddy-bear-print dresses, even the girls who would be in middle school if their mom weren’t teaching them about Noah’s tea parties with the dinosaurs instead. But today, the Duggar ladies look almost stylish! What a journey it’s been.

14 Children And Pregnant Again – 2004 – 2005

Isn’t it weird to look at a family and thing “wow, they ONLY had 14 kids then!” This is when we first met the Duggar girls, and they were …. um… not looking awesome. The year was 2004, which style-wise involved a lot of flared jeans and fake tans, but which wasn’t super Doctor Quinn-y. You’d never know from looking at these kiddos.

Jana – who was in one hell of an awkward phase, so thank heavens my family had a normal number of kids so I didn’t have to be on reality TV – has a collar bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey platter. Jessa has puffed sleeves that would make Anne Shirley blush.

Nope, that’s not a 44-year-old midwestern piano teacher who attends the local Kingdom Hall. That’s Jana, proving that awkward phases can always get awkwarder. Those bangs were not her fault; she was just a kid. Bless.

Here, the Duggar ladies teach us how to “draw attention to our countenance.” The trick is to wear dresses so horribly hideous that nobody will want to look at them. What is Joy-Anna wearing? Is it a Laura Ashley shower curtain? It is, I think.

Raising 16 Children / 16 Children And Moving In / On The Road With 16 Children – 2006

There are more bangs, now. Not just any bangs – bangs curled under with a round brush. A few girls are still sporting jumpers made out of bold patters culled from the discount fabric rack. However, some of them have graduated to button-up tops with t-shirts underneath, lest we be exposed to some errant collarbone. True facts: our high school dress code prohibited us from showing collar bone, which in most human anatomy, is nowhere near your boobs, anyway. We coined the term “collar-bone slut” for those days when you wore your clavicle loud and proud.

Here, the children are forced to dress alike because when you hit the road with 16 kids, it’s really easy to lose one or five of them.


Take a look at those countenances, kids.

Duggars’ Big Family Album – 2007

There are now 17 children – yes, it took 17 J names to get to Jennifer. You may think there’s still a lot of permed hair and ankle length skirts, and … well, you’re right. But there are some changes afoot. Yes, I would pinpoint 2007 as the year the Duggar ladies dressed a little less like my childhood porcelain doll collection and a little more, in their words “modern modest.” Sure, they still look a little like a kid trying to fashion a pioneer costume out of stuff that’s already in their wardrobe, but look closer. Of the older girls, only Jessa is wearing a jumper, and let’s be real, they probably made her wear jumpers longer because she’s the pretty one. The others look borderline-normal, with modern tops and more casual skirts. Little Joy-Anna is still in a frock with ankle-socks, but she’s also a small child.

For the most part, bangs have been replaced by crispy perms and these brushed-over quasi-bang sections of hair in the front.

This is just further support for my Jessa-Jumper theory. Note, again, the collarbone-obscuring white tees.

If you’re wondering why I’m not doing a post about the Duggar boys’ fashion, it’s because it seems that the family policy for boy clothes is “Fashion? Yolo! – Wear a Polo!” or possibly “Buttons of four – show it the door! Buttons three – it’s right for me!”

17 Kids And Counting / 18 Kids And Counting / 19 Kids And Counting

So many kids, so much counting. By the time they get an original series, the girls’ style starts getting so much better. Some skirts even almost show knee! The girls go through those style phases that I guess happen even if you don’t go to high school with other kids: sunglasses on the head indoors, flip flops when they should be wearing proper footwear, improperly styled side bangs. Ah, youth.

But really, what an improvement. If you looked closely you’d realize they’re all wearing skirts, but they aren’t calling attention to themselves anymore. Which, when you think about it, is way MORE modest, right?

The Duggar style evolution (oops, that may be a swear word in Duggar parlance) was never more evident than when they visited the Bates family. I think this is the first time we heard the phrase “modern modest,” as one of the girls (Jinger, probably) said “we’re more modern modest, and the Bates are more…” I forget the end of the sentence, but you could easily fill in the word “collared,” “jumper-y” or “be-calicoed.” A few elder Bates girls even had Gibson Girl-worthy pompadours, if the Gibson Girls hadn’t been such hussies. Basically, they looked like the 2004-era Duggars. Amazing what a tv show will do for your fashion consciousness.See? They’re in public in different colored shirts, the girls are accessorizing and wearing skirts of reasonable length, they’ve sprayed on some tan. I know this isn’t about the Duggar boys, but they’re even letting them wear fitted jeans. The times really are a-changin’.


And here we are today. Except for the number of kids, this looks like a normal family. In the final step away from outdated fashion, the girls have loose curls instead of crunchy perms.

But the truest sign that the future is moving in? Look at the flock of little Duggar girls. They’re wearing long tunics over leggings. That’s practically pants. Unlike their big sisters, they’ll never know teen years of teddy-print jumpers, six-inch collars, and hairsprayed bangs.

Praise be.



10 thoughts on “The Duggar Girls: A Style Chronology

  1. A fun fact about my life is that until I was in second grade, I lived across the street from a family with 12 kids. Then they had twins and moved to a farm. They also homeschooled everyone and the girls wore only skirts/ dresses, so basically, the Duggars are not alone. They’re just the queen bees. Once when I had Presidents’ Day off, I begged my parents to let me go to homeschool for a day. I only remember cutting out a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln’s head and thinking how cool it was that everything could be learned through the medium of craft.
    Another fun fact about my life is that I went through a long phase of curly hair with straightened side bangs, until I woke up one day and realized that I had Duggar hair. That was also SENIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE.


    • UGH. I DID IT TOO. I wanted the face-framing effect of side bangs but wasn’t about to straighten my whole head o’ hair. Every time I did it I worried “umm, am I pulling this off?” And no. Of course I wasn’t. I was probably also like 22 years old with no excuse.

      I am so SO jealous you got to go inside of a giant-family homeschool! Weirdly, I also had neighborhood friends who were from an ultra-conservative skirt-wearing family, but mine went to a Christian school and only had like 5 kids. They didn’t really have the National Geographic effect of mega-families who aren’t allowed near outsiders. Also I sort of wish I COULD learn everything through the medium of craft???


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  3. Their style got better as the girls got older, and the little girls are dressed so nicely with leggings and tunics because it is the older girls and not Michelle dressing them.


    • Oh man. NAILED IT. If they let Jana go free (read: get married), we just might see the return of gingham and ruffles.


  4. The girls definitely are looking much more stylish lately. I’m glad they got rid of the floor length denim skirts and crunchy perms!


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