As a child fashionista myself, I distinctly remember picking out a pair of leggings from C&A in the late eighties. THEY WERE AWESOME. White with multicolored swirls on them, a bit like lollipops melting in a tornado. Sky blue, red, yellow, no color was excluded, I was equal rights right from the start. To go with, C&A were offering a bright blue t-shirt with one giant lollipop tornado in the center, perfect. I looked at my Mom with puppy dog eyes, my Mom looked at my sister, 7 years my senior, and the coolest person I knew at that point. And there it was… cringe and smile.
At the time I thought they had no idea… This outfit was The Bomb, and I was going to be rocking it at the roller disco that very evening. Unfortunately, while waiting for my pick-up a few hours later a bunch of horrible older boys walked past, laughing and pointing at my outfit. I wanted the world to open a hole right there and swallow me up. My sister and Mom were right… the t-shirt was too much. I wore the leggings many times after that, but convinced the t-shirt had pushed the assemble over the edge, I never wore it again.
My husband and I have since quoined the phrase – “I love a bit of wacky.” This is nothing to do with wacky-backy or unusual bedroom preferences, simply that although my fashion tastes are fairly mainstream and filled with monochrome, jeans and cardigans; I like to throw in a bit of flare every now and again. A wacky color pair of shoes, a crazy print here and there, and his personal favorite ‘the yellow blazer’. If I am asked my opinion on something that he is considering a little too crazy, my response is and will always be ‘I love a bit of wacky.’ Because I do.
Despite leaving my child fashionista behind, it was only inevitable that my daughter would end up the same way. She is six and three quarters (you all know the quarters are important) and has been dressing herself for a while. A couple of years ago I would pick her clothes out for her but she’s old enough to know what to do… or so you’d think.
What amazes me is that Elsie has quite the selection of nice clothes. Some bought my myself, some lovingly sent over from Grannies in France and England. Yet, why does she always pick the washed out psychedelic zebra print running shorts I bought from Walmart last year, as ‘a little bit of wacky’ to wear under a skirt and stop the constant knicker flashing. No more knicker flashing occurs because we don’t wear skirts anymore, just the tiny psychedelic shorts instead… I tried to sneak them into the recycling pile a few months ago. Totally busted and they are now back in her drawers. Tops – she has numerous fancy numbers from Jacardi, Paris – beautiful and expensive. But no… always the M&M t-shirt we brought her back from Vegas.
So, should I just leave her – cringe and smile? Or do I intervene when it’s just so awful I can’t bear it? My parenting guru tells me to allow her to pick her own outfits, gain independence, and confidence in her own style and identity. My public mom-shame streak wants everyone to see my family with rose-tinted glasses. Those families you see at Church with coordinated outfits, collared shirts that remain tucked in at all costs, and perfect Lego hair doesn’t seem to move at all.
My parenting guru got a boost when Elsie started a new Montessori School last August. In the welcome handbook it asked that during out-of-school hours we allow our children to pick their own clothes and dress themselves, for the very reasons I mentioned above. Guru wins, down with the Lego hair. But recently I’ve been struggling, we’ve had some child fashionista corkers, so I decided to share. We did a little fashion show, Elsie picks three outfits from her wardrobe and Mom does the same. Here’s the difference:
- First up we have leggings bought for Christmas 2015 which came with a navy reindeer top. The top was outgrown this year but the leggings unfortunately still have plenty of give, meaning they need a new companion. Cue the hideous fleece top bought from Walmart in an emergency ‘I had no idea how cold Flagstaff was’ situation. It is literally all they had in her size and we had 20mins to get to the North Pole. Of course, it is now a favorite…
- Those shorts… they are literally the stuff of parent nightmares but she loves them. They either get worn with this t-shirt, or something so long it looks like she’s not wearing any pants at all.
- I love this dress, she looks adorable in it, the boots too. But somehow with these two comes her ‘little bit of wacky’ in the striped socks that I literally bought for wacky sock day at school. But you know what, I’ll let her off this one, the splash of flare is tickling my wacky streak.
Forgotten Child Fashionista – aka Boring Mom
- This was a recent purchase and sparked this blog post. As Elsie seems determined to stick with elasticated waists I thought this tunic sweater from J Crew was the perfect replacement for the Walmart hearts above.
- She was actually pretty happy I picked this t-shirt. “I love this cat, I had totally forgotten about it!” Win for Mom as long as it doesn’t end up on top of the psychedelic running shorts.
- You just can’t go wrong with blue stripes, can you?
But hang on a minute…
I carried out this exercise to have a play around with my new photography equipment, have fun with Elsie and blog about kids picking wacky clothes. What came next was totally unexpected. Take a look at the two photographs, what do you see?
In the top picture I see and six-year-old. In the bottom photo I see a nine-year old. I do prefer the clothes, don’t get me wrong, but am I dressing a kid or am I dressing myself? In my post ‘Totally Impractical Baby Clothes we all Love to Buy‘ I talk of the urge to dress your baby like Justin Bieber. Why are we insistent on dressing our children like grown ups? Do I want my 9-year-old dressing like a 16-year-old? No. Do I want my 12-year-old dressing like an 18-year-old… definitely not. So what kind of example am I setting when I’m making her dress older now? Hmm… food for thought.
What does Montessori teaching have to say about it?
I decided to delve deeper into why Elsie’s Montessori school had requested that she dress herself. Tips for letting your child dress him/herself published by Apple Montessori Schools says:
“When your child is old enough to dress him or herself, it may be time to teach them that polka dots and stripes don’t match.”
Oh… unexpected. So I am allowed to give fashion advice? It seems offering limited choices is a reasonable method in teaching a child to dress themselves. To be honest, the reason Elsie forgot about the cat t-shirt is because too many clothes float around in her drawers. The classic Montessori classroom is filled with neutral colors and natural tones. Montessori by Mom suggests a similar approach to clothing:
“If you are concerned about colors and patterns clashing, it’s easy to control for this by sticking to neutrals or mix-and-match styles.”
So it’s not out of question to expect your child to conform to certain fashions; you give them the choice but limited with a mom fashion-filter. But is it really giving your child the freedom to express themselves? Isn’t it like saying you can eat anything you want… as long as it’s a cheese sandwich because that’s all I’ve got? A sneaky method of control when you’re promoting freedom of speech. Am I a communist? I feel confused I know that much.
” When she picks out her own clothes and walks down the stairs saying, “Look at what I picked out?!” It’s important to give her the satisfaction of saying she did a good job. If a child makes a fashion faux pas, it’s not the end of the world.”(Apple Montessori Schools)
That much I can agree with.
What am I going to do about it?
- Sort through Elsie’s clothes and purge. Her personal favorites that I want to get rid of (aka psychedelic running shorts) will be put to one side and a conversation will be had. They are too small, they are worn out, they have to go.
- Pack away clothes that don’t fit the season. We had a tiny summer romper on at the weekend in early Jan. We might live in Arizona but she was still freezing at lunch – don’t worry I did make her wear a token cardigan.
- Organize clothes so that the newly reduced selection is fully visible. Although I’ve thrown out some of her favorites, there are gems lurking at the bottom of the drawers.
- Cringe and smile. Let her wear wacky socks and mis-match a little. Try to give advice if you think she’ll end up on the wrong side of a roller-disco bully, but let her be her.
After all, we all love a little bit of wacky.
This post is linked up here: