I think it is fair to say that every mom dreams of dressing up her little girls in the sea of adorable outfits clothing manufacturing dream up every year. I will be the first to admit that, while I only bought one or two little boy outfits pre-delivery, I bought several perfectly pink frilly ensembles, even though I had no idea what I was having. The good news is that I was right in my assumption that I would have a girl first.
So now that the kids are getting older and their opinions are louder, when is it time to look the other way and let kids dress themselves?
Judging by some of the outfits I see at drop-off, it can start as early as preschool. Luckily, at that age, pretty much anything goes in the fashion department. Little ones can get away with all of the fashion no-nos with looks of envy from the rest of us. Don’t we all wish we could just throw on whatever struck our fancy with no regard to matching or trends?
I started slowly with the rule that the kids could dress themselves completely on the weekends but I still had a hand in what they wore to school or outside activities.
Strangely enough, it was my son who kept it simple and almost always picked outfits that were spot on. Maybe it is because boy clothes are more straightforward, but he gets it right most days. My daughter, on the other hand, is still working out what matches and what clashes. She will happily come downstairs in a bright pink shirt and red pants and tell me “she is comfortable." Ah, the dream that fashion can be comfortable. I tell her that she needs to change either the top or the pants to a color that matches—with tons of praise and some guilt that I can’t let her keep the outfit on.
I will admit that I am not the kind of mom who lets her kids wear whatever they want in public. Maybe I am too vain, controlling or bothered by others' thoughts, but it just doesn’t happen in my house. I praise my kids and thank them for dressing themselves, but I also let them know when something isn’t appropriate and why. "No, you can’t wear a sundress in December." When asked why, I send my daughter outside in her pink spaghetti strap twirl dress and watch her run back inside faster than a speeding bullet.
When my son wanted to wear his PJs to preschool, I told him to take it up with his teacher and suggest a “PJ Day," and then he could.
But I have to admit, those were really the only run-ins with fashion we had. My kids like clothes enough—they don’t seem interested in clothes shopping but do like getting clothes as gifts. They love dressing up and my then three-year-old son even wore a tuxedo to my brother-in-law's wedding. That surprised me. After all, grown men call them "monkey suits" and more often than not do not enjoy wearing them.
I do have friends who allow their kids to express themselves through their fashion choices, and I respect that completely. More often than not, these kids are creative, fun and confident, and I love that. For now my kids don’t seem to want to use clothes as creative expression, but who knows? That may change.