Every day we walk into preschool and I try to pretend that I’m not embarrassed that my girls aren’t dressed in prettier clothes or with their hair looking nicer. If I’m lucky, their clothes actually match. And I wish that I had what the other moms have – a sense of style.
We live in the beautiful state of South Carolina. I was transplanted here back in 1989 at the age of 13. While still young and impressionable, I was not a child and I had to really work hard to fit in here as a teen. Particularly when it pertains to fashion. I am so “fashion challenged” it is not even funny.
Now I’m raising two little girls here, and I feel like I might not be enough or teaching them the right things to truly fit in. Sure, at 2 and 4 they are doing fine. But when we go places, my little girls are the only ones without bows in their hair, or beautifully monogrammed clothing, or the latest fashions. OK, I get it. It’s fun to dress our little ladies up. And there is nothing wrong with bows and pretty clothes.
I think all little girls should dress how they want. If they love the fancy dresses, wear the fancy dresses. If they want shorts, shorts are fab too. If I choose not to buy those options for my girls, do I immediately put them at a disadvantage? At this age, probably not. The girls don’t seem to notice who is wearing what. But what about next year? Middle school? High school?
I want my girls to express themselves in their clothing choices. I allow Jelly Bean (4 year old) to dress herself. It is often pretty whacky, but she loves putting together her own combos. I will draw the line on the most hideous combinations, or a spaghetti strap summer dress in the dead of winter. But, she usually puts together her own outfits.
Like in this picture. The tiny one in the Syracuse onesie and the oversized jeans is my youngest daughter. She looks like a boy.
I don’t know. They are all happy, so does it matter what they are wearing?
Of course, she does have some sass!
We don’t do ruffles or bows… or monograms or smocked outfits. That started as my choice, but since I never insisted on those things when they were little, they have no interest in them now. And I wonder if I messed up on that point. Because now I actually would like to see them wearing those things, and the girls say no.
Jelly Bean is so self confident, and happy, and I do not want to take that away. But should I be a little more insistent on her dressing and accessorizing in the popular fashions? I don’t even buy them for her anymore. It’s not going to be long before all girls go through the “mean girls” stage (because we have ALL been there, right?). And it hurts me to imagine anyone making fun of her, especially because of my choices.
I am terrified that while I am fighting against the preschool fashion parade, I may be damaging my daughters.
It really hit me this weekend. We went to a birthday party. My girls were cute in their outfits (Jelly Bean was actually matching!) but I dressed them in play clothes, not stylish brands. Jelly Bean’s hair was a mess. It is always a mess. That is completely my fault. I give in when she starts fussing about brushing it. She won’t let me pull it back, braid it, or put a barrette in it, so I pick my battles. That isn’t one of them.
So, I felt really embarrassed that the girls look a mess especially in comparison with all of the beautiful well dressed, well groomed children. And yet I am the one who could change that. It’s just not even in my DNA to get them fixed up like that to go to a birthday party. Or to preschool.
Am I really just hurting my daughters by not making the effort to make them cuter?
And then there’s the insecurity that I feel like I am being judged for not getting my kids fixed up enough.Whether it’s real or imagined, I hate the feeling that I’m not doing this mothering thing well enough.
I do want my daughters to grow up with a sense of pride about their appearance. I don’t want them to find themselves at age 37, reminding themselves every day to “put on something other than sweat pants and don’t forget a touch of makeup.”
Let’s be honest. We all judge, and are judged, by our appearance.
But does the fashion parade have to start in preschool?
But since it does, am I damaging my daughters by not making more of an effort on their behalf?
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Rabia @TheLiebers saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm
My daughter is 10. She picks out her own clothes and wears some wacky combinations. I am not a fashionista by any means. I prefer comfortable to stylish. Sometimes, though, when the combo is especially strange I might say, “You know…some people might say that those stripes don’t go with those polka dots.” And I leave it at that. She’s changed a couple of times, but mostly I think she likes her own style. And who am I to change that?!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm
That’s great advice. I prefer comfy to stylish as well. I just wish that someone had taken a little more time and effort with me as a child… both with fashion and hygiene! I think I am paranoid of making them so far the other direction that they don’t give a crap about their appearance, and I don’t want that either. But you’re right… let them have their own style!
Tamara saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm
I don’t think you’re damaging them, no! You should come up here some time. Tangled hair, mismatched, self-expressive clothes are the norm in hippie-dippie western Mass. Scarlet really dresses herself and she fancies herself a princess, so she does often wind up looking very adorable. I like her funky, put-together outfits best, though.
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm
I have to admit, I am a bit proud of Jelly Bean when she puts together a most “punky brewster” esque outfit. See, maybe it’s just the yankee in me that just can’t quite get on board with ruffles and bows! 🙂
Melodie Haas saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm
Oh my darling lady,
From this born and bred southern woman let me say this: You are teaching your girls a very important lesson in life. It is very OK not to “fit in”. As the saying goes “Just because everybody else jumps off the bridge doesn’t mean you have to!”
Do we want our babies to look cute? Of course! but what is more important, that they are pretty on the outside or pretty on the inside?
If Jelly Bean has her own sense of style, let her wear it! She is still just a child and will have plenty of her life to be constrained by what “society” thinks. Besides that just means she is her own person not just another “follower of the crowd” Remember that letting her wear her comfortable clothes is teaching her that she is important and beautiful no matter what she wears.
If it absolutely drives you crazy then try to compromise, put a cute monogrammed t-shirt with her athletic shorts. Use a headband instead of a bow. My mother had no clue how to braid hair so I never had it. Ponytails were the best I got, but usually just a short haircut was it!
Then as she gets older just teach her that there are occasions (funeral, church, interview, wedding, etc) when it is better to dress in a more formal fashion.
And if all of this “opinion” still has you shaking your head and saying “No I want them to look cute!” then ask one of your cutely dressed kid friends for help.
(As for all the name brand items, like Matilda Jane, I almost had a heart attack when I saw the prices. I bought one outfit to help a friend and I will never buy it full price again! For a one or two times use that is a ridiculous amount of money to be spending! I personally shop the FB pages and consignment sales, you can get cute for cheap 😉
katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Thank you very, Very much for this perspective. Yes, Matilda Jane is ridiculously priced! They have ONE dress, which I do adore, but it’s hard to justify spending that much money. I too shop consignment and sales, and I am trying to learn to sew better so that they can have cutesie cclothes for a fraction of the price. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions. They are good ones!
another jennifer saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm
I have a million things going through my head after reading this post. For one, a Syracuse onesie is alway appropriate (I might be biased there). But seriously, I live in a state where it’s perfectly acceptable to where jeans to a 5-star restaurant. And I have boys. So maybe I don’t have as much pressure as you do, but I say screw what everyone else says and be true to what you and your kids feel comfortable with. I send my preschooler to school with a lightning bolt mohawk for crazy hair day! And I’ve given up on trying to make Biz wear pants other than sweats. Personally, I think moms are there to guide their kids. Not being fashionable isn’t the end of the world. If mean kids (or adults) get involved, maybe you assess and take a different approach. But I know your lack of designer duds does not make you any less of a parent!
katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm
Thank you thank you. Now I’m starting to feel a bit silly for feeling so crazed about this… but like I said to Michelle, it stems from a deep seeded lack of self esteem on my part. And I don’t want them to ever, EVER feel the way about themselves that I used to feel about myself.
Michelle saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm
I was smiling when I read this, because this was me. I had no fashion sense growing up and my mom made me wear dresses every day until high school at which point I boycotted everything that even looked remotely dressy and turned into a complete slob. I never dressed my daughter cutesy, or did her hair cute, because I had no idea how. But she has grown into a young woman with a fashion sense far beyond mine (I ask her opinion when putting together outfits) and she can do amazing things with long hair, especially with braids. I think she learned a lot of stuff on the internet. So don’t worry. Your girls will be fine!! And it’s far more important in my opinion that our kids learn how to be good people!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm
I would agree with that, it is important to be good rather than so prideful on image. I just don’t want them to get teased incessantly or be forever self conscious about themselves, like I was. I appreciate your comment so much Michelle!
Marie Oliveira saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm
My girls pick out their own clothes and I’m always quick to congratulate them when they actually match the correct dress and leggings. I think they look cute most of the time though because their wardrobes consist only of dresses and solid colored leggings and a few Hanna Andersson outfits (love those!). As far as what I buy (or sew), I like the idea of following their lead. If they have an opinion then that is something I need to pay attention to. I think the only way you could damage them is to force them to wear any sort of clothes against their will (unless it involves some modesty issue). Besides, you know if you had dressed her for the zoo in a beautiful outfit, she would have spilled chocolate milk all over it or fallen and torn a hole in it! 😉
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm
So totally true about the cute clothes at the zoo. And she is young enough it certainly didn’t matter to her. But one person did ask me how old my son was…. of course that has happened when she’s been dressed completely in pink too… so…
Janine Huldie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm
Alexa, Emma won’t allow me to dress her in jeans and only will wear skirts, tights’/leggings and boots everyday. Trust me, your girls will be fine and judging from my battles everyday with dressing my girls, just so nice to know I am not alone in the clothing wars with girls. Seriously, even though Lily is easier in some respects she totally wears whatever she thinks matches and most times it does’t either. Let’s just say every morning is a new clothing adventure for us here!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm
Lily and Bean would have a good time together getting dressed up! Thanks Janine!
Laura saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm
I think self confidence shines through no matter what you wear and that really is fostered by knowing your children and encouraging them to grow as people. Kids are so observant. Let them see your love for them reflected in your eyes when you look at them in all their tangle headed, unmatched glory. That’s a better buffer against mean girls than fashion advice ever could be.
katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm
That is really excellent advice. Thank you for that comment.
Kerry saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm
In our household, there are definitely days when my boys and girl mismatch. I pick my battles. On other days, I get a little more controlling. I’m so glad my daughter attends a preschool with uniforms – it keeps our mornings easy – and then I usually just slap on a headband and we’re good to go. I can already tell it’s tough with girls. There are just so many more fashion options! I think you let you girls express themselves, and guide them when appropriate. Before you know it, they’ll be picking up on what their peers are wearing and asking you to shop for certain brands. Ugh! As a So. Cal. girl, I’m so intrigued by other parts of the country. I must visit the south! 😉
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katbiggie saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm
Yes you should totally make a trip! Come visit! Then we’ll come visit So. Cal!!!
Dana saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm
I admit that I am very into fashion. I always bought cute clothes for my kids, but not expensive ones. But I quickly learned that my children have their own opinions about what they want to wear, so I just go with it. My teenage daughter likes to look fashionable some days, but some days she just wants sweats. My opinion? Don’t worry about what the other kids are wearing. Soon enough no child will want to wear what her mom picks out for her anyway!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 15, 2014 at 9:44 am
Very, very true!
Christine at More Than Mommies saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:37 pm
I never was a girly girl growing up and had very little sense of style. Hand me downs from a cousin were always high points because I got to see name brands even if they were years old. When I has my first daughter I never imagined she would want to wear pink and frills but she loves that stuff more than I ever did! I let my girls dress themselves and have little to say about what they wear on a day to day basis. It’s just not something we focus on.
I can relate to what you are saying as my kids look like ragamuffins 75% of the time. But they really don’t seem phased by it! Kids are meant to play have fun and get messy, not look like they stepped out of the pages of a catalog.
If you think that making a fuss over haor and clothes can be fun or a bonding experience, then I say go for it. It might be a good thing for all of you, but the clothes don’t make the person. It feels good to look nice but it is even better to BE nice!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 15, 2014 at 9:43 am
I can totally relate to the hand me downs! Those were the nicest clothes we owned! And yes, they should be able to play and get messy. and I guess I should be glad they don’t have super nice clothes, cause it seems like their clothes are always getting drawn or painted on! Luckily, she IS the sweetest of girls. I hope that stays with her always!
Ilene saysJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:38 pm
I’m with Kerry in that I’ve always picked my battles. When I worked full time and I had to get the kids to daycare in the morning, I didn’t care what they put on so long as they were in clothes. Now that they are older, I (a) make sure their clothes match and (b) are clean and (c) fit properly. Beyond that, I leave it up to them. When they want to dress themselves especially, I hate to take away their sense of independence by telling them they can’t. But I’m by no means a fashionista!
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katbiggie saysJanuary 15, 2014 at 9:42 am
It’s so true about picking your battles. There are a few things I insist on. Brushing hair and teeth. But beyond that, as long as it’s not completely inappropriate, Bean pretty much wears what she wants to! I think she is creating her own sense of style!
Lady Jennie saysJanuary 14, 2014 at 8:44 am
No you’re not! I’m laughing because I never imagined you struggle with fashion. You always look stylish to me. I think I would do a better job of it if I weighed less and could truly shop anywhere or where anything.
My daughter will stubbornly reject all the cute French fashions I buy her and put her sweat pants with holes (three days in a row). I almost think you either have it or not – it’s not always the parent’s fault.
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katbiggie saysJanuary 15, 2014 at 9:41 am
Well, I try my best to clean up well for photos, but I am certainly no fashionista! Luckily I have some friends with great fashion sense, so I follow their lead! Your daughter sounds like me… I loved (and still do!) my sweat pants.
thedoseofreality saysJanuary 14, 2014 at 10:23 am
Oh God yes. Especially living in the south. And especially when it comes to school. But here is the deal, and I am being really honest with you right now…in fact, Lisa and I have conversations about this a lot…when I was growing up, I had all the things…the shoes, the jeans, the purses, etc. My favorite store as an adult? Target. And if today’s extremely budget conscious, money is so tight sometimes it makes me cry self could tell my younger self anything it would be to skip the Guess jeans and ask my parents to put that money in a savings account for adult me.
So, that being said, I say that your children should dress in the cutest, most fashionable clothes that you can afford and that they like. P.S. My girls would rather cry hysterically than let a hairbow anywhere near their heads!-Ashley
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Lisa @ The Golden Spoons saysJanuary 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm
First of all, how did I not know you were in South Carolina?? I’m in NC. Anyway, I’m raising three girls who all have very different “styles” so I totally get this. My two oldest are never the cute, “girly” ones. In fact, my 11 year old dresses the worst of all and I thought by this age she would be more concerned about what other people think – not that she should dress to please others, but just take more pride in her appearance. Anyway, I could go on and on. Suffice it to say – I understand completely! And, I don’t think you are damaging your daughters. If you are, then I am too so when they are older they can all get together and form a support group! 🙂
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katbiggie saysJanuary 15, 2014 at 9:39 am
Oh we are practically neighbors!! Thank you, I appreciate it, and we’ll plan a support group in about 5 years for our girls! 🙂
Katie @ AMotherThing saysJanuary 16, 2014 at 11:28 am
I only have boys, but I let them dress however they want. When I was a kid/teen, I dressed in the most RIDICULOUS outfits. Seriously, I got made fun of every single day. My gay best friend used to yell at me for not caving into the peer pressure and just being normal. But I never cared. The only time I ever went a step too far was when I saw a fashion model wearing this adorable thin scarf thing, and since I had nothing similar, I wore the belt of my bathrobe as a scarf to school. The fallout was CRAZY embarrassing. But I wore it all day long because I wanted to prove that they couldn’t break me. Lol. I think raising strong girls who are comfortable with who they are is more important than trying to get them to conform to what everyone else is doing. My hubby feels massive guilt now that he used to scream at his parents until they gave in and bought him Guess jeans because that’s what everyone else wore.
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Pryia saysApril 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm
I don’t think you’re damaging them at all! Personally, I like to dress my kids cute, but it doesn’t involve name brands. Carter’s is as name brand as I’m willing to pay. Garanimals and Cherokee are perfectly fine! And I have issues with hair. I absolutely CAN NOT let my kids go anywhere without their hair combed. That’s how I was raised though. It used to be an issue between my husband and me because I would refuse an invitation out if I didn’t have time to comb the girls hair and he never felt it was necessary. But it’s an issue for me. Their hair doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be neat. But that’s my issue, not anyone else’s.
Mary saysApril 13, 2015 at 1:34 pm
At the end of the day our job is to teach them what is appropriate for the setting. Someday they will have to learn fancy dress rules. But not today. Some kids like clothes more than others just like grown ups.
I’ve learned that they learn what we model. If we model insecurity that’s what they pick up. Don’t worry about other kids or what other parents do. Rock on as you and your kids will do the same
Tamie Jensen saysApril 13, 2015 at 1:43 pm
As a mom to 6,5 that are grown I raised them with the statement “be an individual,dont be one of the mass”.
They were always clean and had nice clothes,but were given the ability to decide things like what to wear on their own.
Who cares if sockes match as long as they know that hitting is wrong.
If my son’s shirt was purple and his pants red,it didnt matter because he protected a little girl on the playground once who was being picked on.
I believe I made the better choice by working on their minds rather than wardrobe.
Enjoy your day everyone!
April Averitt saysApril 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm
I have a 4 year old and she dresses herself too. She likes to layer. There is one little girl in her daycare that is VERY fashionable, which I think has more to do with her Mom than her. The rest look like your daughter and the other two girls. Personally, I don’t see much difference in the way the 3 girls pictured are dressed. They all look adorable and none of them look more fashionable than the other. Just my opinion.
Sarah saysApril 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm
Thank you so much for this article. I love fashion, but my 4-year old daughter could care less. She’s most comfortable in t-shirts and leggings. She won’t allow me to put her hair in a ponytail, pigtails, bows, clips, etc. She’ll wear the occasional dress, but it’s rare. It used to drive me out of my mind and caused a lot of tension between us when it was time to get dressed for the day. I’ve finally thrown in the towel and have stopped pushing my clothing preferences on her and life is much easier now. I have to constantly remind myself that she is more into playing and just isn’t concerned about how’s she dressed. It probably won’t always be this way so for the time being I’m happy that she’s not asking for a pair of designer jeans!