Heads up parents, these tips are ripped straight from Clinton Kelly’s ‘Oh No She Didn’t’ and I used it as part of our fashion curriculum for home schooling. Why, is what you’re thinking now, right? Why are you teaching your kids about fashion? Simple. Kids learning to dress themselves tend to all make the same few mistakes: some of them right through adulthood. While a mismatched outfit here and there from a 3 year old can be cute, by the time they’re 7, it’s no longer funny. Getting kids onto the right track early can save hassle whether you’re loading them onto the yellow bus, headed out for a day at the zoo, or off to church for the morning. Sunday is one of our absolute worst mornings–we actually have to go somewhere early in the day and wear something that doesn’t look like we got dressed in the dark. I want them to look and feel fabulous, not faux pas. In other words, the battle of the ‘do it myself’ rages hard on Sunday mornings. So I decided that I’d pass on a little bit of advice I’d gotten years ago from shows like ‘What Not To Wear’ by snagging a copy of Kelly’s book and letting it be our guide. No more posting ‘s/he dressed him/herself’ with a bit of hilarity and shame, but instead with pride.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about letting the kids have choices, but guiding them to choices that make sense is part of our job as a parent. You wouldn’t send a kid off to school or other activities having only eaten jellybeans, right? (Except maybe on Easter.) Of course not. You provide healthy options that you cook or can serve cold that provide basic nutrition and hope that what they choose to eat out of those options can fill their tummies for the long day ahead. Having simple rules for kids to follow with their wardrobe choices can be just as simple. Some things you’ll just have to put your foot down on, but others have a big allowance for choice within their given parameters. Here are 5 easy tips to help those new to the world of independent dressing–dress themselves.
*Shoes make the outfit- unless you’re going to a cowboy themed party or are going out to do chores on the farm, save the boots to wear with jeans– pant legs on the outside (this is why boot cut pants were made, okay?) Skinny jeans rarely look good on anyone and while only you can tell if those crud-kickers look good with leggings tucked in (based on the style and color of the boot and leggings), keeping a basic rule like ‘jeans only’ can save a lot of headache when it’s time to leave the house. It’s the same with sneakers and skirts/dresses. If you wouldn’t wear it, chances are the kids shouldn’t either. Basic flat shoes of any kind can go a long way to stretching a kid’s wardrobe. Always get dressed with the shoes you’ll wear in mind.
*Neutrals are the key to stylishness- Garanimals are all the rage for the toddling set. They’re cheap, easy to replace and kids can literally do it themselves. They’ve even expanded their line for older kids (hallelujah for normal neck and hemlines for kids in the little ones 4-8 size range.) But the days of matchy-matchy passed a few decades ago-that includes denim. When shopping pick either the fantastic electric blue top OR bottom, but not both. If you’re in love with something in particular, fine, get both, but buyer beware, having the kids wear them together looks like they’re still in their pj’s (another no no.) I find it easier to keep the bottom half neutral. Not only are neutral colors typically more friendly to the kid lifestyle (hello, dirt) but it keeps things like inappropriate wording OFF your child’s rear. You know what I mean? Dressing with intention and sticking to colors like black, brown, khaki, navy, gray or dark wash denim on the bottom can mean that no matter how wild the upper half looks, you’re still in the safe zone when it comes to fashion. If you choose to go funky with pants, make sure your child knows how to match a color in (her) patterned shirt to the bottoms or wears a neutral on top. Easy peasy.
*Fit- We have this issue 2-3 times a year when going through tubs of clothing we pulled out of rotation from the previous season. Do any of these things still fit? Pants should go basically to just above the floor and a long sleeve should hit the middle of the thumb. If you’re seeing wrist or ankle? Time to hand those clothes down or pass them on and invest in items that fit and look good. Same thing with short outfits- skirts should be at the knees, shorts should cover a good bit of the thighs and seams on the sleeved shirts should hit the outside of the shoulder, so you’re not hearing stitches pop. Hemlines should cover your waistband if untucked- no ‘accidental’ belly shirts for the elementary set. No matter how much of a favorite an item is, if it doesn’t fit–get rid of it.
*Neatness counts- Hair should look like it’s been brushed or styled in the last 24 hours or people are going to think you’re living out of your car. That ‘messy’ look is fine if they’ve been running outside. If you can’t keep up with the tangles, it’s time to consider getting rid of those last parental hang-ups over baby curls and get a big-kid haircut. My kids actually thanked me when I had theirs done. The same goes for holey sneakers or jeans. Save those for at-home play and put on something a bit nicer for going out in public. Short, solid colored fingernails should be a go-to for the kids–they should be kept up or unpolished and be free of dirt. Leave the wild child stuff for toenails that see the light of day only during sandal season. Two of my kids are currently sporting a modified rainbow of polish on their feet–but their hands are paint free. It meets their need for color and whimsy while keeping the outside world none the wiser–and no clashing.
*Color, Texture, Pattern, and Shine- Are you hitting 2 of these basic elements of style out the door? Intentionally getting dressed with these words in mind can really put a sparkle in your eyes and your outfit, and that holds true for kids, as well. You don’t want them looking like miniature adults on the way to a garden party or funeral, but a little thought goes a long way in the eyes of those around you.
Teaching kids these basic rules can save a lot of headache and lead to more ‘you look fabulous’ than ‘you look like a freak show’ when the kids get dressed in the morning. Obviously a child should be comfortable in what they are wearing: never cram a child into something too itchy, tight, or stuffy to suit their tastes. A lot can be done within the few guidelines I’ve listed, and some rules are made to be broken, but others when followed can make a big difference in how your former tutu and feather boa obsessed kid is perceived. Keep the tutu and boa in the dress up box and play on!