I’ve just walked in the door after a day at the office; my daughter is sitting at the kitchen table and staring at me. I’m wearing a gauzy navy skirt, cut short in front and longer in back, with a short-sleeved, cream-colored cotton top and navy flats. Casual-chic, I was going for. Sabrina does not approve.
“Um, why are you saying that?” I ask.
“Because it doesn’t look good!” she informs me. “You should have worn a nicer top!”
In our house, the devil wears Converse with rainbow laces: There is no worse fashion critic than my 8-year-old. Some mornings, she’ll pop in as I’m getting dressed so she can perform her self-imposed duties as my personal stylist. “No, that doesn’t look good together,” she’ll say, or “You should wear a necklace.”
My daughter rarely tries to dress up in my clothes or shoes. I suspect it’s because she thinks they’re not chic enough for her.
At 8, Sabrina’s style sensibility is rapidly forming. She’s gone from a kid who only wanted to wear the same t-shirt three days in a row and gym shorts to a kid who spends a good 10 minutes every morning choosing then discarding outfits. She keeps a little Post-it on her desk with a list of favorite online places to browse: Kohl’s, Nordstrom’s, Justice. “Mommy, why do you get to have so many shoes?” she once asked. “Because my feet aren’t growing anymore,” I tell her. “OK, then how can I stop my feet from growing?” she asked.
I vividly recall being a kid and dealing with my own parents’ minimalist, anti-trend approach to all things clothing. It wasn’t so much the money, as much as the concept. “Why do you want to have someone else’s name on your butt?” my dad would ask about designer jeans.
When I’d beg them to buy me the latest cool clothing or sneakers, they’d initially refuse; eventually, they’d let me get a couple of trendy things each season. I still remember how it felt not to have trendy stuff, and so I’m fine with buying Sabrina whatever kinds of clothes she’d like. We set a budget for fall/winter and spring/summer clothes, and she makes choices that fit in.
Me, I’m not much of a mom fashionista; I dress well enough for work, and do casual on weekends. I like flats over heels any day. Clothes shopping is more of a gotta-do than a thrill. So this, I didn’t expect: A daughter who’s a style critic.
We’ve had a few discussions about freedom of choice and how dressing in lots of different ways can look both unique and good. But her office outfit critique stopped me in my (practical-shoes) tracks.
“Sabrina,” I tell her, “that’s not a nice thing to say.”
“You’ve told me I should never be afraid to say my thoughts!” she answers, and I say, “Yes, it’s good be honest! And when you like someone’s outfit or new haircut, it’s nice to say that. But if you’re not liking it, it’s best to keep it to yourself so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Unless they want your opinion, in which case you should try to say it in a positive way.
“So what’s a positive way?”
“You could say something good. Like you could have told me, ‘Maybe that skirt would have looked better with a light blue top!’ But still, you don’t want to offer up that advice unless someone asks.”
I can see she’s processing this, and I leave it at that. Cut to next morning, when she walks in as I’m about to get dressed. “Mommy! I’m going to pick out your outfit for you!” she announces.
It’s going to be a long few years until college.
Photo credit: iStock/kochayme