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Promoting a kid's personal sense of style

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

My preschool fashionista

A few days ago, Sunshine got dressed on her own and of her own accord. She came downstairs wearing striped tights, a floral summer skirt, an orange giraffe shirt, a brown sweater and sunglasses. And red sparkley shoes. It was quite the combination. How can your promote your child's personal sense of style, while making sure they dress appropriately?

My preschool fashionistaI used to be a bit of a stickler about my kids' attire, and especially about my daughter's clothing. Somewhere along the line - though I don't quite know when - I let go a bit. I figured that as long as I was fine with the modesty and appropriateness levels of what my kids had in their closet, it was time to let them develop their own senses of style. This has been particularly fun with Sunshine.

Before peer pressure

My boys already dress somewhat according to peer pressure. With boys, at least around here, it's fairly benign. Tshirts. Jeans. Sneakers. Blah, but whatever.

Soon enough, my daughter will want to conform to what her friends are wearing. There will be a desire for the latest trend, or as a friend and I refer to it, the "uniform." In our little town currently it's Ugg boots, jeans and a pink North Face fleece jacket for the girls. While I cringe at the idea of paying that much for a pair of boots when I am an adept Marshall's bargain hunter, I understand that fitting in on some level is important for girls of a certain age. We'll deal with that then.

Until then, I have an opportunity to foster creativity in my girl's wardrobe, and I intend to take advantage of that.

No more outfits and no laughing

Aside from a couple of holidays, I no longer think of outfits when it comes to the kids' clothes. I don't even think of "coordinating separates." I let them choose (within budget, within appropriateness guidelines) what they like. Sunshine has some fabulous tights and skirts, and she is always a colorful combination.

Allowing her this freedom has made mornings easier. She's happy with what she wears, and I have less of a tussle getting her downstairs, ready for the day. Sometimes she comes up with combinations I would just never consider - and I am careful to express only positives for her creative mixes and matches. No laughing is alllowed. Overall we're all happier and our world is a whole lot brighter.

Will this really make a difference when she hits the peer pressure years? I don't know, though I hope so. I like to think that maybe my Sunshine will start trends instead of following them. At the very least, even if she does to buy into the "uniform" whatever that may be, she'll have my support and encouragement in pairing some really funky socks with those standard issue shoes - and that sense of positive support will spill out into other areas of her life.

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