Although Nicole Richie is often hailed as a style icon, one particular style choice the actress recently posted to Instagram seems questionable at best.
On Dec. 17, Richie shared a cozy selfie in a plush faux fur coat. The coat? Totally cute, naturally. Richie? Beautiful. Those facts are not being called into question.
The caption accompanying the picture, however, concerns me. “Thanks for letting me borrow your jacket Harlow.”
Yes, Harlow… as in Richie’s 6-year-old daughter.
Although I applaud Richie’s resourcefulness — she turned a child’s full-length coat into a hip jacket for herself, while I can barely even master tying a scarf — I can’t help but feel worried about the message she’s sending to her impressionable young daughter.
I get that some people are simply petite. In fact, I just devoted an entire feature this weekend to pint-sized powerhouses like Mae Whitman and Jada Pinkett Smith.
It’s not Richie’s size I find fault with. It’s the potential damage to her daughter’s self-image I feel could be caused by Richie plundering Harlow’s closet. Isn’t it entirely possible — and likely, even — that when Harlow grows up, she’s going to think as an adult she needs to fit into kid’s clothes, too?
And what happens to her self-esteem when she doesn’t?
Or what about the day when Harlow outgrows the very clothes her mom continues to borrow? How big of a hit will it be to her self-worth when she doesn’t fit the model-size mold — especially coming from a household so immersed in fashion?
It will be devastating.
I remember the first time my grandmother bought me a fancy outfit to wear to one of her highbrow parties, and my unwieldy 13-year-old body didn’t want to play ball. I felt like a total failure. I felt fat and ugly and all of the other traumatic emotions swirling around a teenage girl’s overwrought psyche.
I felt the same way three weeks ago when trying on a dress for a Christmas party.
The hard truth is that we, as women, are often guilty of measuring ourselves by someone else’s standards and (in our heads) coming up short.
And the people closest to us — our mothers, our sisters, our best friends — often wind up being the mental yard sticks by which we size ourselves.
In my family, my mother and my sister scored the petite genetics of my mother’s side of the family. They are little and delicate and cute. I got, as my husband affectionately refers to it, the Amazonian frame of my father’s side of the family: tall, broad-shouldered, wide-hipped.
These are things I love about myself now, sure. But when your body feels so alien to the image of beauty you are used to seeing growing up (in my case, my mother and my sister), it’s tough stuff.
What if Harlow doesn’t ultimately share Richie’s body type but, seeing her mother wearing her clothes, decides to try to bend her body’s will in that direction via unhealthy means?
Perhaps this strikes so close to home for me because I, too, have a little girl. Interestingly, her name is Marlow. Marlow and Harlow — cute.
My Marlow is only 3 and a half, but I can already see her sweet self-image starting to shift due to the things she sees and hears around her.
Some days, she asks when her “boobies” will look like mine so she can wear a bra, too. Some days she tells me that Samantha from school says her butt is big and asks, “Mama, is it?”
Despite the fact that I did recently buy Marlow an adorable yellow coat I wish I could wear, I won’t be trying on my daughter’s clothes. I won’t do so, because it’s hard enough for little girls to make heads or tails of body image these days without me adding to the din.
I don’t, for one minute, want to be a reason why my daughter is struggling with her self-image or scrutinizing her body.
I want her to enjoy being a little girl and know that the “little girl” clothes she wears are hers and hers alone and that Mama wears women’s clothes. Because there’s an important distinction there — she is a little girl and I am a woman.
We should both be able to embrace exactly where we are right this second.