I get to class and take my seat next to the other girls, and as usual, they are better dressed than I am. A door of stovepipe jeans and a shrunken black T-shirt; the other wearing a short denim mini and razor flat, arc-destroy sandals. A third is an amazing print dress. I sigh and wish I had taken the time to find matching socks. I’m used to be less fashionable, but in the past, well-dressed women I knew were, well, women. Now girls with killer clothes are toddlers in my son’s music class.
But while their diva girls are dressed to the nines, the mothers of these girls are downright old fashioned. yoga pants.Ragged ponytails. Hoodies as far as the eye can see. And it begs the question: why are we dress our girls-who will spend the day running and jumping and splashing in the puddles-for a night on the town, and for ourselves as well, a day at playground?
For starters, it seems that we have come a long way from Osh Kosh. The children’s clothing industry has exploded over the last twenty years, providing more choices and styles than ever. But more importantly, he matured – at least regarding the girl’s clothes. Disguised as mom used to require either a small house in aesthetic Prairie (Laura Ashley), or a member of a country club (Polo Ralph Lauren). But these days, you can find jeans True Religion, J. Crew cashmere and Uggs in sizes toddler Itty Bitty-, nothing seventies rock band T-shirts on the theme, match cords or string bikinis say. So dress like mummy has never been more possible. Or rather, like Mom would dress up-if she was not wearing sweatpants.
Speaking of sweatpants: while children’s fashion has matured, adult styles regressed as schlubby adult clothing has moved out of our closets and in socially acceptable streetwear field. Blue jeans and T-shirts have become eligible for all but the most conservative workplaces. Flip flops and sneakers migrated over those functional fashion accessories. And when was the last time you (or someone you know) wearing a pair of tights?
As the mother of a son, I pointed out the mom / diva display frumpy daughter amused perspective of an outsider. After all, I had a boy. Dressing was totally meaningless. All he had was a primary color, and presented a dog, a football or a dinosaur. There was no fracture of fashion us. Side-by-side in our sensitive knits, we matched.
But when my daughter was born last winter, I am baffled. What would she wear? I’m not the girliest girl on the block; I do not like pink, I do not play with dolls as a kid and I’ve never read Little Women. The simplest task of parenting-put it into clothing – was somewhat complicated. If I dressed like a diva, I’m definitely yield to the idea of girlness someone else. But if I swore to pink, and just all recycled baby clothes of his brother, I’m not pushing it in mine?
Most women opt for pink – and how. Bundler Hot pink, pale pink blanket, pink and brown diaper bag, around the tiny pink face in the stroller. But as I began to realize that I was looking for clothes for my daughter, the alternatives are equally narrow. Rocker denim, t-shirts smart mouth and black leggings seem to exist mainly to ward off temptations siren-like Disney princesses. But pink or punk, the message is the same: I dress like the girl I want you to be.
Or maybe, like the girl I always want to be, but gave up. Perhaps the reason why many of us are so outdated; we gave our girls work hard to become the girls we still wish we could be. We dress them as dolls, laughing when they learn the difference between coach and Chanel, post videos of their switches to Patti Smith on our Facebook profile. They become our small panels of plaster, with our projections of beauty or coolness or disaffection. Meanwhile, we knock around town in pajamas. It is the ultimate opt-out.
And clearly, it is a function of time. Mode even on a miniature scale, takes a few minutes. Choices must be made. An outfit must be assembled. But putting stickers on your toddler and barrettes in the hair and the accessories match her skirt and sweater can possibly be less time applying a little powder on your face and tucking in your shirt. But given the choice, many women seem to spend their mornings comb their daughters-then cramming all their beauty regimen within five minutes they have before their child gets tired of watching Dora.
I wonder if we do not feel a bit of freedom when we dress our girls. After all, their bodies are unfettered by the curves, unblemished by stretch marks. And if you think your daughter looks better in clothes than you, then maybe dressing is a practice more rewarding than you dress. Many of us are still poor in what we call our transient jeans, not quite the size or shape we used to be before we had children. Maybe chic and frumpy is a temporary bypass cabinet until the day comes when we are able to transform back into our own past more avant-garde.
I wonder if we do not feel a bit of freedom when we dress our girls.To be sure, there are the practices involved in dressing up for a day of hanging out with your children. I spend most of my day sitting on the ground, trampling through a sandbox or with a stroller doublewide through a city of narrow spaces. Then the heels are out. And are low rise jeans. And forget to wear anything that is not machine washable.
But there is a danger in all this transfer; dressing them, not ourselves, we push on them the burden of living up to the standard of acceptable appearances of someone else. Nobody said a word when a mom is dressed in an outfit hastily assembled in the laundry basket when we all dressed the same way. But we see a child who has been dressed with no clear intention-a girl wearing yellow mismatched socks and purple sweatpants and a hooded green hood – and sneer, “Do they dress this kid in the dark”? as our kids grow up little girls and then later, in young women, disapproval flashing in our faces and escapes under our breath will stay in their minds. If lucky, they will rebel against us . But if we do not, we may be raising a new generation of women who feel insecure about their body, hiding from view in their own uniform fleece and spandex.
I shudder to think of giving up my beat-up running shoes and track pants. But perhaps a stroke of the mascara brush and a pair of dress flats may not be the worst thing in the world. Because if we continue to abdicate the part of ourselves that we lose parenthood-free time to groom us, we dress, take care as much about our own appearance as we do about our children-we will be able to get it back? Is there any guarantee when our children are older and getting dressed, we will return to the women we used to be?