Dress Your Family In Moonboots And Awesome

February 8, 2011

(Disclosure! This content series and the giveaway below is brought to you by Old Navy. Check out the Kids & Baby Sale in store with great deals starting at $5. You will see how relevant this is if you read on!)

Emilia likes clothes. Emilia likes clothes a lot. Except when she doesn’t, during which times she embraces private nudism, but those times are mostly restricted to mornings, evenings, hot summer afternoons in the backyard, and pretty much anytime that she’s at home and we don’t have guests, but still. The rest of the time, she embraces fashion with a passion and eccentric flair that reminds one of Lady Gaga, or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I’ve written about this before, about how she has a zeal for putting together her own (and, to a lesser degree of success, her brother’s) outfits and about how and why I more or less just leave her to it. My reasoning basically comes down to these two principles: a) I believe in allowing her to express herself creatively in any way that is reasonable and appropriate (so, for example, tagging cars with Crayola markers or going to the playground clad only in body paint are not acceptable forms of creative expression, whereas going to Picture Day at school in full Sk8r Grl Meets Snow White costume is), and b) I am too lazy to be bothered with battling her on the issue of whether she layers princess costumes over Spiderman pajamas and pairs the whole outfit with moon boots. Not everybody approves of this approach to fostering creative expression – for some, allowing children to express personal style is a surefire way to raise a quote-unquote freak (or, per the controversy around Nerdy Apple’s son, make them – horrors! – gay) – but whatever. I’d rather my daughter and son dress themselves in glitter and moon boots – or however they like – and face judgment from bland critics with Gymboree frequent shopper cards than that they experience even a moment of angst over whether I might disapprove of them putting on tutus over snowpants. Hell, I want to wear a tutu over snowpants. I want to live in a world where everyone does that.

Because, why not? Why do we not walk into shops – or our closets – and survey the shirts and skirts and pants and shoes and say to ourselves, I am in the mood for silver and sparkles and shiny things and, oh, maybe a touch of space ranger, and then just go ahead and layer it all on? Why do we not approach dressing ourselves as an opportunity to wrap ourselves in things that feel good and that make us happy and that make us smile and forget all about whether or not it’s slimming and/or age-appropriate and/or on-trend or whatever? Why do we not look in the mirror after we’ve put together an outfit and, instead of following the age-old rule that states remove one thing, we just go screw it and add some more bling? Why do we not wear tutus over snowpants with moon boots and mouse-eared baseball caps?

Why do we not put together outfits like this?

All of which is to say: I think that there might be something to Emilia’s I WEAR WHAT I LIKE BECAUSE I LIKE IT philosophy of fashion. I know, obviously, that we can’t all just turn up at the office wearing pajamas and moon boots or tutus and sneakers; I know that we can’t really turn up at parent-teacher meetings or weddings or job interviews that way, either. But we could – I could – make the effort, more often, to approach getting dressed from the position of what do I like / what makes me happy / what is going to make me feel good, rather than (primarily) according to considerations of what will people think and will I look fat in these pants. I think that we might be – that I might be – a little happier for doing so. Maybe we’d also start easing up a little bit on judgment – of ourselves, and of others.

We might also teach our kids a thing or two about how to really get the space ballerina effect with only a few artfully layered pajama tops, a tutu and some glitter. THE MORE YOU KNOW.

What lessons are your children teaching you about personal style? Or, to put it another way, what of your kids’ personal style – or just their wardrobe – would you borrow if you had the nerve (and they had your size?) What would you buy and wear if you weren’t worried about people would think? Would you wear a tutu over snowpants? (For the record, I totally would. I would also wear sundresses over pants and stripey tights under everything. And way more sparkles.) Or are you just totally against creative sartorial expression and wish that we could all just wear uniforms and be done with it? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a $150 Old Navy gift card, with which you can go to Old Navy and have your kid pick out his or her own outfit, and also one for you. (Full contest rules here.)

(Coming up in this series: I let Emilia dress me. HILARITY ENSUES.)

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    Kayt February 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I would totally wear yoga pants, a tank top, and fuzzy slippers all the time.

    LSM February 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    When I was a child, we had a neighbor who was very critical of my mother’s willingness to let me select my own clothes. She also thought I should eat whatever was offered, particularly the disgusting green pea and mayo salad she was fond of making.

    I can remember my mom saying that she thought it was important to give me choices over what I wore, especially since it didn’t hurt anything. She also let me control what I ate, other than asking that I actually try everything before refusing it.

    If I do say so myself, I turned out okay and with few hangups about either eating or fashion. I’ve definitely used the same approaches with my own kids.

    Rachel February 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    How true! When I was 5, I lived in rain boots and princess dresses. My mother drew the line at rain boots to church though.
    Even as a grown-up, I used to not care so much…I used to have my own eccentric style and I never had an office job so I didn’t have to worry about conforming. During my stint as a daycare manager, I used to have crazy dress up days often, not only for the kids but for me too! But since being pregnant and now nursing (and not having lost all the baby weight yet), I always find myself in jeans and a t-shirt. E gad! I look in the mirror and ask myself, what happened to me? But my own lack of style aside, I plan to let my little boy dress himself as he pleases…he can wear his rain boots to church!

    Kathleen February 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    My son’s favorite fashion impulse is “naked baby”… which sometimes strikes me as a great idea (although I probably wouldn’t streak about shouting it a the time). His favorite clothes either look like dad’s (whee, socks with grey toes) or feature fish/airplanes – but what I really want to steal is the footie jammies. Why aren’t those considered lingerie?

    Jenifer February 8, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I had to come back and say has anyone seen pajamagram.com?? I just saw an online ad for them and laughed given all the demand for hoodie/footie pj’s mentioned here!

    EarnestGirl February 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    needn’t comment to win, just, um… I DO wear fluffy hats in public wherever possible. Am generally an up-with-tutus-&-sparkles-&-fancy-striking kind of gal. But as the fairy godmothers would have it, my girl child? Is not. Is embarrassed & has been since she was old enough to voice a personal esthetic. Which, in girls is, like, preschool. I persist because it is good for a child’s soul to be exposed to whimsy. Especially during the teen years when it is like vitamins for their take-yourself-very-very-seriously soul.

    Helen February 8, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    My 5 year old mainly likes to wear swimsuits, all day every day at home, although she dresses relatively normally for a 5 year old girl when we go out (dresses over jeans). My 3 year old mainly likes to run around naked except for a tutu at home, and can be persuaded after much much negotiation to add tights, snow boots and a tshirt to her tutu when we leave the house. They are awesome.
    I alas am trapped in a skirts over jeans and hoodie ensemble daily, that is if I can escape the lure of the pajama/ hoodie combo…

    Alexicographer February 9, 2011 at 12:38 am

    I have to admit I’m of the “uniform” school of dressing, simply because I can’t (generally) be bothered. Ideally, it’s something that can go from a hike in the (muddy) woods to my office (which, conveniently, is on a university campus, so, you know…). And my son doesn’t show much interest in branching out (stylistically) yet, either, though who knows.

    I was amused as a college kid traveling abroad to learn that there exist countries where the idea of “fashion” is not “how much like everyone else can I make myself look?” I mean, I’ve adopted the latter approach, but not out of a desire to be fashionable. Yet here in the US, that seems also to be the approach to “style.” It puzzles me. Not sure where Canada falls on that one.

    (OK, technically, I’m not just “uniform,” I’m “uniform” and “not in contemporary tastes” because good heavens otherwise one has to keep up with changing trends. As is, I just have to be careful to avoid wearing anything I own that may have become suddenly, trendily, “vintage.”)

    Stefanie February 9, 2011 at 2:46 am

    My 9 year old wears whatever is clean, although from the time she could walk until 1st grade (6), she wore bright yellow rain boots everyday. In Southern California. With no socks. She LOVED those rain boots and it got to the point where I bought them in bulk.
    If I had my way about MY style, I would dress in Betty Page/Lucille Ball style everyday. Alas, money dictates that I dress in jeans and tshirts from 10 years ago so that the munchkins can have new, sparkly clothes.

    Heather H February 9, 2011 at 5:59 am

    I can’t believe that nobody has mentioned the sneakers that have the flashy lights in the sides of the soles, that light up when you step. My 3 year old son adores his, and his Dad and I both wish they came in adult sizes. Seriously, how cool would that be?! I definitely let my son make his own choices about clothes, even when it means cowboy boots with plaid shorts or “Lightning McQueen” pit crew costume (for the 100th time). I do draw the line at socks with sandals though, because that is some sort of affront to nature. I have an infant daughter now and plan to let her make her own wardrobe choices when she’s old enough to have an opinion. I think that dressing funky is one of the great rites of childhood and so far it’s also been one of my great joys as a parent. It makes me happy when my boy expresses himself with a fun and funky outfit, and some days it’s even enough to nudge me into a bold choice of my own, like maryjanes with cat faces on the toes, or a scarf that someone once told me looked like a “snake warmer” (i.e. A knitted tube such as might be used to keep a snake warm). Bold choices for someone whose wardrobe generally extends from yoga pants and tees to jeans and tees. And it makes me happier still, knowing that my son is making ME a better, bolder, happier person just by being his adorable, uninhibited self :)

    BKC February 9, 2011 at 6:23 am

    I am dying for a bright, cute, patterned rain slicker. I want one that’s bright green with little frogs on it, or a lavender one with ice cream cones or something. Or perhaps, I know they make really bright colored tights. My daughter rocks a pair of magenta ones and I kind of wish I could get away with that too.

    Jasmine Robertson February 9, 2011 at 6:49 am

    I have 3 kids and mornings are just easier when I let them decide what they are going to wear. I dress for comfort first and foremost. Which 2 out of my 3 kids do as well. The last one is a bit of a diva and doesnt think you are dressed until you have on something with glitter. To each their own right?

    Another Suburban Mom February 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

    My PP and your Emilia should hang as they would have a great time playing dress up. She loves dresses and leggings and will layer anything together. She also loves glitter and really colorful tights.

    If I could steal her wardrobe I would probably wear her Minnie Mouse Halloween costume with the ears and her black graffiti glitter tights with her butterfly print black suede booties.

    As it is PP has chosen many of my accessories which would explain my purple I-phone cover, fuschia ski hat, purple handbag and purple and lepoard print gloves.

    Sherry February 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

    My son, now 11 loves to rock the old-man hats. Fedoras, mostly, in the wildest colours of plaids. I admire his ability to find ‘his thing’ (shoes, apparently, are also his thing) and wear it with panache and confidence. Maybe I could learn something from him…

    Meredith February 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Ok, so I’m a really infrequent commenter who has been drawn out of the woodwork by the contest….the shame, the shame. Anyhow: I WISH my boys would dress themselves and I, too, really don’t care or have the energy to argue about clothes. They seem to prefer it when I pick out their clothes, but we’re working on it. So far, the only fashion habit my oldest son has cultivated is the love of pants that have no zippers or snaps, because “I don’t link pants that pinch, Mommy.”
    But the funniest thing about my kids and my own fashion has been how much they love to see me dress up, which I don’t do very often. If my son could have his way, I’d wear a black cocktail dress and heels everyday. But that would be rough for shoveling the driveway and going to the grocery store.
    Great post!

    @suburbanhaiku February 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

    When full grown women
    wear knit hats with tiny ears
    I start to worry.

    Paula/adhocmom February 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    My daughter is all animal print ALL the time.

    Angela@beggingtheanswer February 9, 2011 at 9:51 am

    One thing I’m still working on is feeling comfortable in a bathing suit. I’m carrying excess poundage these days, which makes bathing suit wearing stressful and terrifying. But even when I was a healthy weight (AND young!) I still hated having to wear a bathing suit.

    Preschooler’s preferred outfit these days is…nothing. It’s like living in a mini-nudist camp. So if I could wear one thing from her wardrobe it would be the ability to be comfortable – no, make that HAPPY, – naked.

    Heather MK February 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Love the idea of letting kiddos pick out their own clothes (and mine? maybe.) but my babe is not quite big enough to care much yet.
    Bring on the ON gift certificate so I can choose our clothes for a few more months!!! And thanks for the fun giveaway, btw! :)

    Beatriz February 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    This is soo cool.

    Anna-Marie February 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I have a little toddler of a man. So, I am glad that Old Navy is around with their cute little man clothes. I love their newsboy caps for my little man.

    joanne February 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    My little cousin wears the cutest dresses and leggings. She has leggings in every color and pattern. If it was workplace and age appropriate, I’d totally steal her style and rock crazy striped leggings and mini dresses everyday with slip-on sneakers.

    AutumH February 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I normally let my boys dress themselves though there are times I step in (depending on my mood). I just try and teach them that they dress for themselves but that they should still make an effort to impress when they do and keep themselves clean as much as boys can.

    Brandi February 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I may borrow some clothes from my kids if I could. My daughter is all about the sparkle right now and I just got her a sequiny skirt that is pretty adorable and if it would fit more than just one of my legs I would consider it :)

    Nancy Parker February 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t really get any inspiration from kids – because I pretty much just wear jeans and a dress shirt every day (unless it’s summer). The only thing that I do wear that could be considered that it was an inspiration from children are my socks – I like fun and interesting socks.

    Gillian February 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I would love to have my daughter’s sense of FUN – especially when mixing prints – she really has an eye for it!

    Fern February 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I have 3 daughters & each have their own style. Our public school requires uniforms from K-12 so their style is a bit limited, but my youngest daughter who is still in preschool is probably the one with the biggest fashion statment right now. She loves pretty things and doesn’t care how cold it is outside, she will wear her pretty skirts to school no matter what. She will also try to wear 2 pretty things together whether or not they match (pretty+pretty=Really pretty, Right?) I wish I could be a little more adventurous with my clothes like she is. Thanks for the giveaway!

    shelly ok February 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Within the last few months, I have lost the priviledge of choosing what my 3 year old daughter wears. She has decided that she will wear what she wants, and is very determined to succeed. However, since she wants to wear tank tops and skirts exclusively (she hates pants, especially jeans), I do put some guidelines since we live in Minnesota, and it’s winter. So she wears “big socks” (otherwise known as tights), with her outfits. One day she wore a navy and pink striped shirt, black skirt, pink and white striped big socks, brown boots, and 7 barrettes in varying colors.

    There are still battles, but just to make sure she is weather appropriate, but I am amused by her outfit choices and combinations and layering that I would never use. I definately let her pick her outfits, and it’s something she loves to do. I want her to be creative and have her own sense of style.

    As for my sense of style, I don’t have one. I rarely buy new clothes for myself, until mine are falling apart. It’s all about my kids….

    Tina C. February 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    i was like that as a girl; my outfits were awesome. my boys don’t seem to care too much about their clothes except the older one prefers wearing sweatpants. the little one likes his superman shirt. but neither of them complains when i dress them in awesome outfits of my choosing, like vintage outfits that were my brother’s or sweaters and pants that i’ve made them. thankfully they wear those without complaining.

    Gretchen February 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Definitely more fun leggings with skirts. I lived in the leggings/skirt combo for a few years in the 80s and it was my signature style. I do feel too old to really pull it off now, but if I could, I would. And, who knows, maybe I will!

    Darcie February 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    if i didn’t care what others thought then i would definitely dress in comfy clothes like we put babies in- one-piece PJs, etc.

    Laural February 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I am totally in love with my daughter’s fashion statements. She’s almost 3, and she’s been dressing herself for about a year.
    She’s all about the puffy skirts (with elastic waistbands) and colour. I LOVE that she comes up with random outfits that include bright bright leggings, some sort of princessy shirt and a skirt. Or a princess dress.
    And never dressy shoes. She needs to be able to run.
    If I could copy something about her style it would be leggings, fun socks and running shoes for comfort under awesome skirts. And way more colour.
    She’s also discovered a flair for makeup and puts on sparkles and blush. It’s adorable.
    I wish I could wear sparkles. All the time.

    ste February 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    My daughter is 2 and hasn’t shown any preference for any type of clothes inparticular. I do hope to take a similar approach in that providing she is showing self-confidence and respect, she can wear what she likes.

    Becky February 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I would love to be able to buy “outfits” as in, a pretty shirt with coordinating pretty leggings, and maybe even matching socks. When my kids were little I always bought outfits, pants and shirts that came together, as it made getting dressed so easy. And laundry is easier too, just fold the outfit together and put it in the drawer. And hello, cotton leggings?? So comfy. And then in the summer, super cute sundresses and skorts – I love skorts! – and kids have the best functional yet super cute shoes. Purple sparkly converse? Yes please.

    Sarah February 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    My daughter (3.5 years old) gets extremely upset if someone says her outfit is fancy, pretty, interesting, etc. She cries until we remove the dreaded outfit and let her choose something new. Embracing this, we gave away all of her dresses, skirts, hair accessories, jewelery, and non athletic shoes.

    A little different than the normal answer to this question, I would love to take her ability to choose comfort over style. I especially would love opair atheletic shoes with every outfit, regardless of how ‘dressed to impress’ the occasion requires.

    My son (20 months) loves four items of clothing: A homemade jack-o-lantern shirt we made him for a costume last halloween, socks with hearts, flowers or animals in bright colors, tutus and fairy/butterfly wings. In a typical day he wears multiple pairs of socks on his hands and feet, at least 2 tutus at a time and a pair of wings at the same time. When he is ready for bed he lets me know by ALWAYS finding his pumpkin shirt and demanding he wear it to bed.

    From him, I would love to get away from the gender-normative ideals my clothing follows. His love of tutus does let me live out the whole “practicing ballet in the living room while listening to tamborine music provided by the other sibling” in full flare nearly every night, which makes me exceptionally joyful.

    Mary A-J February 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I would have to say more color, sparkles, and comfort. I would also layer way more only in the winter though…I live in AZ. In the summer minimal clothing is a necessity.

    My son right now is a jeans and cool shirt kind of boy. We pick his clothes still and he is cool with that. He just turned two on the 7th.

    phaltukachra February 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    My boys love to dress themselves, specially my 4 yr old and he does a great job of it. He will properly coordinate color palates and put things together to see if they or not,its a different thing that I have to organize their closets everyday…LOL!

    Mrs. Wilson February 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Both my girls (9 and 3) love to wear stripey tights and tule-y skirts. I would totally join them if I was braver (and could find such clothes in adult size). And the sun dress over jeans? Happens all the time in our house because the dress is still cute and still fits in the winter and why not still wear it?

    The only thing I probably wouldn’t take from my daughters’ style(s) is the fact that my 3-year-old is constantly putting her pants on backwards. It’s adorable on her, but would probably not look too swell on me.

    I so love that you let Emilia pick her own clothes. I see it as such a confidence-booster and it’s inspired me to let my girls pick what they wear, instead of thinking “but what will someone think of me if I let her out like that?” So, thank you for that.

    Stephanie February 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Dream come true! I love ON kid’s clothes (and women’s clothes too!)

    Kathryn Humphreys February 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    oooooh. Pajamas. But not just pajamas. I want to wear the same pajamas for like 3 days straight, not bathe (cause who has time for that crap) and still look adorable. Wow, look at those high ambitions.

    Steph February 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Being pregnant…. I would wear my green pajama pants with polka dots EVERYWHERE. Or I would just buy more pairs of super fun pajama pants. And I would wear a lot more fun colored, yet comfy shoes. But I’m a 100% tshirt girl – unless I have to look professional. I hope I can teach my baby girl to just dress how she wants and for her to be happy – and not give a crap about what everyone else thinks.

    oona b February 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    My eight year old daughter constantly wears a worn out Star Wars jersey we found at a thrift store. She wears it to school after she’s slept in it, she wears it with flouncy skirts, she wears it with shorts over tights..It is a much loved item and I wish I had something that I was that attached to. I feel like I’ve lost that attachment and magical feeling in terms of my relationship with my clothes.

    Sarah February 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I have no idea why this was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought “If I could wear anything…”
    …But it would totally be some sparly green/teal blue kick ass heels that almost look like a mermaid tail. And to go with it some super dark jeans that make my butt look **awesome** I don’t even care about the shirt. I just want some super outrageous shoes!!!

    My daughter wears pretty much what ever I grab out of the closet- which may or may not be dark and I have no idea if what I am picking matches and don’t really care. If she catches the “matchy matchies” I don’t know what I’ll do.

    JenniferH February 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    My 2 1/2 year old daughter and I have the same style…comfy cords or jeans and a warm henley or sweater, preferrably both, layered. It’s all about creating warmth in Minnesota this time of year!

    Though I would borrow her ‘Twinkle Toes’ shoes if they fit me. I don’t know why Skechers doesn’t make them in adult sizes. Seriously!

    Portia February 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I wish I had the guts to dress like that. I really need to take a lesson from your daughter and just wear what I like.

    Dia February 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I would borrow my daughters Girls Faux-Suede Cozy “Adoraboots” but they don’t have my size. But I do have the nerve!

    JenM February 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Baby is still in footed jammies most of the day but the lesson learned from that is be comfortable with whatever you are wearing. Lounging is an art!

    Susie B February 9, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    My youngest daughter has a real talent for putting together outfits. She does a lot of leggings with short skirts- and doesn’t always match colors and patterns- which can work out in really surprising ways. It has inspired me to wear more colors!

    rachelle February 9, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I’d love to wear short little skirts with leggings underneath, but I don’t think anyone would take me seriously.!

    Angel February 9, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I like for my baby to look cute and pick outfits accordingly. My husband just dresses her in the first thing he grabs from her closet regardless if it matches or not. But at least she’s warm.

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