Everything I Needed To Know About Style I Learned From My Kindergartner

February 15, 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. And maybe take the opportunity to apply Emilia’s Ten Rules Of Fashion, outlined below.)

Last week, I let Emilia be my stylist. It worked out well, all things considered.

But even though I threw myself wholeheartedly into this little experiment – I wore socks with heels, for pity’s sake – I didn’t end up wearing one of her fully-conceived outfits into public. I thought about it – I thought about it hard – but I came to the conclusion that a) I could better pay respect to her sartorial vision by adapting that vision appropriately to my needs than I could by making public appearances in a bedazzled pink cowboy hat, and b) I really didn’t want to make a public appearance in a bedazzled pink cowboy hat. So I took bits and pieces of her style advice – some skull socks and black patent heels here, a Hello Kitty sweater there – and incorporated them into my day-to-day look. And I think that I’m going to continue doing this – asking her for style advice and using it with my own grown-up tweaks and amendments – because, seriously: it’s fun and it’s awesome and I’m actually learning from her.

I’ve learned ten things, actually. Emilia calls them ‘Emilia’s Ten Sweet Rules About Fashion’, although she insists that they’re “not actually rules, Mommy, because you can break them and not get into trouble. They’re just really good suggestions.” NOTED.

1.) Wear it if it feels good. Is it soft? Would you sleep in it? Have all irritating tags and extraneous ribbons and clips and such been removed? Can you take scissors to it and have it be more comfortable? (All scissor use in this household is supervised, by the way. Okay, most scissor use.) Is it pajamas? Who ever said that pajamas couldn’t be worn in the daytime? If it feels good, it is worth wearing.

2.) Unless it’s so awesome that it doesn’t matter if it feels good. No armhole is too small, no pant too short if said shirt or pant is much-beloved and/or looks fabulous. Sizing is only a suggestion, and it’s up to you to decide whether those suggestions apply to you.

3.) Wear it if it makes you happy. Sometimes, you just love something so much that you have to wear it, even if it doesn’t fit/doesn’t match your pants/you wore it to bed last night. Love conquers all fashion rules.

4.) Wear it whenever you want. You’ll notice that ‘pajamas’ have come up more than once already on this list. That’s because pajamas are awesome. Pajamas are soft. Pajamas are comfortable. Pajamas usually have fabulous prints and designs that you don’t find on so-called ‘daytime’ clothes, presumably because pajama designers assume that pajamas will only be worn at nighttime, when it’s dark and no-one will be able to see their crazy cherries-and-rainbows print. But who says pajamas are only for nighttime? Why NOT wear them out of the house? And, for the matter, who says that costumes are only for costume parties and Halloween? Or that evening wear is just for formal events? THINK OUTSIDE THE CLOCK, PEOPLE. Emilia does.

5.) Wear it with whatever you want. Who ever said that dresses don’t go over pants, or that shorts don’t go over over tights, or that shorty wetsuits don’t go over pajamas (they maybe shouldn’t, but that’s beside the point), or that Snow White costumes don’t go over skateboard gear, or that tutus are only supposed to be worn with tights and leotards and ballet shoes? How can you know if any of these combinations don’t work if you don’t try them?

6.) So, yeah. EXPERIMENT. Try any combination of clothing that you want. And throw some non-clothing in there from time to time, too, just to keep things interesting. After all, that wrapping paper is so pretty, and just think of what you could do with some cardboard, a head lamp, some leaves and discarded doll parts?

You could do awesome, that’s what you could do.

7.) Accessorize like it’s the end of the world and you’ll never accessorize again. Accessories are your opportunity to really have fun with an outfit. Go crazy! Think outside the closet! Discarded doll parts make good epaulets. And bedazzled cowboy hats go with everything.

8.) And then accessorize some more. That old rule that after you’ve put an outfit together, you should look in the mirror and assess and then remove one accessory? Nonsense. There is nothing in this world that isn’t made better by more shiny things.

9.) Wear it if you like the color. Not, if the color looks good on you or if the color matches your pants, just if you like it. Because, as Emilia likes to say, “colors are pretty; that’s why there are rainbows.” And have you ever seen a small child dress themselves entirely in black?

10.) Nudity is a perfectly appropriate style choice under certain specific circumstances, and also, is awesome. This is not to say that you should embrace naturalism and go about your daily errands without pants. It is to say that there is something awesome about being so comfortable with your naked self that you would be quite happy to abandon your clothing whenever an appropriate opportunity presents itself. For Emilia, clothes serve a number of different purposes, none of which include covering up her body just for the sake of covering it up. Clothes are for decorating one’s self and for enjoying the feel of soft fabrics and for surrounding one’s self with color and sparkle and for indulging the imagination and for protecting one’s self against the elements (this last one is often only admitted grudgingly. Rain boots only get between bare feet and puddles, and can’t you make better snowmen with bare hands, and ‘I like the wind on my bum, Mommy!’) Clothes are not for concealing parts of ourselves that we don’t like, they’re for celebrating everything about ourselves – and everything else, including unicorn stickers – that we do like.

And that, I think, is the most important lesson for me. When I look in the mirror, I want to not see my perceived flaws and think about how I am going to overcome those flaws with cotton and Spandex; instead, I want to look at myself and go, oh, hello, you! How are we going to express ourselves today? Or, good morning, Self! Do you feel like being super duper comfy today? I sure do! Or, oh, hey Missus! Today feels like a good day for PINK! I want to look in the mirror in the spirit of love and self-satisfaction and play. I want to look in the mirror like a five year old does.

I’m going to make a concerted effort to do that. You should, too.

I’ve already asked you what the lessons are that your children are teaching you about personal style? And I’ve asked what you think your kids would dress you in, given the opportunity? Now I want to know: what do you want to be able to say to yourself when you look in the mirror? How do you want to feel about your relationship to clothes and style and expressing yourself and how your self – and your body – which, let’s face it, you’ve probably just been ‘covering up,’ haven’t you? – relates to clothes and style and expressing yourself? And: do you feel more ready now, like me, to introduce more glitter into that relationship? 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.) (You can also just follow this link and get a pretty sweet coupon.)

(Oh, and if you entered by leaving a comment at the last post? You get another entry by commenting again! There will be three winners in total, one selected from each of the comment threads to the posts in this series. So, if you haven’t already, be sure to go weigh in on the first post, and the second one, too.)

CONGRATULATIONS to Diane, Mary and Julie – you’re the winners of the gift cards. Check your email!

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    { 104 comments }

    Stephanie V. February 16, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I’d like to wear more form fitting, sexy clothes and not my frumpy, mom, cover up my fat clothes. Would like my clothes to say “confident”
    tvollowitz at aol dot com

    Krista February 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Yes, I love glitter… as long as it’s not too much! I like the little rhinestones that they put on some of those shirts that have patterns. I have a couple of them.
    What do I want to say to my self… self: Have more self-control when it comes to eating! Enjoy your cookies, but not 20 of them at a time! You will have more energy and not have to buy new clothes that way! Not that new clothes are bad, it’s just that I’d rather buy them because they are fun, not because I grew out of my old ones!

    Her Bad Mother February 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    @Krista, there’s such a thing as too much glitter? Emilia would disagree, vehemently ;)

    Virginia February 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I want to look in the mirror and say, “Damn, woman! You look GOOD for 41!” And some days I do.

    Jesika February 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    @Jesika, And….I want to be able to look in the mirror and know I look as hot as I feel, just like she can. I’d say: “you are hot, in a cool way.” ;)

    Fern February 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I want to be a mom, but not necessarily look like one. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Kayt February 17, 2011 at 12:28 am

    I would like to be able to be happy with my body.

    Alison February 17, 2011 at 1:17 am

    I have a few outfits that I absolutely love and I get so happy when I look in the mirror because I just feel so confident and good about myself. I wish I had more outfits like that!

    ferriz February 17, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I want to be able to say I am not a sheep. I have a voice, I am not one of the flock, and I am myself. Pretty much I want to be able to stand out in a crowd and be noticed for my awesome self instead of hiding in the shadows!

    Her Bad Mother February 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    @ferriz, love this. thank you :)

    Cynthia C February 17, 2011 at 6:37 am

    When I look in the mirror I want to see confidence and style with a nod to my personality.

    LeAndrew W. Taylor February 17, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I would love to look in the mirror and be proud of how I’ve dressed myself! But the truth of the matter is, I have ‘absolutely’ no fashion sense! At forty, I still depend on my wife and teen daughters for advice on how to assemble a complete outfit! I often wish I was born with George Clooney’s confidence and sense of style!

    Laural February 17, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I would really like to look in the mirror and not hate myself. Really, it would be amazing to get dressed and instead of thinking to myself “great, this outfit doesn’t show that fat part only this one” just think “Wow! I look great.”
    I bought a purple dress awhile ago and I love it, but all I think is how purple makes me look fat. (which typed out sounds really bizarre). So, next week I will wear it. And embrace it.I think.

    Her Bad Mother February 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    @Laural, yay! DO wear it! And LOVE IT! I will cheer you on!

    Dia February 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I like the Wear it if it makes you happy rule! Thanks for the giveaway! I’d like to look in the mirror and think “Oh Yeah!”

    Terry C February 17, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I want to be able to look in the mirror and say that I look good. Right now I am just dressing to cover up. I need to put more style into my wardrobe and have more confidence in how I look.

    Laurie February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I would love to think that I belong in a magazine because I look so put together.. unfortunately the only magazine I’d belong in right now is Insane Mommies or something along those lines. :D

    elle February 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I love glitter! Yes, I am ready. Though practical in most ways, I love to add a flairy (ha) item or two. Your creative thoughts have made this fun! Thanks for this giveaway!

    susan smoaks February 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    when i look into the mirror i want to say that i look good in my new old navy clothes

    Liz M. February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I want to be able to say that I look healthy and fit and that my clothes are at once appropriate, flattering and an expression of my personal style!

    Daniel M February 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    i’d like to be somewhat current, all my clothes are old

    Sarah L February 18, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I think more glitter is good.
    Thanks for the contest.

    Sarah L February 18, 2011 at 12:56 am

    I’ll take another entry for having posted on all three posts.

    Fern February 18, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Sometimes I wish I could be more like my 2nd daughter. As long as she has something reasonably appropriate for the occasion/weather, she is happy and after she is dressed, doesn’t worry so much about what she’s wearing. Thanks for the givaways!

    Silvia February 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I just wanted to let you know I’ve been enjoying these styling posts enormously, thank you for taking the time to not only learn things from your daughter but also for sharing them with us. Today I wore a super soft wool sweater and I felt I had a new awareness of the fact that it felt so good on the skin. I think I’ll be taking that kind of details into consideration from now on, and I love it!

    Rachel February 20, 2011 at 1:17 am

    I have to say I’m really enjoying this series about clothing! And I love how you said, clothing is for decorating yourself, not hiding things you don’t like. I’m so guilty of that.

    Melissa @ HerGreenLife February 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    When I look in the mirror, I want to celebrate and appreciate my ever-changing pregnant body :)

    MBT Sale March 3, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I am definitively thankful to you for providing us with this priceless results. My spouse and I are completely thankful, solely the results we needed.

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