Why do we dress our children the way we do? Fashion performs a precarious dance all over the shop, and all the while children’s style stomps out its own beat.
It exists in a world of its own. Practicality and comfort are paramount. The garments our babes wear aren’t outfits, they’re costumes.
And it’s a given: these frocks of theirs must look fabulous!
Adventures are made while they wear these precious clothes. Our sweet little people use their dress ups to tell stories of who they are – and of who they dream of becoming.
When I first had my little girl it was so easy to choose what I wished came in my size. But as Olivia found her voice (literally), it was obvious she had a sense of style all her own, not mine. And now at two years old, the thought of getting her into something she’s not interested in..? ah…
So what do our children want to wear?
After all, these are “their” clothes… their personal expression, their comfort and their image of themselves they bring to the world.
What inspires them? I don’t think this is a silly question.
We want our children to become unique individuals. We also want them to be able to “fit in” – while holding their own ground. And so, we have to let them call some of the shots.
Letting them choose their own outfits might seem somewhere between hilarious, frustrating and downright impractical. But watch them delight in (and settle on) favourite themes, colours, pieces! They will discern what “works” – for them.
And they will have gained something invaluable along the way: an understanding of style as a language, a sense of self expression and a confidence in who they are and the things they love.
We can show them all the things we love, but I feel that the more they see in the world around them – the more unusual, varied and colourful experiences they are exposed to, the more raw material they have to draw on when they weave together their own unique sense of style.
What does this mean for those of us designing for little people?
I confess I design for Olivia and for myself. The pieces I develop are the fruit of a delicate dance between what I long to create and what she demands from what she wears.
Each time something I’m working on is dismissed, I remind myself it’s a dialogue, not a rejection. There might be a practical reason she doesn’t fancy a frock. There might not. Does the difference matter?
Some visions I won’t compromise. Certain details I hold to ferociously, no matter how many other features I am prepared to alter in a garment. And sometimes these finished pieces hang prettily on my clothes rail, unworn by my daughter… but not unloved by me.
“It doesn’t mean another child won’t like it”, I whisper to myself.
“It doesn’t mean another mother won’t love it…” my cynicism adds.
Sometimes we need sweet little clothes for the little girls we once were. We just have to remember who we bought them for.
Our children will find their own way. It’s our job to help them do up their buttons.
After all, some shots are hers to call.
And the muse has spoken…