Why is style important in children’s clothing?
This is a question I’m sometimes asked and it deserves a detailed answer. My initial, simple response is just to ask: why is style important in anything?
It isn’t hard to come up with a whole raft of answers to that question. I won’t even attempt to cover off all of the answers here, but in the world of fashion, style is very much to do with how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others. Whether we like it or not, what others look like has quite a bearing on how we relate to them.
There have been many studies to show that how someone dresses has a profound influence on how we respond to them. The whole concept ‘power dressing’ is a great example this. Real or imagined, power dressing actually does give us power.
While many people take great care with their appearance and delight in expressing their mood and personality through their clothing and personal grooming, there are others who say things like ‘I don’t care about what I wear because I don’t care how others see me’.
But even these people, who we might see in the street, shuffling along with their greasy hair, in their dowdy, ill-matching T shirts and bobbly track suit bottoms, are saying a great deal. What are they saying?
They’re saying something like – I can’t be bothered too much with you. If you want to have a positive experience relating to me, you’ll have to work hard to get through this unattractive appearance and find that I’m really not as awful as I look. And I guess that’s a style all on its own – although not one I would recommend to anyone!
But even the act of dressing to look good is not, in itself, a style, because a style is to do with something that is recognisable and distinctive. In art, for example, it is very easy to distinguish the broad brush strokes of a Monet landscape from the vibrant swirling colours of a Van Gogh.
A style is a reflection of our uniqueness and what is special about us. In clothes, our style of dressing may be conscious or unconscious, but it is always distinctive. When dress with a greater awareness of style, we are giving ourselves so many opportunities, not just to feel good about ourselves, but to enhance our relationships with others. A personal style is not something that is set in stone, never to change. Far from it. New fashions and trends can continually inspire, delight and challenge us, as we try new things out. This for me, is the beauty of style. So why should we deny children any of this?
It comes down to how we see children, doesn’t it? Those who would deny children the right to express themselves through their appearance are not recognising their right to self-expression. They are saying that children don’t have any sense of feeling good in what they are wearing. I know, from working in children’s fashion, that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
So am I saying ‘just let the children choose whatever they want to wear?’ No, of course not. But I am saying that we should incorporate dressing and clothes into our general approach to parenting. We nurture their attitudes and their values but we also observe and delight in the personalities that we see emerging as our children grow older. Letting them have a say in what they wear is more than just a confidence-booster – it is wonderfully educational.
I am firmly of the belief that a child’s personality should be reflected in the choices they make with you, their parent. If, for example, a girl chooses a ‘tomboyish’ blue shirt or a pretty pink one – that should be encouraged and actively celebrated. This is how we start them on the ladder of style and all of the positive things that go with it.
So really, when I say ‘how to match style to your child’s personality’ I’m really talking about incorporating clothing and style into the whole beautiful process of growing up!
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