Dress You Up in My Love: Picking clothing for your children
By the time I had my son, I was old enough (ahem-mid-30s-coughcough) to know my own style. I am not someone who spends a lot of money on my wardrobe, but I do spend a good deal of time and effort coordinating my outfits. So as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started imagining how I would dress him or her.
My mom dressed my sister and I alike (we are 19 months apart in age) until we were old enough to protest — around 7 or 8 years old. A twin herself, she’d buy us matching dresses in different colors, and I think that had a profound effect upon our disparate approach to clothing today. My sister dresses like a high-powered executive (befitting her career) with a penchant for expensive name brands from elite department stores, while I shop at thrift shops, and regularly scour consignment and vintage racks that offer the opportunity to buy affordable, unique pieces.
As soon as my sister and I started making disposable income via odd jobs in our early teens, my sister started spending her money on brand names. I can still remember my vicarious thrill over the purchase of her first pair of Guess jeans, and how cool we thought she was because of an upside down triangle on her butt.
When we had our sons two months apart, I realized that our children would reflect that difference in approach — just as we mirrored, and consequently rejected, our mom’s influence.
To me, the idea that you would want to pay someone to promote their company on their behalf seems contrary to my idea of buying clothes, so I would never put my child in an outfit that advertised the brand name. However, being a parent and dressing your child like you is nearly impossible to avoid.
I have a friend from college who wore the pants of an Adidas tracksuit nearly every day, usually with a matching hoodie. (Hey, it was the ’90s, OK??) Years ago he moved out west, got married, had two kids; and when I got his Christmas card in the mail last year, both of his girls were wearing matching Gap sweatshirts. They were adorable children who looked very happy, but all I could think of was how much like their father they were dressed.
When I found out I was having a boy, I was so excited about the prospect of dressing a little guy. I didn’t want to create a mini-me — that seemed weird and fraught with future emotional trauma for a child of any gender. Yet how else is it possible to dress your kid if you aren’t choosing clothes that YOU find attractive?
You’re probably thinking, “But girls have so many more clothing options than little boys do!” and you’d be absolutely right. Head into any children’s clothing store and you’ll immediately notice the boys’ section is about one-third the size of the girls’, which is usually heavily cast in — you guessed it — nearly every shade of pink.
At 3 and a half years old, my son is involved in the choosing of his clothes. Because his dad and I don’t necessarily agree on every clothing option ourselves — and quite honestly our son’s not nearly as interested in the subtle differences of pattern, color or cut as we are — we do our best to choose classic pieces, which likely reflect our own senses of taste rather than his. My husband and I allow him to pick from a group of “approved” selections (we bent the rules last month and let him get a pair of sandals neither of us would’ve ever chosen). And, although he often he picks gender-neutral greens and purples, I would never deny him anything pink.
My son is pretty much his father’s doppelganger. The Irish-German big head, long legs and delicate features are something he certainly didn’t get from my short, brown, angular, Puerto Rican side of the family. Although he acquired my enthusiasm and proclivity for words, the little guy’s resemblance to his dad is uncanny. And while that is especially noticeable when they’re dressed alike, he’ll find his own way of dressing once he is old enough to make those decisions — hopefully we don’t scar him too much in the meantime. Until then, I’ll keep finding really cute plaid button-downs and skinny jeans for him to wear.