a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Mar, 2008

Let the record show

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Emma dresses herself in the morning. I usually put her clothes out the night before. We’ve been doing it this way since she was a toddler. It totally cut down on any dressing issues, sped things up, and made our mornings MUCH EASIER overall.

I can’t recommend this technique enough.  

Anyway, I would like to point out that the clothes I choose tend to, um, match. And I’m not just talking about colours. But I like to match within the season in which we are currently living. This is all about fabric, and the weight of the fabric. Here in Ottawa we have four distinct seasons (can you imagine the array of JACKETS we need to get by every year?) including 30 degree summers and -30 degree winters. That’s a difference of sixty degrees.  I mean really, sometimes you can’t wear a lightweight sleeveless dress with a fat bulky turtleneck underneath it. (At least I wouldn’t!)

So without further ado… this is what Emma wore to school today:

Emma this morning 

There’s some lightweight summer cotton in there, woolly knits, and heavy leggings. Oh, and a hairband in Easter pastels. Not exactly matchy, is it? But I do like to see how she’s beginning to express herself in her choice of clothing. It’s fun watching your kids grow up and become actual people. It’s kind of satisfying really.

Internally, I am debating how much input a mother should have into her kid’s wardrobe. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

15 Responses to "Let the record show"

1 | Pendullum

March 18th, 2008 at 9:11 am


My daughter has her own style…Always has…
When she was younger, it was all dresses and being a princess, and now at the age of ten, her dresses, always have jeans underneath…She picks out patterns that contrast…and yet somehow they work…

I think Emma rocks!!!

2 | Marla

March 18th, 2008 at 9:47 am


It actually works, because she has a good sense of proportion – of longs and shorts; and the patterns, while busy, are balanced in intensity. As well, the colours are all related too – so, I think it works because it’s so “off”. It also helps that she’s adorable, and isn’t thirty-eight and suffering from a passionate love of various carbohydrates mixed with butter and parmesan.

I think that as long as she’s happy, it’s fine. As for input? As long as parents hold the purse-strings, they have the final veto on anything when purchased. But once it’s been deemed appropriate and exists in the wardrobe, it’s up to the kid how and when it’s worn – considering the occasion as well. And if some days said kid is a little too hot or too cold – it gives the parent some gentle reminders to use when the next time comes to help make decisions. At least, that’s what I’m finding out at four. When we choose Josie’s clothes for the day, I ask “Do you have any preferences today?” and sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn’t. So far, it’s working.

3 | porter

March 18th, 2008 at 10:08 am


Mouse started taking an interest in her clothing last November and refuses to wear what I lay out for her….and of course Bug is following her sisters lead. Both like to select favourite articles of clothing, matching isn’t important!
I miss being able to pick their outfits for them but I see how important it is especially to Mouse, that she gets to choose her own clothes. She feels beautiful and I don’t have the heart to tell her that her clothes don’t match or that her outfit isn’t really appropriate (like wearing a fairy costume with black tights and a long sleeved tshirt underneath)…as long as she is warm enough I let her.
I will admit that sometimes I worry that she will be made fun of by the other kids…kids can be mean, and she does wear some interesting outfits.

4 | J.

March 18th, 2008 at 10:22 am


lately I’ve seen alot of 20 somethings walking around downtown with unique style. Red leggings, green boots, purples shirts.. I guess it’s a new trend that I don’t quite understand.

I really admire these people for not caring what people think. A. has a bit of that in him too. He’ll wear plaid blazers, striped pants and a johnny cash t-shirt and say ‘hey! i look good’ I really admire that in him.

If Emma learns at an early age not to care what people think. I think you’ve won huge in the end.

5 | Meghan

March 18th, 2008 at 11:56 am


Both my girls (6 and 8) always dress themselves every morning. I figure it is the best way for them to express themselves and to learn how to dress. It is always interesting to see what they both pick as favorites. To make things simple I put away any clothes that are not season appropriate. Every change of season we pull out a new set of clothes and ditch/pass on any clothes that no longer fit. They always feel like they are getting “new” clothes. It takes some effort but it is a fun way to spend an

6 | mel

March 18th, 2008 at 12:36 pm


I’ve let both my kids choose their own clothings since they’ve been able to dress themselves.

I make sure that what they have access to is seasonally appropriate (which is oh-so-necessary with that 60 degree temperature fluctuation!) and clean. Other than special occasions, their choices are completely up to them–which does lead to some interesting style statements!

7 | Julie

March 18th, 2008 at 12:39 pm


I have always let my children dress themselves for the most part. My son has gone to the park in his sister’s clothes, and my daughter has gone shopping wearing combinations that I found exhausting to look at. We do have some rules though: 1. items must be clean (as inspected by mom or dad), 2. no jogging pants on outings, 3. children must listen to parental input on “special” occasions (weddings, parties, etc…). I also manage the choices by buying things that match in many combinations, and only load their drawers with seasonal things. This way, even my three year old can dress himself… even though sometimes he puts everything on backwards!

8 | anne turner

March 18th, 2008 at 4:52 pm


I think Emma looks great! Marla explains in her first paragraph maybe why, with the colors tied together and the balanced intensity. I think of open-ended building toys that my boys like to play with. Dressing -for girls, especially, is a bit like that– putting different colors and patterns together, experimenting. It’s called developing a sense of style, isn’t it?

We live in San Antonio, so it gets cool here, but the range is generally more like from 30 to 90+ degrees. This winter it has been all over the place in the course of a day – so I often wear short sleeves under a sweater. My five-year-old who dresses himself, usually, just asks whether to put on short sleeves or long, long pants or shorts. So it’s not nearly as complicated. Plus, he doesn’t have hair accessories or tights/skirts/dresses.

He definitely has a sense of style and I can tell he feels great and spiffy when he wears certain favorite shirts and his belt which we got him for Christmas.

My mom did a lousy job of dressing me when I was little. This has come up a little on the few occasions she’s had to dress my kids. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the look I’m going for and the look she’s going for, do not align.

9 | Shan

March 18th, 2008 at 7:44 pm


I lay my girls clothes out for the week. My oldest (5) will sometimes ask for certain articles of clothing, but mostly she leaves it up to me. The weekends are all hers though. I only really say no if it isn’t seasonably appropriate or it doesn’t fit. So that means she has gone out with a tiara on her head or princess dress up shoes. I figure she’s a kid, there will be plenty of time for dressing “properly” when she’s older.

10 | Freakazojd

March 18th, 2008 at 9:41 pm


I like the other comments and really the only thing I have to say is that I think it’s GREAT to let your kids dress themselves. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s that feeling of empowerment – that “I’m big enough to do this myself” kind of thing. My mom told me I wasn’t allowed to mix brown & blue (now one of my favourite combos when the shades are right) or pink & red (also can be done). I always thought that it was too bad that she didn’t just let me experiment. Kids can be cruel no matter how you dress. If it’s not your clothes it’s just something else, so you might as well wear whatever you like. :)

11 | andrea

March 19th, 2008 at 7:31 am


For the most part I try to weed out clothes that are too small and push the summer stuff to the back of the closet.

Although this hasn’t really happened yet, I do reserve the right to veto something at point of purchase. I do encourage certain combinations of clothing – ones I personally find pleasing – but usually the girls wear what they want.

Today, for example, Emma was wearing pants that were slightly short. (Okay, they were floods.) It was a pair that were just given to us by a friend. I told her they were too short and that after today she had to give them up. She put on the biggest pout (“Ya want a bird to come and land on that lip??”) … clearly she didn’t like that idea. I told her that as a parent, it’s my right to tell her about General Fashion Rules but that she had the right to ignore those rules as she sees fit. I do try to encourage a sense of personal style, but at the same time I don’t want her to be teased.

Also: I don’t let the kids wear track pants to school. And (this is a school rule) they’re not allowed to wear anything that reveals the mid-section. (To which Emma says: “who cares iabout belly buttons?? EVERYONE HAS ONE!”)

12 | Alison in Ottawa

March 19th, 2008 at 10:17 am


I have a 2.5 year old and a 5 year old. Obviously I dress the 2.5 year old but the 5 year old gets to choose what she wears. Usually everything in her room fits and is clean so we are ok there. She has no risque clothing (as I do not buy her any and the only other person who buys them clothes is my sister who is sensible and a lovely Swedish friend who has fabulous, (and I mean amazingly fabulous) taste) so any combination my 5 year old comes up with I can deal with (not agree with, but not a battle worth having). She is currently 98% of the time wearing skirts. She has no interest in pants. This has pushed my buying patterns to add a few more skirts so she is not wearing the same two things all week (the ballet skirt has been almost worn out, best $12 purchase ever). The only rule at the moment is that dress-up clothes are NOT real clothes and cannot be worn to school or to bed. Putting on snow pants with a fluffy ballet skirt adds a level of challenge to the morning sometimes.

13 | BeachMama

March 19th, 2008 at 2:43 pm


J still lets me dress him most days, however, it is getting harder and harder. He is so influenced by his friends that he wants to wear what they are wearing and I don’t always agree.

As for Sarah, I think she got it right. A little of all seasons in there and this year, I would be saying go for it as I too am tired of my winter clothing.

14 | Soirenoir

March 20th, 2008 at 8:34 am


I have let them dress themselves since they were under 2. They always look wacky, but hey, they did it themselves, and there was no fight.

My only input it generally if things are too small/short or ripped/torn — anything else isn’t worth the drama :P

Yesterday Amy wore a blue plaid skirt, black and orange stripped tights, and a rainbow stripped shirt. She was cute, but Oh gods the colors :P

15 | jennP

March 20th, 2008 at 5:09 pm


My daughter is soon to be 6. I let her dress herself because she expresses herself that way. she is VERY colorful. More color and more pattern is usually her philosophy. I don’t want to tell her not to wear this or that because “what will people think”. I don’t want her to feel like she will be judged for her choices in clothing. it puts too much importance on looks. I do explain to her now that when you wear a patterned shirt, you wear plain pants and vice versa. Otherwise it kind hurts my eyes. I really want her to be comfortable with herself and not have to dress up for others. She is a very confident child and she really doesn’t care (for now) what others say about her clothing choices.
I agree that as long as it is seasonally appropriate and clean, its good enough for me :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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