a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Oct, 2010

Passion for fashion

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

It’s Monday, laundry day. It means I’m sorting and washing and drying and heaping everything into giant technicolour mountains on our bed for the girls to sort and put away tonight.

There’s a lot to be said about the clothes we wear. When I was in high school my friends and I would take the bus to downtown Toronto for all-day shopping excursions to cute secondhand shops along Queen Street and Kensington Market. I’m sure my parents were appalled that I was, heaven forbid, WEARING SOMEONE ELSE’S CLOTHING. I mean GOD, someone could HAVE DIED IN THOSE JEANS.

When the girls were younger they had little choice over what they wore. We laid out their clothes together before bed and that’s what they wore the next day. (This also prevented commonly reoccurring seasonal issues i.e. one girl wants to wear a summer dress when it’s twenty below.) It made for smoother mornings as there was no arguing over what to wear.

Of course, now that the kids are older they are dressing themselves without my help. When we’re shopping for clothes they have more input. I do, however, retain veto power. Sometimes they put together combinations that surprise me, like this:

fashion passion

… it makes me happy that they are finding their own styles, whatever they are. (Can you believe I caved and bought cream-coloured boots?)

Mothers differ over what is and what is not appropriate clothing for school-age girls. For example, I don’t have a problem with short shorts or two-piece bikinis at the beach. I do, however, have a problem when those short shorts are paired with knee-high boots and an off-the shoulder crop top that has SKANKY HO written across the chest. Five year olds shouldn’t dress like that.

When parents express disdain, that’s when kids dig in their spurs and fight even harder to wear what they want to wear. So at some point I predict that I’m going to lose some leverage and this whole issue is going to get more interesting. :)

How are you finding the issue of dressing your kids? Is it a battlezone, or do you let your kids express themselves through their clothing in their own ways? And where do you draw the line?

14 Responses to "Passion for fashion"

1 | Mandy from Nova Scotia

October 18th, 2010 at 8:02 am


Well I have two boys my oldest is 10 and he only wants to wear skinny jeans and name brand t-shirts & hoodies which is fine but he only has so many of these items so it is a fight for him to wear gym clothes on gym day and a fight for him to realize if you don’t put your 3 pairs of skinny jeans in the dirty clothes basket they aren’t going to get washed on laundry day. My youngest son is 6 and he will only wear gym clothes but he forgets that pants aren’t towels or dish clothes or rags so he wipes EVERY THING on his pants and now pants that are 3 weeks old look 3 years old. ahhh kids whatta do??

2 | Carla

October 18th, 2010 at 10:09 am


I love Sarah’s outfit, funky and fun.
And I am amazed you have been able to set out the kids clothing for a what seems like a long time!
My kids started demanding to dress themselves at 2.5 (the older one) and about 16 months the younger one. It does take longer sometimes and at times getting the younger one to choose when she was barely a year and a half was a struggle but there was no real choice apart from forcing a shirt on her and hearing her blood curdling screams until she took it off – which really is not a choice in my book. But, it gives them independence they crave and so what if they don’t match? At the beginning I worried people would think I dressed them so poorly, but then realised that their choices were wacky enough that any adult would realise that the kids dressed themselves and if they didn’t, then whatever, I could live with being thought of as the wacky-dresser mom. Really, they are kids so what if their clothes don’t match? This worry is more an adult thing that people will think we are bad parents. And they find their style, which is great. And now I can also say, go get dressed and they go and come back dressed and that’s one less thing I have to do (except for checking for piles of rejected clothes on the floor, but that’s another matter). I do a seasonal changeover of clothing and out of season clothes go into a box, sorted in the basement. And I do retain control over purchases and veto hand-me-downs that I don’t want to see my kids dressed in. Like pink, I don’t like pink and I think it is so overused that I vetoed it until the kids were 2ish and then it makes appearances as ‘another colour’ not ‘the’ colour.

3 | meanie

October 18th, 2010 at 10:43 am


as an ex-punk rocker i love seeing what they come up with – i hate it when all kids dress the same. i don’t say much when it comes to what they wear – the oldest still likes me to lay out her clothes sometimes and the youngest loves mixing things up. the only argument i have is with the youngest who would like to wear a princess costume to school everyday – the compromise is she can wear them on the weekend (yes, that’s my daughter mini-golfing/bowling/hiking in a princess gown). i would draw the line at prosti-top clothing. i hate slutty looking girls.

4 | Karen at Virtually There

October 18th, 2010 at 11:24 am


I let the kids express themselves. My only rules are that it is appropriate for the weather and that it shows a degree of modesty. If they want to wear crazy combinations, fine with me. I like to see what they choose to put together. My kids are still pretty little – just 6, 4 and 0 so I still do the shopping.

5 | Julie

October 18th, 2010 at 12:22 pm


I have two boys and one girl, and have always found it much harder to both shop and dress my daughter. I like to consider some rules when I’m buying her things: a) she must be with me, or else chances are she won’t like it and will be too polite to tell me and then the thing I love but she hates will just sit in her closet, b) the item must be age-appropriate (no two piece bathing suits, no low neck lines, no short shorts or skirts – I know that seems like an imposition for this generation, but she hasn’t ever complained) and c) no prominent logos (I don’t want to pay money to advertise for Disney or GAP). All this being said, the absolute most difficult thing about dressing her is that she isn’t a girly girl and doesn’t want glitter or diamonds or even pink or purple. So it’s been tough, but it’s all up for discussion and when she feels like it’s too much, we’ll review.
My boys just wear whatever I suggest, and I’m lucky if they put it on the right way…

6 | karen

October 18th, 2010 at 1:16 pm


My 12 year old daughter has always loved clothes and shopping. I let her wear short shorts as long as the top is modest and her footwear is age appropriate. I have always thought she has nice legs and just looked nice in her shorts. And I have always thought that she might end up ashamed of her body if I always made her hide it. She has always been allowed two piece bathing suits. Some years she prefered one piece and that is what we would buy. This past summer she insisted on 2 piece and it was a little more of a challenge this time around. She had her birthday over the summer and at 12 is five foot four inches tall. That makes her too tall for most childrens bathing suits and the adult ones were very low cut and required you to have much more developed breasts then she has. We really had to do some shopping around but eventually found 2 that I could live with.

My 8 year old son will happily put on most anything. Just lay it in front of him and off he goes. The only thing he really hates are the buttons on jeans so I try to find ones with the push snaps on slider buttons.

7 | Barbi in Ottawa

October 18th, 2010 at 2:11 pm


I have two girls ages, 8 and 5 years. I only picked out their baby outfits once both of them figured out how to get their clothing choices out of drawers and closets then put them on, they asserted themselves. For me it become one less thing I had to do. We have rules like if you want to wear the summer dress in winter, t-shirt or long sleeves and leggings/tights underneath. Or I have just taken the clothes out of rotation. My oldest has always been well put together. I have looked at her as we are going out the door sometimes and thought to myself, I should’ve taken more time to think of my outfit! And my youngest, is very much her own person and I LOVE the outfits she has come up with.

Obviously, we buy their clothes and so do have veto power but they get to make most purchasing decisions with our guidelines of you need 2 pairs of pants or a couple of tops etc. Once pre-teen hits I am sure there will be more guidelines! ; ) But I still want them to have self expression. Just like I did back in the 80’s with spiral permed hair, neon etc! lol!

8 | Javamom

October 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm


This makes me shake in my boots. I have discovered that my now 3yo girl has, um, OPINIONS about oh, let’s just say, everything.

Loud and clear opinions.

Who would have thought puberty starts this early? lol

The dressing thought still has not become too much of an issue yet.


I agree with Carla, I love Sarah’s outfit too!


9 | Betsy Mae

October 18th, 2010 at 6:07 pm


I have two girls, one seven and one five. I laid out both of my girls clothes until the youngest one was two, then she wanted to make her own decision and my oldest quickly caught on.
For a long time you could see me in Home Depot or the grocery store with a 3 year old in the poufiest princess dress possible. Now both girls defnitely have their own sense of style, and they suit what they wear even if it’s a glittery-shimmery skirt paired with stripped leggings and a tshirt with animals all over it. lol!
I do sometimes like to dress the girls similarly (I know, I know, but I just like to and it’s not all the time!) or in specific outfits on special occassions and they almost always oblige.

I have three thoughts about this subject:

1-I want my girls to feel as beautiful and confidant about themselves as possible for as long as possible.

2.- I figure I’m picking my battles, as long as they dressed for the weather and look respectable (ie not trashy) then who the heck cares!

3.- When in a persons lifetime can you get away with wearing stripes, patterns, sequins, and every colour under the sun all mixed together? Kids can pull it off, let them!

10 | Carly

October 18th, 2010 at 8:49 pm


Love, love, love the outfit. What style! I’m living vicariously through Sarah. ;o)

I have a four year old boy who doesn’t care over much what he wears, but does NEED to have some say in the matter. So, to avoid the morning battles, we choose outfits the night before.

While the Little Man is confined to the tub, I ask about pants first. Sweats? Jeans? Cotton? Cords?

Once he chooses, I select four tops from his closet that “match” and are weather/season appropriate. He picks his favourite and we’re done.

Now if someone could just help me convince him he must wear his rubber boots on rainy days. (He doesn’t like to because they fall off his feet while he’s on the bus – because he can’t touch the ground.)


11 | Annie

October 21st, 2010 at 9:10 am


On most school days I still pick out the clothes with some input. Weekends are a whole different matter and unless we are going out somewhere important, I just let her be.
7 year olds….leopard print leggings, striped shirt, hoodie and socks with high hell shoes are usually her fave!

12 | Annie

October 21st, 2010 at 9:11 am


On most school days I still pick out the clothes with some input. Weekends are a whole different matter and unless we are going out somewhere important, I just let her be.
7 year olds….leopard print leggings, striped shirt, hoodie and socks with high heel shoes are usually her fave!

13 | Binki

October 21st, 2010 at 1:13 pm


School uniforms….THANK YOU!

The rest of the time my girls what they want to wear. Of course, we don’t buy skank-wear, so they won’t ever be choosing that. And parents can over-ride decisions if the occasion is formal (dresses only). I buy 80% of their clothes on Lands End (super quality, super sale prices, free delivery, strong dollar) and they get the rest from the odd visit to local kids’ stores, consignment stores and SVdP.

I still get a kick out of the “interesting” Cindy Lauper combo they pull together. It’s fun and funny (but I don’t laugh out loud).

14 | Jen_nifer

October 21st, 2010 at 10:31 pm


My nearly 5 year old boy over the last year or so has gone through phases of caring about his clothing and hardly caring at all. Earlier in the year, when he wanted to have more input, I would lay out a few options for him to choose. Lately I have just been opening the appropriate drawers of his dresser (the one with pants and the one with long-sleeved tops) and letting him choose – he has greatly improved his decision making. With the exceptions of weddings or other photo heavy occasions, I let him wear whatever he wants that is weather appropriate.

My husband will sometimes raise an eyebrow at the orange or bright aqua socks, but I don’t see any reason to argue over it yet.

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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 daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). 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, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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