Dressing your child can be tough. Like, Olympic level, Tough Mudder, Decathlon, Triathlon, running for the bus in the pouring rain with a broken heel tough. Honestly, if you dress a minimum of one child a day I salute you. If you dress more than one, I award you an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.
Is dressing a child more impressive than giving birth – honestly, maybe? At least when you are giving birth no one is talking back to you. So yes, to begin with, you have the talking back – a lot of opinions when you are dressing a little person with a vocabulary that primarily consists of the word “no.”
Even more challenging is literally getting these new humans INTO the clothes. Have you ever tried to get baby jeans on a baby? It is not an easy task. Ever tried to get a shoe on someone who absolutely does not want that shoe on their foot? Guess what – the shoe will not be worn. Are baby Vans the cutest thing that I’ve ever seen? Yes. Are they cute when they are being hurled at my face? No.
And now not only do you have to dress the kids, but you also have to make them fashion. When I was younger it was gross coloured leggings with a 90s graphic tea and that was it. The cool kids had sweet sweatshirts. There were no chic children. We were all just little weirdos in our weird little outfits running around. We didn’t need to co-ordinate our shoes with our headbands or make sure our tulle skirts didn’t snag on the playground. We were dressed in whatever someone could get on our bodies and whatever was machine washable.
One of my nieces has multiple clothes that are dry clean only. She is 6. She wears ten outfits a day. These outfits fall victim to apple sauce, marinara sauce, dirt, mystery brown stain that you don’t want to think about and rejected green broccoli spittle multiple times a day. And you want me to put something on her that I can’t immediately throw into the washing machine? I don’t think so. Life is hard enough my friends.
With this in mind, I make a humble suggestion to you: baby girl dresses for your toddler. Now people with little girls may be thinking, “duh,” but hear me out. Dresses for all of your children. All of them, regardless of gender. And I will tell you why: all you have to do is get one piece of cloth over the child’s head. Sure, there are sleeves, but really once the head is through you’ve won the battle.
That little kid’s body is covered, they’ll eventually figure out they can have more fun if they get their arms in the sleeves. There are no trousers to get on, maybe a tiny pair of shorts, but no fighting with ankle holes. Get them a pair of slip-on Vans (that they will throw in your face) and you don’t even need to tie their laces. They will be machine washable. They are one piece of clothing. You can fit hundreds of dresses in a bag. Dresses are the answer.
The history of the dress is actually quite unisex and has only become gendered in the recent past. An article in Bustle noted that the gendering of clothing (in other words, the idea that skirts are for girls and pants are for boys), arose from the intersection of advances in tailoring and demands of particular occupations.
However, for much of history, skirts and dress-like items were worn by men for their ease and comfort (see, the Ancient Greeks were picking up what I’m putting down before I even said it). The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had an exhibition called “Bravehearts: Men in Skirts” in 2004.
This exhibit looked back at the historical presence of the skirt, embraced by ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans, as well as the use of the skirt in Asia, Africa, and Oceania, and most importantly the Scottish kilt in menswear and linked it to the belief that skirts and dresses for men are the future of fashion.
The dress/skirt on men has been historically used to indicate strength and virality. In more recent years, it has been used to embody a renegade, edgy, punk style. Either way – your kid in a dress is cool. Think Braveheart. Think Bowie. Think of only one item of clothing and you have a dressed child, presentable to the world. I know what entices me the most. You could have a fashion-forward child and you could have fewer clothes to wash. The dress is the answer. The Romans knew it, the Greeks knew it, the Scots knew it – skirts and dress silhouettes for everyone!
So, I’ve pitched you dresses for all toddlers (I’m just assuming I’ve sold you on it – even if I haven’t the following will still be useful for all people dressing all toddlers everywhere). But who has time to pick out an outfit for a kid? It’s hard enough to get myself to wear something other than yesterday’s jeans and a sweater.
I don’t have time to innovate for someone who is just going to throw sweet potato puree down their front. For this hurdle I suggest: The Clothing Wheel. Similar to a chore wheel (remember when you lived in that overpriced apartment and had that one roommate who would never do their dishes and you left all manner of notes and hints and they still wouldn’t clean up and so you desperately made a little wheel with chores on it? Yeah, that chore wheel).
Head to your favourite store, that could be an online retailer like Bitsy Bug Boutique, a big store like Target, or your favourite small local boutique. Aim to buy somewhere between seven and fourteen dresses (if you’ve bought into my belief that the dress is number one) or other easy to get on outfits. The difference between seven to fourteen is a personal decision, depending on your relationship with the laundry machine, your bank account balance, and your enjoyment of shopping.
Bring along your baby for a fun day out. Snap photos of your little love in all the outfits (using your phone if that’s your preference or I suggest a lovely vintage vibe with a Polaroid). Then at the start of every week arrange your photos in the order you plan on having your little one wear them. If they are polaroids you could hang a piece of twine and use wooden clips to secure them, making a cute little wall decor for your toddler’s room.
This can help keep you organized and limit decision-making time when you’re late for nursery and need that baby dressed now! It is also a great teaching tool. Obviously, depending on the age of your child their ability to help out with the task of getting dressed will be varied. If they are old enough you could have them help you outfit plan for the week on Sundays.
That way they will feel included in their outfit choices and (hopefully) more inclined to be helpful when getting dressed. You could also encourage them to check the photos in the morning and get out the outfit while you’re getting ready. Who knows, if it’s an easy slip-on dress they may even take the initiative to get themselves dressed.
The Clothing Wheel helps you to control what your little one is wearing, but it will also make them feel involved and hopefully encourage them to begin to take initiative in their own morning routine. If you’re spending the day with your little one you could even do a Mommy or Daddy and Me day where you hang your outfit Polaroid with your baby’s one. I suggest a matching number for this – think Lily Pulitzer. Not into a full matching outfit? Colour co-ordinate with your bubba. Or wear matching shoes or hairdos. Your little one will get an absolute kick out of looking like mom or dad.
Whatever you choose for dressing your child – dress or leggings, tulle ballgown or the same Golden State Warriors jersey that they have refused to take off for a week – try to make it as fun and inclusive as possible. Fashion is a great way for adults to express themselves, but can also be a wonderful outlet for kids.
When possible, include them on shopping trips, find out their favourite colours, materials they like or dislike. If your kids feel enthusiastic about their clothes it will be a lot easier to get them in them and it may teach you something about the person they’re becoming. We live in an exciting time where little girls can grow up to be NFL coaches and little boys can sing Frozen with their Dads. Let fashion be something you and your child explore together. Just for the love of everything make sure it isn’t dry clean only.