I could write pages about E’s style. Suffice it to say that since she was a tiny girl, fashion has inspired her creativity. From
– fingernails painted 10 different colors to
– hours in her room drawing new designs for her dolls to
– asking mama to help her make those designs come alive in fabric (I wish I had any skill at all in this area…)
E simply sees things in fabric and thread that I would never see without her.
As a result, she has the uncanny ability to surprise me with what she’s wearing, even though I am very familiar with every stitch in her wardrobe.
Take her green skirt, for example. It is a simple skirt, designed for a 5 year old girl in that it has shorts sewn in underneath. Perfect for sitting on the Kindergarten mat.
Well, recently E came down from her room with the skirt worn in a way I had never anticipated. She put on the skirt, and while the shorts remained covering her lower body, pulled the skirt overlay up and inside out to create a strapless shirt.
It was creative, cute, and (since my 5 year old will not be wearing strapless outfits), confined to the house. I didn’t make a picture, but it’s basically a green version of this (except that the armless mannequin could never wear it since E had to hold the top up with her hands, as there is no elastic on what was intended to be the bottom of a skirt…I did help her pin it so it would stay during her fun “dress-up” hour).
You can imagine if the top were folded down at the waist, this would be a skirt with shorts underneath. E just transformed it the other way, making it look just like this outfit, without ever having seen anyone wear this before. Is this how Ralph Lauren got his start? Or am I raising Lady Gaga?
This wardrobe alteration was not an isolated incident…
The next week, E surprised me by announcing she was dressed for choir practice while wearing a midriff-bearing, one shouldered shirt. Since she owns no such items, I looked closer and discovered that her “shirt” was actually a pair of blue shorts worn upside down. She had put her head through one of the leg holes and her right arm through the other to create this look.
Can you tell that the shirt is actually a pair of shorts worn upside down? When she moves her arms and it becomes a full midriff-bearing, one shoulder ensemble, which is why I posted a photo that happened to catch her while her face was covered. No need to show her fully on display in this outfit.
Anyone who knows me knows that I think some of the best and most important childhood moments when kids are given license to create. And E absolutely has license to create in our house. And room what I’ve seen so far, art & fashion are absolutely her creative specialties. Her mind just looks at fabric and sees things I don’t see, and I think it’s fantastic. I want to encourage it, not stifle it.
At the same time, E and I had to have two conversations before we headed out to choir practice that day…
(1) modesty… I am confronting this issue earlier than I thought I would have to and am admittedly unprepared. Any pointers on discussing modestly with a 5 year old are greatly appreciated! In the meantime, I will say that before she went out of the house, she was required to (a) put another pair of shorts under her skirt and (b) add a tank-top underneath the upside-down shorts to cover her belly and the exposed shoulder . Which meant she left the house looking like this:
I also had to talk to E about…
(2) Being who you are: I was up-front about E that (a) I loved her mind and vision and creativity, (b) seeing and doing things differently is celebrated in our house, as long as you are being true to who you are and expressing/not contradicting important values (like modesty), and (c) once you leave our house, you may get teased for seeing and doing things differently. She should be ready for that, but not let it scare her away from something that she wanted. (The world needs people who see some things differently, and it makes things a lot more fun too!)
But reigning it back in to the issue at hand, I basically told E that someone could recognize that she was wearing shorts upside-down as a shirt and tease her about it, and asked her if she would be ok when that happened. She said she would, so we practiced her response in case that happened:
“I like the way it looks! But I don’t like to be teased, so stop.”
And off she went to choir…
As it turns out, no one said anything to her. And I am proud that she had a vision, was comfortable doing things differently, and learned a little bit about how to brace herself. I will be the first investor in her design company, if her interest continues. (I will also be the first to send her back upstairs if something is not modest, with suggestions about how to make it work while still being fun, accompanied by clear instructions to put some more clothes on.)
(As a side note, I would like to say that I uber-impressed with my mother-in-law, who witnessed about 75% of this exchange with E, let me handle the whole thing, and just smiled and said at one point, “You are both just wonderful!” I got extra lucky that she came as part of a family package with my amazing husband! More on their visit in an upcoming post…)
I also got lucky that we happened to be ready for choir early that day, which left enough time for a conversation. Because a few days later, she came downstairs a few minutes before she had to leave for school wearing this dress.
random, fuzzy photo of E that I snapped as she was putting on an “art show” on the kitchen table…but she happened to be wearing the dress I’m referring to…a dress we both love, by the way…
No problem, right?
Oh wait, I forgot to mention that she was intentionally wearing it backwards. Which means this part…
became a midriff-bearing bikini in the front. With no time for a real conversation or the addition of a tank-top, I simply had to ask her to turn it around and let her know we would talk again later about how to make her clothes both modest and fun.
The next person who suggests we just make departures simpler by having the kids pick out their clothes the night before is going to get an earful. I can look at what E is planning on wearing (sweet green skirt, cute blue shorts, pretty pink sundress…), but honestly, I’m not creative enough to imagine exactly how she’s going to put the things on! I mean, this is the height of looking “different on the rack” than they do when the child actually wears them!
As another side note, I racked my brain to think of where E might have gotten any inspiration for the outfits…especially since with all the end-of-school commitments, we haven’t even really hit swimsuit season yet. The only think I can think of is Princess Jasmine, which got me wondering why Disney, with all their creative thinkers, couldn’t come up with an outfit slightly less revealing than this for the princess so many little girls are obsessed with:
Love ya, Disney. But I think you can do better by my 5 year old – who is certainly in your target age demographic and desperately wanted to be Princess Jasmine last Halloween. (Which begs the question: why did I not see this coming? E was a more modest version of the Princess Jasmine for that holiday.)
Anyway, a reminder to readers that I’d love tips on how you explain the importance of modesty to a five year old, and how you decide what is appropriate and what isn’t…
And a quick note to E…
I Love your style. I Love your brain. I Love your spunk. I love you.
Be who you are always!
(While modestly covering your five year old midriff.)