Good Kids, Bad Outfits


Does your child insist on wearing the same faded Phillies tee day in and day out? Will she not leave the house without sporting a tiara, tutu or superhero cape? If they don shorts in subzero temperatures or regularly go out in inside-out shirts, you’ve got kids with clothing quirks. Here are some guidelines to help them dress without drama.

Mismatched clothing

Mismatched prints and socks (now sold in threes) are all the rage with junior fashionistas. But many moms still bristle when their kids pair plaids with stripes. Try not to; sartorial play is perfectly normal. “This is a kid’s way of showing individuality and experimenting with creativity,” explains Shari Braendel, the author of Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad. “It may be an attention-getting thing, but it won’t be for long.”

Kids’ Clothing Do’s & Don’ts

• Buy it if you don’t approve of it
• Openly criticize your child’s clothing choices
• Say “You can’t wear that.”

• Provide guidelines for selecting clothes
• Gently redirect poor decisions
• Involve kids in clothes shopping
• Take kids shopping one at a time
• Look for bargains. Learn to navigate the outlets like a pro here and find even more kid-clothes money-saving tips here.

Multiple wardrobe changes

Some kids go through phases where they change clothes frequently throughout the day. This might not seem to be a big deal to anyone except the person who does the laundry — but it can prevent the family from getting out the door on time.

“Sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming,” says psychologist Bobbie McDonald, PsyD. “Rather than giving them an open choice — or none at all — pick two or three outfits and say, ‘It’s cold outside. Here are three outfits, or you can mix and match. Which would you like?’ ”

Mom Colleen Sall, tired of the last-minute fashion show her two grade-schoolers put on every morning, found success by selecting their wardrobe the night before. “It’s become automatic,” she says. “Before they go to bed, we talk about the next day’s activities and the weather forecast. This way, they don’t feel like they’re being bossed around.”

Clothes that don’t “feel” right

Some children have tactile sensitivities that make it hard for them to feel comfortable in certain clothes. The seam on a sock toe, a bumpy pants zipper or the way a skirt sits on the hips can rankle. “Those are real issues,” says Dr. McDonald.

Common School Dress Codes
• Skirts and shorts should be fingertip-length (when arms are straight at one’s side).
• Pants must sit at the waist.
• Straps should be two fingers wide.
• No tube, halter or strapless tops
• No bare midriffs or chests
• No visible underwear

If your child is clothes-sensitive, have him try on new items before you buy them. This way, she continues, “He can get a sense of whether it feels itchy and scratchy or soft and comfortable.”

Style or substance?

When children are very young, they tend to wear whatever we put them in. But as they start to assert their independence, moms and kids are often at odds about what’s cool and what’s appropriate.

“It’s a struggle for parents because when a style is ‘in,’ a lot of the time that means it’s tighter-fitting or lower-cut,” says Melanie Wozniak, mom to three girls and one boy. “You want your kids to fit in, but you don’t want to compromise your values.”

After a few fraught mall outings, Wozniak perfected the fine art of redirection. Now when her girls ask to buy something that doesn’t pass parental muster, “I say, ‘Let’s keep looking and find something cuter.’ ” Before a shopping trip, discuss the type of clothing you’ll allow. “Agree what the
guidelines will be,” Braendel suggests. “Then instead of saying ‘You cannot wear this,’ tell them what they can wear. Give them positive things to look for instead of negative advice.

“What they put on is a reflection of who they are inside,” she continues. “Our children are not a reflection of us as parents.” Dr. McDonald agrees: “It’s important to step past our own ego of what we think our kids should look like and let them have that freedom of expression. Because when we do, we give them a sense of self-confidence and self-empowerment.”

Freelance writer Lara Krupicka is mom to three girls who have very different tastes in clothes.



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