Through the WardRObe: An Epiblogue
The week before my daughter Rosie turned 6, I decided to let her choose my outfits for seven days straight.
It was an idea borne less of fun and more of honor defense—one day as we were leaving the house, she made the comment that she was sorry that I had to wear such a “sad, old shirt.” OK, so the shirt wasn’t great. But she’s in Kindergarten! How could she grasp the delicacies (slash drudgery) of dressing an adult body every day? There is more nuance to grown up attiring than the school-age styling she’s used to. (I opined in my head.) Plus, having three kids will do a number on your wardrobe budget. My options are limited, sister.
So I decided to see how she could improve the situation. Unsurprisingly, she was totally nuts about the idea.
I decided I would make no suggestions about or adjustments to her choices—whatever her heart desired, I would put on, willingly. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose—I work from home, or in coffee shops, so there was no dress code to hinder us; Rosie was a big fan of clothes in general, and “fun” clothes in particular; and there were very few situations in her life that let her be the boss of me (or anyone, for that matter). Plus, I figured it would be good for a few laughs. I’m always down for a few laughs.
I laid out rules for myself in the beginning: The only reaction I could make was to ask if the outfit was complete and if I was wearing all the pieces in the way she wanted. (I did reserve the right to do my own hair, and we would talk about the weather for the day before she chose my clothes, to make sure I wouldn’t be inappropriately hot or cold.) If I got comments about my outfit in public, I wasn’t to mention my 5-year old had dressed me.
I was pretty confident she’d be into the whole thing and we’d have a good time, but if there’s one thing I know for certain about Rosie Mae, it’s that you can never to be too certain about Rosie Mae. This time, though, my instincts were on: She took to the project completely, like it was her job. Rosie Mae, Head Stylist, Wardrober-in-Chief.
She’d get home from school, grab a snack, and then we’d head to my room where she would rummage through my drawers with purpose, occasionally stopping to drape things on me like I was a department store mannequin. I’d try everything on and she’d give me a scrutinizing once-over, occasionally swapping out an element or two. And then, finally, she’d give me a definitive head nod as if to say, “It is finished.” Then she’d ask to watch TV.
It didn’t take very far into the week to realize what I probably could have predicted, had I thought about it much beforehand: This was turning out to be about more than just clothes. Submitting to my 5-year old’s whims as I dressed every day was a lesson in humility, confidence, self-expression, and perceptions of style. And it was teaching me a lot about who Rosie is, encouraging me to listen to her in a way I typically don’t. Turns out she has some pretty great things to say.
Here’s some of what I learned by being wardRObed:
1. Variety is the spice of life.
2. Your opinion matters.
3. Be the color you wish to see in the world.
4. Dress for yourself.
5. Wear your favorites. (A lot.)
“Some people might want you to wear different clothes every day. But I do what I do and I am what I am. I just pick out my clothes because I pick out my clothes. It doesn’t matter! If you wore different clothes every day, then some people might not see the ones that are your favorite.”
6. Look for diamonds in the rough.
7. Confidence is key.
8. Spread your joy.
Rosie Mae, your cool is contagious. Six looks good on you, girlfriend. And six is looking pretty good on me, too. Keep on spreading that fearless flair—the world is a better place, colored with your special shade of Rosie.
On letting your kid call the shots: Some tips
During the Great WardRObe Experiment, and several times since, people have said to me, “I want to do this with my daughter/son!” And to all of you, and the people who just thought it in your head, and even to the people who didn’t, I say: DO IT.
As for how to do it, here are a few things I would suggest:
• Ask them first (duh)—Not every kid is going to be into picking out their parent’s clothes. So, obviously, step one is to ask them if they’re interested in participating in that particular activity. If they’re not, then they’re not. Making a kid participate when they have no interest totally negates the point, for sure.
• Figure out how it will work best for your kid—If they say no to outfit-picking, or you know without asking they wouldn’t have much fun choosing your clothes, think about what they might be able to be in charge of that’s similar. Maybe they could choose the dinner menu for a week? Decide the route to school every day for a week? Pick out the art that will hang on a certain wall in your house? Fix your hair for a week? (This one will take some definite bravery, methinks.) You know your kid—what would bring them joy to be in charge of? Springboarding off their natural interests is a great way to start.
• Decide on the rules before you start—This is for their sake, but really it’s for your sake, too. It was immensely helpful for me to have “the rules” in mind before starting the week with Rosie, because it helped me approach it with cheer, knowing I had removed some potential obstacles (shorts on a 30 degree day, for example). I had to commit, otherwise things could have gone south quickly. If you decide you’re going to do it, DO IT. Really give them the reins. Wear that rayon blouse you meant to throw out in 2003, and wear it proud. (If you’re worried, you can always give your drawers a once-over before starting to make sure there’s nothing scandalous/ripped to shreds/so hideous you couldn’t show your face at the grocery store, etc.
• Take pictures and write things down—You don’t have to share anything publicly if that’s not your bag, but half the fun is documenting the process with pictures and words. Make sure to ask why your child picked out the things they did and why they think it’s a good outfit for you (piece of art for the wall/meal for the night/hairdo for the day, etc).
• Have fun. Have fun. Have fun. Have fun. Call it off early if you want to. Definitely call it off early if they want to. The goal is to enjoy yourselves. Period. If you’re not enjoying yourselves, it’s not worth it.
Go forth and get fashioned by someone you think is fabulous, friends. (And totally show me/tag me/message me, if you do.)
As for me, I’m thinking about doing some Fashion Fridays with Rosie. My wardrobe’s definitely been a little sassier since the Great WardRObe Experiment, but I’ve been missing our outfit-selection sessions. Plus, it’s always fun to see what Rosie’s got up her (my) sleeve.