I was the kid in grade school that wore homemade outfits. You might know the ones? Each thread was sewn together by my mother’s two hands. They were dresses; mostly for Christmas and church events.
I loved them. My black and white dress paired so perfectly with those bright white sneakers and ruffled pink socks; that floral jumper with the full frontal zipper and the matching lapel was a favorite.
I enjoyed watching my mom cut out the patterns and stitch them together. But I left the sewing to her. I had no interest in that part. What I loved most was the anticipation of it all. I liked looking different than the rest of my class and I knew mom’s creations would do just that. When you grow up with the same group of 30 people from age five to graduation, it can be difficult to stand out. Something about these pieces of clothing helped me make the statement I needed to make.
My youngest, Gracie has always been a bit particular with her clothing. Her first real tantrum came as soon as she recognized the possibility of clothing options. That was the year she wore a faded floral t-shirt and mismatched socks for family pictures.
I couldn’t convince her otherwise.
At age 3, she is bold with her clothing choices and wears dresses any chance she gets. These pieces come from the store, of course, as I don’t own a needle and thread. Yes, this makes my mother shake her head on a consistent basis.
But don’t be fooled. Her dresses can be found off the rack – but you likely wouldn’t know it. She finds the most unique pieces to pair together. A red turtleneck a top a strappy summer dress or striped blue and green pants with a ruffled cream sweater dress are two of her most recent options.
I love her creativity. Plus, I’ve learned it’s easier to let her wear what she wants than start an argument. Yes, I give in too easily. Yes, I’m working on that; a little.
Her clothing choices are very similar to how mine once were; carefree, comfortable and fun. I like to think I’m still that way – although my wardrobe consists mostly of black and white options these days. But that’s what I like – I wear what I like.
It wasn’t always like that.
By the end of grade school I realized I didn’t own a single pair of brand name jeans. By junior high, the shirts I wore were too tight in the minds of some parents. By early college, girls weren’t borrowing the clothes from my closet. During my first big interview, I scored the lowest on physical appearance because my borrowed black suit coat and off black pants didn’t quite match.
I recognized it; it bothered me; it hurt my confidence. Although, had you asked me at the time, I wouldn’t have admitted that fact.
Society has a way of bringing an insecurity to us when we least expect it, and I’m sad my daughter will someday learn that reality. I want her to always pick the outfit that makes her feel beautiful inside and out – even if it doesn’t fit normal trends.
When she waddles her sweet little body out of her room with a mismatched clothing concoction and a huge smile, my heart melts. Yours would too. I let her keep the clothes on – just the way she likes it, as I know all too soon someone or something will tell her that style doesn’t work.
When that day comes, I hope she has enough confidence to make a statement as bold and beautifully as only she can.
Read more from Leslie in the Kearney Hub.