A Clothes Horse by Any Other Name

When Eleanor started school last Fall, she  also started dressing herself.  We’d go to get her from her nap and discover that she had taken off all her clothes and put on an entirely new outfit.  (Often pajamas or some other ‘cozy’ ensemble.)

And then the creativity began.  With a flare for color and texture, Eleanor was daring with the outfits she put together.

Not limited by conventions like the number of articles of clothing worn, she didn’t hesitate to don 5 shirts and 2 pairs of pants at a time.  Brilliant.

My mother was quick to remind me that I had a similar fashion evolution with a go-to look of pants with a skirt and always a belt.

We chuckled as a ‘belt’ was the one thing I really wanted on my wedding dress…

Unless Eleanor’s clothing choice is inappropriate for the weather or the occasion, we usually let her go with it.  For us it was as simple as picking our battles and not wanting to go to the mattresses over a pair of pants (or lack thereof).

But at a recent visit to my grandmother, I realized that perhaps there was a greater purpose to these fashion moments (aside from the growing collection of photos I have for adolescent blackmail purposes when Eleanor gets older).  Grandma laughed, but didn’t think we should be letting her walk the streets in some of her wild get-ups.  “Oh, Char… you don’t really let her go out like that, do you?!”

I hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but what I heard myself telling my grandmother was this: I didn’t want Eleanor to get the early message that her appearance was something to be judged.  We all know that girls have a very different landscape in which to maneuver than we did… more pressure to be thin, to be sexy, to be the “it” girl, and all at an increasingly young age.  Eleanor will care about her appearance one day, but why invite that day to come any earlier than necessary.

Unfortunately she will learn soon enough that how she looks is sadly something that will matter.  She will change her outfit 3 times before school, but not because she’s excited to wear both her pink bird shirt and her favorite soccer shirt. She will be self-conscious.  She will judge herself and it will be devastating for her father and me to watch, but it will happen.

So for now, I’m going to revel in her confidence, her unabashed combination of patterns, and her joyful fashion independence.

And if you happen to see an astronaut wearing rain boots and a ladybug backpack to the grocery store, it’s probably us picking up some milk.




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