Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gettin' Gussied Up

As a child, if I strayed from my usual uniform of pants and a t-shirt, my parents would ask me "whatcha gettin' all gussied up for?!"  Trying something new in the wardrobe department prompted this conversation EVERY TIME.  I would look at my clothes and wonder if being gussied up was a good thing or not-- the tone of the question made me suspicious that my clothes "weren't right."  I heard no malice in their words, just an implication that I didn't make the same selection from my closet that they would have.  I would proceed to be self-conscious about my fashion choice.  I don't know if it was their intention or not, but this recurring conversation quashed my interest in "gussying up" for a very, very long time.  I still hear that question bouncing around in my brain every time I put on heels or have to dress up for a special occasion.

Now that I have kids of my own, I see their question in a whole new light (even though it still means what it meant to me as a child as well).  I realize now that quite possibly they wanted to know the purpose for my choices.  Such as, what is the purpose of wearing a white skirt to play in the sandbox?  Or the purpose of a skirt when I will surely be swinging from a tree in a very un-ladylike manner? Or why my very best shoes were the very best choice for chasing goats in the pasture? Or clothes at all when I will most likely be shedding them anyway to get in the wading pool!  Maybe knowing the purpose of my choices would let them feel better about how silly I obviously looked.  Maybe I had a logical explanation for the illogical wardrobe decisions I made and all really was right with the world!

Maybe I am projecting my parental concerns on my parents...

All parents have an innate desire for their children to be the best, brightest, most beautiful children in the world, and to them their children are all these things.  Even so, we want to enhance these qualities so that everyone else we meet recognizes the same thing about our kids that we do-- that they are fabulously lovely and smart.  Unfortunately, in all honesty, there is little we can do to help junior seem smarter-- they have what they have in the brains department and we can nurture learning but we can't do much else but pray.  We can, however, control how they look.  Well, we try.

When my girls were little, dressing them up was easy.  They always looked like little dolls.  Everything was clean and followed some unifying theme of color or pattern.  I never dressed them exactly alike, but each had their own top and bottom that matched and then the entire outfit matched her sister somehow.

One day this parade of adorable, matching, well-fitting clothes came to a screeching halt.  It was the day they learned the word "no".  Suddenly, my angels had opinions about their wardrobe and their opinions were vastly different from mine.  And from each other!  I felt myself needing to know why they didn't like my choices-- but I stopped short of asking why.  The Ghost of Gettin' Gussied Up still haunts me and I didn't want my demons chasing them too.  The result-- I have created a monster!  Or maybe two.

Each of my girls have their own unique style, if you can call it that.  Each have their own set of rules about what to wear and what not to wear.  I have been trying for about three years now to sort out all these rules, but I have only had marginal success.  There are rules about buttons and zippers and what matches and what is cool.  All I'm sure of is that I will make a lot of returns when I buy them clothes.

I call Birdie's style the "homeless tomboy" look.  With very little interest in girlie clothes, Birdie gravitates toward sweats and a t-shirt.  Couple this with her nebulous definition of what matches and things get interesting.  As long as two items have a color in common, they match.  Period.  A button down dress shirt and sweats?  No worries-- they're both blue so they match!  Aqua blue fleece pants and a purple shirt t-shirt?  Of course they match-- the pants have a purple magic marker stain on them... on the ankle... right there... see!!!  And socks are not technically a part of the outfit-- they're underwear, you know-- so the are exempt from matching.  Oh.  That's a relief.  I was worried that there was another stain on those pants we were matching the socks to.

My Princess has a much more flamboyant style I describe as bag-lady chic.  When left to her own devices, with no restrictions for functionality (such as needing to wear P.E. clothes), Princess is going to wear a skirt or dress and very probably jewelry.  She will do anything to make this happen.  Her definition of matching is much like her sister's, so there is plenty of flexibility when deciding which items go together.  If she wants to wear a spring dress in the winter, she just wears leggings underneath.  If she is still cold, she adds some knee socks to the mix, a sweater, sometimes a hat.  And no outfit is complete without the proper hair accessories.  Of late, the proper hair accessories have come in the form of headbands with animal ears on them.  Yes, these are worn to school... often with a tiara.  The only thing that is off limits for P is any pants with buttons or zippers.  And scratchy tags.  And seams in the toes of her socks.  I can't make this stuff up.

Every morning I get to start my day with a cup of coffee and a wardrobe surprise.  The wardrobe surprise often works better than the coffee to wake me up.

When the girls first started to school, I fretted about their taste in clothes.  The last thing I wanted was for my precious babies, who were going to have some trouble fitting in anyway, to stack the deck against themselves by standing out with their clothes.  I was a bit embarrassed by their choices at first.  We live in an area where half the kids in our neighborhood look like they stepped out of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog everyday!  My Birdie, in her droopy sweat pants with the shirt that matches the stain and super short haircut, and my Princess in her rabbit ears and tiara practically have neon signs hovering above them that flash "LOOK AT ME".  After working at the school for a few months, though,  it dawned on me that it doesn't matter.  Birdie actually looks like quite a few of her classmates and is no better or worse for it.  The Princess seems to bask in the fact that she looks unlike anyone else in her class.  Whether this is a result of her personality or her condition is inconsequential.  She is happy with her choices.  She is also aware that she stands out from her peers anyway, even when she dresses more conservatively, so why not make the most of it!  I love this about her.  I also no longer feel the need to let everyone know that "they dressed themselves today", which is something I am loving about me.

I know that my girls may be too young for peer pressure to affect them much right now, but I find their willingness to avoid conformity wonderful!  They make me feel free to let it all hang out sometimes-- not in a wardrobe malfunction sort of way, but a "this is how I am" sort of way.  I hope they keep gettin' gussied up their way, without explanation or apologies.


  1. Love, love, love this!! What a fabulous outlook and insight. I'm going to enjoy reading this blog. Mary

  2. Love it! Our daughter is 2 and gets wide latitude in how she dresses, with only limited impositions by us. Always an adventure. Fitting in hasn't really been a concern for her yet... but anyway I think kids these days are looking for a way to stand out. Kind of like I think parents are looking for "unique" names for their kids.

  3. Well done, my good friend! Keep know I love listening to you. Reading it isn't as much fun as hearing your voice as you describe it all, but I'm going to read it everyday! KMJ

  4. You make my day!!! That is all...thank you! =D