How Buying Dresses Taught My Daughter Independence

Meet Everly.  The star of the show (and my life) and the “owner” (kind of) of the Oh, Everly! Boutique.  Everly is a force to be reckoned with, as are most 3-year-olds, and at an early stage of her toddler-hood developed some strong preferences for ‘fashion.’

Let me preface this story first, by explaining to you, that as I grew up, I considered myself anti-dress and anti-pink. I wasn’t necessarily in the bucket of tom-boy, but I was a jock. I spent most of my ‘free-time’ (even after college until I had Everly) playing sports. My favorite color was green. I was critical of the idea of princesses because I was an ultra-feminist and hated the depiction of helpless women who needed someone else to save them.

That’s why it’s all too fitting that I was…blessed… with a little girl who is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of me.

Even with limited access to TV and all my attempts to influence my child, she became a ‘princess-obsessed,’ ‘crown-wearing,’ pink-wardrobe loving girl. If there was a loud costume, she was going to wear it. There was nothing I was going to be able to do to change her mind.  If that’s not proof of nature overcoming nurture, I don’t know what is.

In fact, she prefers to only wear dresses…EVERY DAY.  She will only entertain shorts or pants if I can somehow reference a princess who wears the same things.  Heaven forbid I try to bring up Dora the Explorer and her shorts and shirts outfit, where I am starkly reminded that she is NOT a princess.  Dressing up Everly used to go like this:

Me: (Pulling out shorts/tights and a shirt for school)

Everly: (Freak out at immediate sight) What???!!!! Mom, no, please, no!!!!  (hysterically crying…like the kind of crying you would hear if someone’s first born child was being taken away.)

Me: Evelry, this is cute!  …(Finding other ways to convince her)…Princess X wears it.  You’re dresses are dirty. You’re going to get them dirty because you play in the dirt!

Everly: (Still hysterically crying while mumbling)…I NEED to wear this cat dress with the sparkles on them.  I NEED to mom…

15 Minutes of this back and forth happened almost EVERY day I didn’t have a dress ready for her to wear.  Sometimes she won, sometimes I won. But it was painful.  

Justin and I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.  It took me letting go of what I thought she had to wear or how she would ‘look’ at school or in public.  (There’s, of course, a line there.) We decided that if our daughter felt so passionate about wearing specific things, and doing so wouldn’t hurt her, why stop her?

What do we do now?

We now go shopping with her regularly, where she picks out (you guessed it) A LOT OF DRESSES.  We now hang them on the bottom rack of her closet. And guess what happened? MAGIC…

The next day, Everly woke up, and she independently picked out a dress (one of many which we approve for school) and dressed herself.  She picked out a pair of shoes – HAPPY AS A CLAM, and walked into our bedroom to wake us up and happily tell us she’s dressed. The look on her face for this routine is full of pride, and I can see she FEELS good in what she’s wearing.  

She does this almost EVERY morning.  

Letting go of what I thought she had to wear made a world of difference in our lives:

  1. It taught and encouraged my daughter to develop her own independence.  
  2. She is HAPPY!
  3. We start the day off with minimal arguments
  4. She’s got space to develop “herself” in a safe environment
  5. We get occasional cameos of Princess Elsa and Princess Belle at grocery stores. Well…because princess costumes are for special occasions, like the weekend
  6. She’s developed a fashion sense.  While sometimes it’s a bit wild, I think she’s found her toddler calling.

Sometimes kids need to spread their wings. And sometimes when we let them, they surprise us how high they can really fly.

Share this story if you’ve got a son or daughter with a strong sense of fashion…

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