My daughter, despite my preferred desires and her mother’s best intentions, is interested in fashion.
She is interested in clothes and colours, screen prints, tights, skirts, and god-forbid, shoes. She enjoys accessorising—headbands, belts, sunglasses, watches, and when the moment calls for it, nail polish. I made the simple mistake one day of walking with her past the nail polish area at our local Target and our trip became a twenty-five minute discussion on the difference between “glittery and non-glittery” nail polish and in what contexts one may apply either of them. In spite of my lack of fashion sense and my apprehensions toward fashion in general, I have come to be at ease with my daughter’s interest in fashion.
I want my daughter to understand that her worth is not in her “beauty” and that in spite of what today’s media sells to our young girls, what she wears is not where her worth is and does not define who she is. I would much rather she be empowered by her intelligence, her strength, her fearlessness, her love, her caring heart, and her adventurousness than whether or not she is “cute.” I am ever so careful in my words and in my responses to her when she and I are discussing fashion. And I fear at times that this interest might not be what is best for her.
There are numerous studies that have shown correlations between the fashion industry, media imagery, and even Disney with body image issues in adolescent girls (and although not talked about as much, adolescent boys). I am fearful because I want my daughter to value her confidence, her wisdom, her adventurous heart and to appreciate that she is attractive regardless of outside influences because of those things and not in spite of them. So my relationship with my daughter and her fashion sense is a precarious one.
What I have found to make all the difference in this journey is that I have ventured into this “with her.” Men in society with our sense of fashion are either expected to be GQ models or slobs. There is no in between. But I am finding, through sharing this experience with my daughter and her interests, that I am creating my own space for fashion and style—learning from my daughter, and in the process, I hope, helping her define her style and fashion sense in a manner that is positive and empowering.
Here are the top five things I’ve learned from my daughter and our journey into fashion:
1) Conventional wisdom be damned! Fashion can be, in appropriate contexts, as much about empowerment and courageous expression as anything else. A fearless approach to fashion often means you venture out of what conventional wisdom might tell you. Things such as giving consideration to the mismatch of colors, fabrics, patterns; keeping in mind the type of skin tone you have and what that means for your style; after certain times of the year your color pallet should be this or that- these do not apply to someone that is courageously expressing their independence. Wear what feels right to you!
2) What you wear can impact how you feel. When I was dropping my daughter off at kindergarten last week, one of her teachers commented to me that “your daughter is one of the most genuinely happy children I’ve worked with and she wears it for all to see.” That statement made me, as a father, very proud. Indeed she wears it. Aside from her constant smile, she loves bright and cheery colours, she has an affinity for screen prints on shirts that silly and make her smile- she certainly wears it for all to see!