Kids who want to choose their own clothes are trying to find their own voice. They’re attempting to assert their independence and have some control over their lives.
“Children get too few choices that are truly theirs,” said Malaika Collazo Cruz. Malaika’s 6-year-old daughter is now a pro at coordinating her own outfits for the day. She thinks all girls should be so lucky. “It restores a bit of power to them and helps their self-esteem.”
Clothes can help change the way girls think about themselves and what they are capable of. No matter what stage of development they are in, girls need to know that their opinions matter.
They need to know that what they like and don’t like is important. Parents can instill so many positive attributes in their girls by fostering the side of them that wants autonomy over what they wear. It’s a simple and powerful act.
LittleThings talked to nine moms about their reasons for being committed to letting their girls choose their own clothes.
It Helps Them Discover Their Likes and Dislikes
At the first sign of your preschooler showing interest in choosing her clothes, there’s a real opportunity to help her develop her own tastes. Tiy Peterkin encourages her 3½-year-old daughter to pick out her own clothes because she knows how it feels not to have that choice.
“I want her to develop a sense of style and also have a say-so in what she wears,” she said. “I didn’t like someone picking out my clothes because we’d have a differing taste. I want her to like her clothes and feel comfortable in them.” Girls should be able to express themselves, and it’s within our power to help them do so.
Making Decisions Is Empowering
“I’ve always found it helpful to let her make a choice so we’re not battling on a daily basis,” said Megan Maier of her 7-year-old daughter. “She loves feeling empowered, so this is the way I let her do it — by picking her own clothes out.”
When girls are allowed and encouraged to wear what makes them feel good, their confidence benefits. Of course, parents have to set a few parameters.
“We have a rule that if it’s not appropriate for the weather or outing we are doing then I pick. Otherwise, she picks,” Megan said. As long as those parameters don’t include factors that focus on your child’s body or potential insecurities, the power to make this decision is a win-win for girls and their parents.
It’s Easier for You
Jonita Davis said the decision to let her toddler pick out her own clothes is partly for her own sake. “It’s convenience for me,” she said. “It’s a battle I don’t want to fight.” On this point especially, moms agree.
“I choose my battles,” said Devon Pearl. “With three girls aged 11, 8, and 6, I don’t want to battle with them on clothes they want to wear.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, parents should encourage toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 to utilize and develop their fine motor skills by allowing them, with help, to physically put on their own clothes. Why wait 10 more years to allow them to be a part of the choosing process? Instead of picking up the fight for curated outfits fresh off a child’s magazine cover, put it down. Take this one off your to-do list.
It Instills a Sense of Responsibility
Who doesn’t want to raise responsible girls? Janet Scheller created the perfect hack for her 5- and 8-year-old daughters to be in charge of getting themselves ready. She organized their clothes in their closets so the seasonally appropriate items are always on the bottom rack and within their reach. Her girls can then wear whatever they want from these shelves. It’s worked out perfectly.
“Honestly, I haven’t had any more issues with getting ready. We’ve been doing this for about two years, and the girls are happy, confident,” she said.
Simply Because It's Fun
Playing dress-up is not just for imaginative play. Girls can be firefighters, doctors, fairies, and superheroes wherever they go — not just at home. Even sans costume, girls can express their lighthearted and carefree sides by getting creative with what’s already in their closets.
“Their colors and patterns clash. Their shorts or skirts are sometimes too short. Sometimes they wear skirts that are too long or they want to wear a tie. I don’t care,” said DeMisty Bellinger, who has 10-year-old twin girls. Part of the fun is letting them figure it out and watching the process. “It’s fun to watch them explore themselves with the way they dress,” she said.
No, they can’t eat cotton candy for breakfast and cheese crackers for lunch and dinner. Even though kids might not make the best choices for their health when given the freedom, this is not that. Putting together a mismatched outfit might make mom cringe, but it’s not going to cause a health problem.
“I’ve found that kids grow up with more confidence when we get out of the way and let them make a few harmless decisions,” Jonita said. In the scheme of subjectively not-so-great decisions kids can make, wearing yellow rain boots with board shorts on a crisp fall day is one parents can turn the other cheek about.
Their Comfort Is More Important Than Their Appearance
I remember stuffing my feet into high heels in middle school and trying to walk. It’s what the high schoolers on my favorite teen drama shows did. In elementary school, I remember the embarrassment of being dressed in the same outfit as my sister.
When girls pick their own outfits, they’re getting the message that how they feel physically and emotionally is more important than how they look. That’s the reason Bei Smith lets her 5-year-old daughter put together her own ensembles. “It is important for her confidence that she feels like herself, and not her mom. She is a whole human with her own style,” Bei said.
Kate Rope, mom and author of Strong As a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane From Pregnancy to Parenthood, had this to say about her decision to let her girls decide what to put on their bodies: “They will spend their whole lives in a society that tells them their appearance matters and how to shape it. I won’t be one of those voices.”