Style Lessons I’m Teaching My Kids

Style Lessons I'm Teaching My Kids

teaching my kids self-confidence through style

Style lessons from a mom to her kids

“Mom I want the black one.” [record scratch]

“Wait, what? Why? You don’t even like black. You love purple, so why don’t you get that one?”

But I knew why. I LOVE BLACK, and everyone who knows me even a little knows that. My little girl wants so much to be like me that her entire life has been a battle between us to keep her from marinating in my perfume, taking my jewelry, ruining playing in my makeup, squirreling away my things, and sometimes trying to copy my style, even though it’s definitely not her style. Back in kindergarten, she even cut her own hair to copy my pixie hairstyle.

As a mom it’s common to unconsciously impose our own style preferences on our kids, but the truth is, I’ve always let them pick their own clothes and hairstyles. I don’t want an army of clones, and I want them to feel the empowerment of embracing their own unique styles. 

With three sons and three daughters who are very different from one another, I’m keenly aware of the messages pummeling them daily from the media, friends, social media, and more. Though they range in age from six to thirteen, the messages reach them all.

Earlier this week I shared the minimalist capsule wardrobe lessons I learned from my mom, and today I’m sharing the style lessons I try to teach my own kids.

Your body is perfect

I was driving my daughter and a few of her tween friends to lunch between call times at a dance competition, and eavesdropped as they discussed makeup in the back seat. I heard my oldest say, “I like the way I look with makeup on, but I’m actually just as pretty without it. My mom told me that, and she’s right.”

It was all I could do not to slam on the breaks, jump out and squeeze her as hard as I could and scream, “Yes!!! Yes!! And I hope you believe me forever, because it’s true!!”

Even though I can claim that win, I am shocked by other things I hear my kids say about their bodies at such young ages, and I don’t mean just my girls. Around the age of eleven my boys started talking about six-packs, biceps, and flab, and poking and flexing their muscles. As siblings, especially multiples, are prone to do, they compare themselves to each otherHe’s taller, she’s blonder, he’s faster, she’s more graceful, but they are all perfectly…them.

My broken record plays daily, “Your body is perfect for you, and his body is perfect for him. There are 1 billion perfect bodies out there.” Each of my kids has a very different body type and different abilities, and I hope my message is louder than the one they hear outside our home. 

The media holds up an impossible, highlighted, contoured, Photoshopped ideal of beauty that doesn’t even exist, and many people believe it and pursue it. It’s hard not to, even as an adult who KNOWS it’s a lie, and I hope my message to my kids finally sinks in and stays with them forever.

One of the best things I ever heard was from Justine LeConte when she said, “Do I have small teeth? No. I have a big smile.” 

FAshion is fun so wear what you love

So much of life is serious, boring, and predictable, but fashion is one place we can have fun! Let your creativity shine, let inspiration strike, let your personality show, let fashion be a bright spot in your day! The older we get the less entitled we feel to enjoy things. Fun feels frivolous, but without a little frivolity, life gets hard.

We gave up our crayons in grade school, our paints in middle school, and for some of us, clothes are the only creative outlet we still have, and we can access it every day.

The only true style rule I have is wear what you love. Just like the false ideal body message, fashion trends pierce our minds with the command to assimilate or be unacceptable. If you’re not in, you’re out. Whether you like it or not, whether it suits you or not, whether it’s practical or not, the trends must be worn!  

Um, no. Let’s scratch that. Wear what you love! As long as it suits you and your style, it’s in style. The only person I dress for is myself, and as long as I love it, it’s a win!

My youngest puts together some really wild combinations, and I love to see her experimenting and having fun, trying things out and deciding what she loves. We should play dress up forever!

Break the rules and don't be afraid to experiment

I love to learn rules, and once I know all the rules, I decide which ones to break. We all go through stages of letting others tell us what we can and can’t wear, whether it’s the media, friends or a style guru, and I decided a few years ago I wouldn’t do that anymore. I had eliminated different colors, patterns, and styles from my wardrobe because others said I “shouldn’t” wear them, and now I make my own choices.

Even though I know my personal style, how to dress for my body type, and my best colors, nothing is written in stone. I still like to experiment with new colors, patterns, trends, and details to see if I find something new to love. Putting together what you truly love and ignoring the rules that others have created is how you get your own unique style, and that is always perfect for you.

Take what you find valuable and helpful, and ignore the rest. 

I shouldn't wear white bottoms because of my pear body type.
Because of my Winter coloring, I shouldn't wear this linen color or leopard.
I shouldn't wear destroyed jeans because I'm too old for that.

You are a walking billboard

Whether we like it or not, whether it’s fair or not, people judge us based on our appearance, because our personalities aren’t on display. But they can be if you dress to represent who you are, how you want to be treated, and what message you want to send. Clothes can be a powerful tool that can change your life and relationships. I call it truth in advertising when my outside matches my insides, and life is less complicated.

When you see me, it’s obvious I have a bold personality, strong opinions, sharp edges, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’m very black and white, on or off, and I mean business. No one is shocked when I open my mouth. You know what to expect from me, and it’s not softness. 

Be you

Each of my kids is unique, and though the wrong messages are hitting them from every direction, I want them to love who they are, how they look, and be free to express themselves through their style. If they take that power to themselves, it will trickle into the rest of their lives.

12 thoughts on “Style Lessons I’m Teaching My Kids”

  1. Marian Vollans

    This is so true, we have to let go and be ourselves. It is not easy always to follow the road of self, as we have been told and trained as to what we should wear and when. Prime example you do not wear white pants and shoes before memorial day or after labour day unless it is winter white.

    We need to let go and soar to new heights.

    My husband today commented that I am showing that older women do not have to dress dowdy. This made me feel awesome.

    1. That is high praise, and so true! Age has nothing to do with style. Wear what you love forever and ever. I talk about this and more in my course, Perfectly Put Together: Find Your Style, and it’s such a game changer to be able to let go of the shoulds and follow what we want to wear.

  2. I’m not sure the age of your oldest daughter, but mine is 14 years old. What is your take on “wearing what you want” if the chosen clothes are revealing? I’m not comfortable with the shorts as underwear style, cropped tops, lacy bralettes, and cheeky bikini bottoms. My conversations about the harmful sexualization of young girls gets lost on her. Do you have any suggestions for encouraging personal fashion in my case?

    1. This is a very tricky and personal topic, and one my husband and I talk a lot about. Part of the harmful sexualization is telling a girl she is responsible for a man’s/boy’s thoughts and actions. There is nothing shameful about anyone’s body or body parts. Some parts are private and special and not meant for public display, though.

      We talk more about appropriateness and intention. It would be inappropriate to wear a swim suit to school, or to wear a school uniform to the beach. Are you wearing a bikini because you want to get attention, or because that’s what feels most comfortable? For some women/girls, finding a 1-piece bathing suit is really hard because of a long torso (finding one long enough), or a pear body type (when the top needs something smaller than the bottom or vice versa). Or the convenience of going to the bathroom, or whatever the reason.

      If she is seeking attention by wearing cropped tops, lacy bralettes, and cheeky bikini bottoms, that falls under my definition of inappropriate. If she likes the look of them, that’s a little different, but then appropriateness comes into play.

      This is something that every parent has to decide, but for me it would depend how cheeky the bottoms are. I mean, some rears are just harder to cover (mine), and what would look cheeky on one girl, doesn’t on another. My middle daughter isn’t a teen yet, but she has a toosh that doesn’t want to stay covered! She wears the same style suits as her sisters (and the exact same suit as the girls on her swim team), but the shape of her rear means that a lot more of it shows no matter what we buy, and she’s still a child! It’s her body type. She’s not trying to show her bum, it’s just how she is built. My youngest will never have that problem.

      I have long legs, and was often shamed for showing too much leg. I was covering just as much as everyone else, and it’s not my fault I had excess hanging out of the bottom! Finding longer shorts was impossible back then. I was wearing the same shorts as all my friends, I’m just built differently.

      We also avoid extremes. EXTREMELY short shorts? No. Regular shorts with at least a 4-5 inch inseam that you can find anywhere? Yes. A lacy bralette under your shirt that peaks out from under a normal top? Sure. A lacy bralette that is hanging out from under a top that wouldn’t cover a normal bra? No. Basically it has to cover normal underwear under all circumstances.

      This is also one of those things you have to decide if this is the hill you want to die on. Are you willing to take on this battle and make it into a thing? Is there risky behavior attached to it? Is she an otherwise great kid making good choices?

      I would ask her WHY she wants these things. Find out her intentions. Because she wants to fit in? Because she is trying out some personal freedom? Does she have a body type that makes it hard to find clothes that cover what others would say needs to be covered? Change the conversation to appropriateness. Turning it into a power struggle will only lead to trouble. I would turn it into a conversation rather than rules.

      Whew! That was long!

      *All shared with the caveat that I was once a teenage girl, and that I’m just starting to navigate the teenage years. But this is where we are right now.

  3. Such great advice! My daughter is only seven, but she has a keen sense of style already and is really into fashion. I love seeing the outfits she puts together. As I get older, I am definitely dressing more ‘me’, and have thrown all those fashion ‘rules’ out the window.

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