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I hope you can help me out with
something. Lately, I've started to worry
about my 11-year-old daughter's sense of style. Every time I suggest that she may want to reconsider an outfit, I feel
like dragon-mom. But, the kid needs
help. I don't understand how French mothers do it. Guidance, please!
With two daughters, I have come up
against this issue quite a bit. I don't want to make my girls self-conscious or
squelch their burgeoning inventiveness by declaring that a getup is atrocious. I
also don't want them to think that appearance is everything. Bad outfits are almost
always preferable to shallow people.
But, I have been truly embarrassed
to be seen in public with my kids after they dress themselves. (There, I said
When I started looking at the way
many French parents approach dress with their children—especially daughters—I realized I wanted part of my job as a mother to be style councillor. Precious few
people are born with an innate sense of
style. For most of us, it takes work. When we tell our kids that they look
fantastic in neon mesh over their pajamas, we aren't doing them any favors.
It's no coincidence that chic and
vogue are French words. People in France—at least Paris—are serious about
their ensembles. I've seen mothers brusquely insist that their kids change
after emerging in a slightly mismatched outfit (which, by the way, I thought was
Go through her closet together and weed out some of the more gauche pieces in her wardrobe.
The irony is that, in comparison to
a lot of the French families I interviewed, my kids had a lot more
clothes. The French clothes are just a
bit (read: a lot) better looking.
So, the first thing you might want
to do is take a look at the materials your daughter is working with. Think
quality, not quantity. Go through her closet together and weed out some of the
more gauche pieces in her wardrobe. (I
have to remind myself to do a sweep of my own closet occasionally as
well). At the moment, I think there are
three different T-shirts under my roof featuring dogs dreaming about cupcakes,
and this is when I'm trying to to keep on top of things. Obnoxious shirts seem
to multiply like gremlins in my house. If your girl is reluctant to give up clothes
that really need to go, perhaps planning a special shop to replace them will
soften her up.
Another tip is to set a good
example. I've noticed that when I make
an effort to pull my appearance together, my girls—ages 7 and 9—often
follow suit. I try not to make a big
deal about it, but these days, without any prodding, we rarely go to a dinner
party, performance or even the movies looking like schlubs.
Finally, you needn't be a witch
about it, but don't be afraid to express your real opinion about your child's style choices. It's particularly difficult for parents who rarely
criticize their kids to censure something as seemingly frivolous as clothing. But,
as a French mother once told me, the window of time when you can do this isn't
very wide. Get in there while you
can. All bets are off in the teenage