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My Daughter's Terrible Taste in Clothes

Photograph by Getty Images

Before I was a parent, I had a lot of lofty ideas about how I was going to mother. One of my longest-held beliefs about myself was that I would never try to control my daughter’s wardrobe. I was determined not to be a mother who demanded her daughter have perfectly symmetrical bows in her hair to match her perfect little outfits. Nope. I was going to let her express her creativity and individuality however she wished. I was determined not to turn her wardrobe choices into a battleground for our relationship.

Then I had a daughter. A real live daughter with taste of her own. This daughter of mine has taste that I would describe as running somewhere between a homeless woman off her meds and MC Hammer circa 1988.

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And my daughter started dressing herself before her second birthday. She couldn't put a full sentence together yet, but outfits? Oh, she could put those together. At first it was cute how she would pair striped leggings and a garishly floral T-shirt.

I didn't panic. I simply made sure everything in her drawers and closet was a piece of clothing that I liked. Then we talked about how to match the colors in our tops and pants.

Despite my riveting lessons in what not to wear, her choices became even more unorthodox. Her signature move is to pair leggings with both a skirt and a dress. She clearly didn't grasp my lesson that skirts and dresses are redundant.

We have years to clash over that, and right now she's not showing too much skin or forgetting her panties, so I keep my mouth shut.

Still, I am sticking to my commitment. While I cringe sometimes when I see her ensembles, I hate the thought of shaming her and turning her fashion choices into a conflict between us. We have years to clash over that, and right now she's not showing too much skin or forgetting her panties, so I keep my mouth shut.

When I watch her coming out of school wearing her Christmas dress with hiking boots in late spring, I see her joy and confidence. She knows what she likes, and she knows that she has my support in getting dressed and then going out into the world to have fun adventures. I see that she trusts me to let her make clothes choices, even though they are never what I would choose if she let me.

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Most importantly, I am not hurting our relationship by insisting she dress the way that I want her to. I hold her hand as we walk down the street—her wind pants making a staccato swooshing sound—and I appreciate her budding autonomy, and what it means to truly support someone you love. Even if they look ridiculous.

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