School has started, and there is one thing that is perfectly clear to all
who know my family: my children dress themselves. It is clear because
no mother in her right mind would dress her children in what my little
darlings consider the height of fashion. Not that I have ever been accused of being
in my right mind, I just cannot figure out the whole clothing thing.
Even as a child I did not get it. My idea of playing with a Barbie had
nothing to do with clothes. I liked to shave her head, paint her brown and
hang her off the ceiling. I think I missed my calling because now I could get a
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as Barbie mutilation is
considered performance art. I just never understood the pleasure to be had
in dressing and undressing a doll.
Clothes to me, are for shelter, to keep you warm on a cold day. I do
not understand fashion. How can one style of pants look good one year and
look terrible the next? They are the same pair of pants. I just don’t get it.
I understand many people in the world consider my total lack of
fashion sense as some sort of crippling disease that should have its own
telethon. I once had a woman spend an hour trying to convince me I
was harming my children by not taking them to the mall. I think she
was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but I never know with a clothes horse. They are
a different species than I.
I figure the least I can do is not impose my complete inability to
dress with any style on my children. It’s not like I could impose my will on
them anyway. At six and eight they are as stubborn as mules. They know
exactly what they like because they got the fashion gene. I do not know
from where, but it is an aggressive little bugger.
My children love clothes. They have tons. They get
hand-me-downs from all of their cousins and
friends, and they never get rid of anything. I could not do laundry for a month
and they would still never get to the bottom of their dresser drawers. When
I try to get them to get rid of some of the stuff, they cry, “But Mom, I
still wear that!” And they do.
These are little girls who can change their outfits six times a day.
I took their cousin camping recently; she, too, missed the fashion bug.
Her suitcase measured the size of a shoe box. My kids packed
mega-Samsonite suitcases that were so full, they used
a dolly to load them in the RV. These kids would pack a full-sized
suitcase for school if I let them. I draw the line at luggage at school, but I do let
them pick out their own clothes.
On the first day of school my six- year-old daughter wore a gold
lame belt as a hair band. She wore a black velvet shirt under her teenage
cousin’s furry tank top that fit her as a skirt. She finished it off with red
anklets pulled up tight on her legs and her patent leather tap shoes with the
taps taken off so she would not slip and break her neck.
The eight-year-old wore the top of a Mexican fiesta dress which
was white with rainbow ribbons sewn on. The skirt she wore was electric
blue with pleats that came from some old woman’s business suit. She, too,
wore red anklets pulled up tight and the finishing grace was pink “gummy”
You know what? They looked great. I mean it. I may not be able
to put together an outfit even when I buy it off the mannequin in the store. But
I can see what works, and even though it looks horrible in print, these
girls can pull together clothes from all over and make it work.
OK, some of it is over the top. There is such a thing as too many
butterfly clips in your hair (anything over 20). But, 99 percent of the time
they look great. They are better at picking out clothes than I am, and I have
thirty years experience on them.
I guess I will just bide my time until the day they can take me
shopping and pick out my clothes. I can guarantee I will look better than
before, and that I will not be caught wearing last year’s jeans.
You can reach Kate Russell at her new e-mail address