Learn the subtle art of dressing for school

A look at life in the Lower Snoqualmie Valley.

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