Does Preschool Really Need to Be a Fashion Show?

Alexa Bigwarfe

Every day we walk into preschool, and I try to pretend that I’m not embarrassed that my girls aren’t dressed in prettier clothes or with their hair looking nicer. If I’m lucky, their clothes actually match. And I wish that I had what the other moms have – a sense of style.

We live in the beautiful state of South Carolina. I was transplanted here back in 1989 at the age of 13. While still young and impressionable, I was not a child, and I had to really work hard to fit in here as a teen. Particularly when it pertains to fashion. I am so “fashion challenged” it is not even funny.

Now I’m raising two little girls here, and I feel like I might not be enough or teaching them the right things to truly fit in. Sure, at two and four they are doing fine. But when we go places, my little girls are the only ones without bows in their hair, or beautifully monogrammed clothing, or the latest fashions. OK, I get it. It’s fun to dress our little ladies up. And there is nothing wrong with bows and pretty clothes.

I think all little girls should dress how they want. If they love the fancy dresses, wear the fancy dresses. If they want shorts, shorts are fab too. If I choose not to buy those options for my girls, do I immediately put them at a disadvantage? At this age, probably not. The girls don’t seem to notice who is wearing what. But what about next year? Middle school? High school?

I want my girls to express themselves in their clothing choices. I allow Jelly Bean (four-year-old) to dress herself. It is often pretty wacky, but she loves putting together her own combos. I draw the line on truly hideous combinations or a spaghetti strap summer dress in the dead of winter. But, she usually puts together her own outfits.


Like in this picture. The tiny one in the Syracuse onesie and the oversized jeans is my youngest daughter. She looks like a boy.


I don’t know. They are all happy, so does it matter what they are wearing?


Of course, she does have some sass!

We don’t do ruffles or bows… or monograms or smocked outfits. That started as my choice, but since I never insisted on those things when they were little, they have no interest in them now. And I wonder if I messed up on that point. Because now I actually would like to see them wearing those things, and the girls say no.

Jelly Bean is so self-confident and happy, and I do not want to take that away. But should I be a little more insistent on her dressing and accessorizing in the popular fashions? I don’t even buy them for her anymore. It’s not going to be long before all girls go through the “mean girls” stage (because we have ALL been there, right?). And it hurts me to imagine anyone making fun of her, especially because of my choices.

I am terrified that while I am fighting against the preschool fashion parade, I may be damaging my daughters.

It really hit me this weekend. We went to a birthday party. My girls were cute in their outfits (Jelly Bean was actually matching!), but I dressed them in play clothes, not stylish brands. Jelly Bean’s hair was a mess. It is always a mess. That is completely my fault. I  give in when she starts fussing about brushing it. She won’t let me pull it back, braid it, or put a barrette in it, so I pick my battles. That isn’t one of them.

So, I felt really embarrassed that the girls look a mess especially in comparison with all of the beautiful well dressed, well-groomed children. And yet I am the one who could change that.  It’s just not even in my DNA to get them fixed up like that to go to a birthday party. Or to preschool.

Am I really just hurting my daughters by not making the effort to make them cuter?

And then there’s the insecurity that I feel like I am being judged for not getting my kids fixed up enough.Whether it’s real or imagined, I hate the feeling that I’m not doing this mothering thing well enough.

I do want my daughters to grow up with a sense of pride about their appearance. I don’t want them to find themselves at age 37, reminding themselves every day to “put on something other than sweat pants and don’t forget a touch of makeup.”

Let’s be honest. We all judge and are judged, by our appearance.

Does the fashion parade have to start in preschool, and, since it is at my daughters’ school, am I damaging my daughters by not making more of an effort on their behalf?

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Dolled up to the 9's or comfy and mismatched? How does your little girl roll?

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Alexa Bigwarfe is a freelance writer and author. She is currently co-authoring a book entitled Lose the Cape: Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive due out in Spring 2015. She launched her writing with the blog No Holding Back, as an outlet for her grief after the loss of one of her twin daughters to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). Alexa is a wife, mother of three, dog owner, and advocate.