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We need more sparkles: Kids on clothes & being yourself

Annella, future fashion icon.

 As we draw closer and closer to Christmas, I admire my younger sibling’s excitement about the holiday and the jolly old man who makes it all possible. They approach Christmas with wonder whilst I simply view it as a great excuse to eat enormous amounts of food.

Their endearing ability to find magic in the world is something I’m particularly appreciative of around Christmas. Clothing, like Christmas, is fun for kids. It’s a form of expression and exploration unhindered by self-consciousness or trends – a view that sees clothing as a tool of empowerment (something perhaps we women should remember more often).

I spoke to six kids recently about dressing up and being yourself I was delighted by their charming, and surprisingly insightful ideas about fashion.

Six year old Annella felt there was a serious lack of sparkles in adult wardrobes and (accompanied by emphatic hand gestures) advised that ‘people should wear more style. They should wear more sparkly clothes, you know, more style.’ Sonnet, aged eight, advised against feather boas and labelled high heels and miniskirts ‘the worst thing to wear’ whilst Patrick, aged six, simply emphasized the importance of underwear. Maebh, aged five, wants to see grownups wear more colours, and of course, pink shoes.

When asked about Santa, Sonnet, felt that he ‘could use a few fashion tips. ‘But hey, it’s a long night.’ She added, so I guess he can be forgiven.

Fashion can be a form of exploration and escapism as it provides us with an opportunity to be more daring or creative than we otherwise might be. As Annella explains ‘’you can have really fun playing that character!’ Her own favourite character? ‘It’s not really a person, it’s fairies,’ she says.

In the real world, the potential of clothing to empower women stems from this same transformative ability. Dressing up means ‘you can be anything,’ Sonnet explains.

We find ourselves lucky enough to be living in a time and place where we can wear is almost limitless, as the gender stigma attached to certain pieces of clothing is slowly disappearing. When Sonnet says ‘Pants are better than skirts or dresses.’ it’s clear that children no longer see pants as specifically ‘for boys’ and dresses ‘for girls’ – this move away from gender stereotypes can be seen in children’s toys too. The prevalence of androgynous dressing in adults reflects a similar movement towards removing gender boundaries.

As these kids seem to know with unassuming certainty, being whoever you are means wearing whatever you want. For Paige, aged eight, it’s a ballgown, for Sonnet it’s pyjamas and for my brother Jack, nine, it’s just something comfortable.

The pressure on women to dress a certain way in still immense, but we need to simply to be happy and comfortable in our clothes, and ourselves. We should all remember to be a bit more childish – after all, dressing up should be fun. But in the end as Patrick says, the best person to dress up as is yourself.

By Isabelle Hellyer

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