There is a book at our library filled with photos from each fashion decade in America and I love flipping through it to laugh at bright eyeshadows and hair-sprayed bangs. What I find fascinating, though, are the looks and trends that transcend decades and are as relevant today as they were in the 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Turtleneck sweaters, pencil skirts, a good black boot, and hair that falls naturally wavy are all common themes. You could pull a photo with a woman wearing a white collared blouse and a pair of jeans and it would look as current today as it did then.
I love that.
My grandmother had a knack for dressing in this classic way. Never one to draw attention to herself, she could walk into a room and look effortlessly stylish with her cropped trousers, silk blouses, and blazers. She knew what worked for her small frame and stuck with that, only to change it up with a new shade of lipstick or necklace. What I appreciated the most was that she put effort like this into looking put together no matter if it was my piano recital or my brother’s 1-year-old birthday party. It was something that made an impression on me at a very young age and vowed I would emulate it as I approached womanhood.
Now that I’m older and I’m dressing my own daughters I think a lot about what I wear and what it communicates to the younger generation looking up to me. I am concerned that the message we seem to send to girls is that everything must be sexy and based on the external. Why can’t dresses just be “pretty”, “classy”, or “beautiful”? Does it have to all be about trends and “what’s in” and “OMG. You look sooooooooo cute”?
I don’t want fashion to be discouraged or encouraged in our house, but rather an expression of ourselves and our femininity or masculinity. This frees us up to shop both at a Goodwill and a Netherlands shoe shop without feeling the need to keep up with anyone. We know what we like in our family and it has nothing to do with current trends or people’s opinions. My hope and prayer is that this will liberate my daughters to be creative and not to get bogged down with what everyone else is doing.
Here are a few of the style secrets I’ve learned about dressing girls in the past 7 years…
1.) Keep it simple. Accessories are really fun, but think about what works for your family’s lifestyle on a daily basis. We’ve found that with a large family dresses work really well because they are a complete outfit and you don’t have to keep up with multiple pieces. In the summer we wear a pair of sandals. In the winter we wear a pair of tights and some boots.
2.) Keep it multifunctional. Everything we wear needs to have more than one purpose, which means we don’t keep a pair of shoes to go with that one dress. We have a color palette that seems to interchangeably match with everything we own – muted color tones, florals, and stripes – and I have no problem getting creative and pairing stripes with florals! We generally do not purchase items with graphics or words. Sticking to a particular color palette is also a wonderful strategy for talking yourself through a purchase when shopping.
3.) Keep it creative. Always keep your eyes open for unconventional places to shop. We have found many of our most-loved dresses at thrift stores, yard sales, and Instagram sales. My girls even like to proudly tell people that they got something from someone’s house! ;) And don’t feel like everything has to match. Part of the fun of fashion is putting unexpected pieces together and trying new things. Pinterest is wonderful for this.
4.) Keep it graceful. There is certainly a time and place for bunnies embroidered on the bum of a pair of pants, but as your girls get older don’t force them into clothes that are not age appropriate. Remember that the lessons you teach now will stick with them throughout womanhood, good and bad. Teach them that their style can reflect positive character qualities of meekness, humility, femininity, confidence, and creativity. But it can also reflect selfishness, flirtation, and deceit.
5.) Keep it positive. I believe that our daughters need to hear that God made them beautiful from us, so that they are not looking for that affirmation elsewhere. I don’t care how confident a girl or a woman seems, she needs to hear that she is beautiful. She also needs to hear that she is smart…and good at math…and artistic…and kind…or whatever her strengths may be. Style is the cherry on top to an already beautiful woman-in-the-making.