A Jeans-And-T-Shirt Mother Meets a Fashion-Loving Daughter

| 4/20/2009 12:54:37 PM

BrainChildCoverMylisa Larsen is bewildered by her daughter Kate’s passion for fashion. Writing for Brain, Child, she wonders how “a woman whose idea of fashion is to exchange the five short-sleeved T-shirts she has been wearing all summer for five long-sleeved T-shirts in the fall” ends up with a four-year-old daughter who loves clothes with a “deep, unreasoning, helpless love.”

Larsen writes tenderly of her daughter’s relationship to clothes. “When we take her things out of the dryer, she puts each shirt up against her face before it goes in the basket, greeting it with endearments. She mourns the passing of a favorite sock for weeks, despairing until I want to tell her to get on with her life, date other socks.”

She worries that, as Kate gets older, her creative, joyful approach to fashion will become limiting and oppressive, that her penchant for pairing red butterfly tights with pink flowered capris will be lost to an addiction to trends. Uneasy about the world her daughter is so drawn to, Larsen decides that the best thing she can do as a parent is “to learn to play the game but to play it lightheartedly, with a sense of fun that gently signals that it’s only a game.”

To do so, she conducts an experiment: she adds some fashionable clothing to her wardrobe and wears it to church every other Sunday, trying to understand the appeal of fashion and observing how it affects her conversations and relationships.  

“This is how it happens sometimes,” Larsen concludes. “You will be following a child into a world that they will someday own…You go out of love, because they want to come here and you want to be with them…You will be stumbling along, trying to keep this child in sight, trying to be useful to them, and then something will happen. You fall in love with a skirt or a pair of shoes, and suddenly you understand that this is how your child feels all the time…Afterward, I feel unsure of myself, as if I should hold very still because there are things all around me that I can’t see.”

Source: Brain, Child

4/22/2009 2:07:56 PM

Touching article, but what bothers me is the mother's somewhat condescending view on the beautiful world of fashion. Children are very astute and if this child somehow picks up on the fact that her mother doesn't take fashion seriously, and views it only as a "game," that child might develop the sad idea that there is something 'wrong' with loving fashion. What if the child wants to enter the world of design when she's older? If she has a mother who believes that such a thing isn't serious or 'feminist' enough, it can create a deep wound in the child and believe that her calling is somehow wrong. And there's nothing sadder than having parents who don't support you whole-heartedly in your pursuits.

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