Dressing to impress: the parenting pitfalls of outfit planning

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

OPINION: I used to think one of the best parts of being a parent was being able to dress your child in cute clothes.

Then I had kids.

It is still fun, I'll never get sick of seeing teeny, tiny versions of adult clothes, but it's fair to say the novelty wore off for me quite some time ago.

When my toddlers were babies, I distinctly remember the competitive sport that was Dressing Your Child For An Event.

Music class or birthday parties were a prime example, but any situation where you were in a potential position to be judged through your mini-me's outfit was a time to pull out the cutest clothing possible.

I'll admit I fell for this a little bit at the start. I would plan outfits days or weeks in advance, and I'd be slightly peeved if weather conditions didn't match my clothing plans.

I would trial outfits on my child, regardless of whether they fit well or not, and would try to ensure other kids weren't wearing the same thing if I knew us mums had bought the same items.

But then I learnt some harsh lessons.

The first is that small babies don't care. In fact, it's their personal vendetta to not only soil, but sometimes completely destroy, the carefully purchased or curated outfits.


They are so smart, they often arrange their destruction to occur about 10 minutes before you're due at said event. While in a car seat. Without a back-up outfit.

Then there's the small factor of cost. And by small I mean ridiculously large.

I've always been a scrooge when it comes to some things and the cost of children's clothes has always bewildered me.

In the age of the #instamum phenomenon, I've witnessed frenzied sprees by those who ignore price tags in favour of ensuring their child is seen in the latest branded – and often actually quite ugly – outfit.

Some even set timers so as not to miss out on pre-sales. Pre-sales!

Since when did kids' clothes rival a sell-out gig of some massive touring band?

Anyway, I understand the pressures, but man it's a sad state of affairs when you see already stressed and frazzled mums left devastated when their little one misses out on the latest release of some organic, vegan cotton dress, sewed by the fingerless orphans of some far off country, but also, confusingly, proudly "Made in NZ" #supportlocal.

When I did invest in some more quality pieces for my kids, I became a bit militant about when and where the kids could wear them.

I had chest of drawers for "good" clothes and another for daycare clothes.

I say had, but I actually still kind of have this situation going in some vain attempt to keep the "good" clothes in some type of respectable condition.

For the most part, I've had to let go of any preciousness in regards to clothing and let's be honest, it's probably good training for when school starts and suddenly every item of clothing grows legs and wanders off.

My "good clothes" mantra appears to have got through to my little ones loud and clear, though.

Last week I did a bulk buy of some "nice" clothes for them and the excitement levels – theirs and a little bit of mine - reached fever pitch.

So deprived of threads not covered in paint, grass stains and what-not, they immediately changed in to their new clothes, right before bed, and severe persuasion was required to even get them in to their PJs that night.

Each day after daycare, my son would rush to his drawers and pull out his new "cool" clothes and strut around like the little dude he is.

The countdown began to the weekend, those treasured two days where they get to wear their new stuff.

"Is it the weekend yet?" they'd ask hopefully.

And come Saturday morning, their new clothes were pride of place, ready to go.

It's clear that they are now becoming quite their own little beings when it comes to fashion and I guess it's about time I relent a little bit when trying to strike that perfect balance of not wasting money on pint-sized clothes.

It's been a fun five years of having some semblance of control over what they get to wear, but it's just going to get tougher to have my way once they start to get influenced by trends and friends.

I'd better start saving now.

Greer Berry is a Stuff columnist