Wednesday, 3 August 2016

THE JOY OF SELF-EXPRESSION


Tribes have always been around. Not just in the collective sense of groups of people who are connected in relation to their social, economic or religious ties. Or the more familiar blood relations. But cultural tribes. Those groupings that are instantly obvious usually because of the clothing that people are wearing. Again, social factors play a role. Even going back hundreds of years. After all clothing is often an economic marker - can you afford crinoline or velvet or hand-loomed fair trade organic cotton? 

And just as with so many other aspects of society and culture, this is often played out in the world of children. Mainly because parents make the purchases, and determine which tribe they want their little ones to belong to. This is not always a conscious decision, but it is there. And in the online world of Instagram it is played out large.

Is your child a modern minimalist, a character out of Little House on the Prairie, or do they look like they have stepped out of a lecture at Harvard? 

Often children play along with this game because they enjoy mimicking parents, and the sense of belonging that comes with looking like those around you. Part of the reason that #minime and #twinning are such popular hashtags (although not always just related to parents and their children).

I know that my daughters get excited when they have an item of clothing that's similar to mine. And my son was thrilled when his dad bought the same brand of trainers as him recently. There's something wonderful about being connected to your tribe.

But self-expression is important too. Some of the style icons from last century went against the grain of what was popular or acceptable at the time. Look at Coco Chanel and her penchant for wearing trousers, and men's clothing. While it was considered de-classe, her legacy is real.

Allowing children to express themselves can foster a healthy dose of self confidence. That their choices and decisions are valued. My son has dressed himself since the age of two, and has always enjoyed doing things his way. Initially it was pulling his socks up to his knees and then crossing his velcro straps over to create patterns - from crosses to chevrons. There is no harm in this, and by not "correcting" him it has helped foster his sense of creativity which has continued to grow. He's not afraid to experiment or explore ideas. He has freedom to think for himself.

Of course, children can also go through stages were their sartorial choices can look more like a fancy dress party. And while we've allowed dress-ups we've also explained that there's a time and a place for everything. School and certain social occasions deserve respect. 

Also, when all of the clothes in your wardrobe are of a similar colour palette then it doesn't always matter how they are mixed. I find this true of my own clothing. Years ago I sold and donated heavily patterned clothing, and items that only worked with one other item as they were too much work. It's an easier life when you grab almost any top and bottom and they are complementary.

Each one of our children has a different personality and they express this through their clothing choices. We see this most acutely with the girls. While the eldest has always gravitated towards "pretty" dresses, especially ones that spin, the younger is more interested in striped t-shirts, a simple skirt (usually with pockets) and leggings. It's been a valuable lesson in realising that not all clothing can be passed down. But everything within their wardrobes works cohesively and this gives us as parents the freedom of time to allow them to dress themselves. 

And, yes, they are of our tribe. We value handmade clothing made with natural fibres, and organic materials when possible. That gives us joy. And we want them to learn that your sartorial choices can bring happiness. In more ways than one.

images the indigo crew




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