It's no secret that my 3-year-old daughter is into fashion. She insists on dressing herself and manages to rock at least three different looks before most days are finished. She notices what strangers are wearing on the street and she's always quick to compliment another girl's fancy skirt or an "adult lady's" cool bag. She loves to style everything: her outfit, her hair, her room, her stuffed animal's outfits, my hair, my outfit, my hair's outfits. Even things that you'd think would be off limits in the style realm, like makeup and bath toys, she somehow manages to style. My toddler would dress her dad if we let her — and TBH, that's exactly what I wanted her to do.
You can imagine how excited Stella was when I gave in to the inevitable last month and let her dress me every day for a week. Naturally, she had a blast, and actually, so did I. She put together a week's worth of fabulous, fine, and funky outfits. But most of all, she reminded me that it doesn't matter what others think you should be wearing because as long as you're feeling confident and comfortable, you'll be the most stylish person in the house.
Although her intent was to give her dad a simple t-shirt, jeans, and hoodie combo, she was more than delighted to find that his outfit now included a huge statement piece.
So the natural course of action after last month's experiment was to have Stella style her dad, duh. It didn't take much convincing past, "Please, daddy?"to get my husband on board. (It didn't even require an eyelash bat.) Luckily, Peter is not only easy-going, he's also always up for anything, which in this case encompasses being dressed by his 3-year-old daughter for a week. "She did a great job with you!" he said, overly exuberant as if he was trying to convince himself that it would all go just as well for him. And it did. In essence. Well. Kinda.
In an effort to further nurture Stella's passion for fashion, Peter decided to let her dress him for a week. Yes, that's seven whole days. And five of those days included work days filled with meetings, presentations, events, and my husband's lingering need to hold on to his dignity. But he let our little fashionista style him nonetheless, giving her all access to his drawers, wardrobe, and closet, and without coaxing her or directing her to any one level of attire.
Here's what happened.
Monday: HELLO, Monday!
On Monday morning, Stella did an unusual Monday morning thing and leapt out of bed after remembering that this was the day her Styling Daddy Week would start. She sauntered around our bedroom opening our closet doors and dresser drawers, and then asked, "Is this daddy's drawer?" as she pulled open Peter's sock/underwear/leisurewear drawer. Once she got the "yes," she exclaimed, "Let's pick out some clothes. She was ready to werk.
Stella took Tuesday by the horns. She was approaching this experiment with her dad in a different way than she had when she dressed me.
Moving from drawer to closet and back to drawer, Stella rather quickly laid Monday's outfit out on the bed. Initially she chose some lycra athletic shorts, but put them back when I reminded her that her dad had to go to work. I don't think the "work" part had anything to do with why she didn't choose the lycra shorts though, as was evidenced by the outfit she ended up going with.
She was quick to pull from the closet a rather slim fit t-shirt with a coyote wearing a pearl necklace that Peter bought from a Palm Springs hipster hotel lobby several years back. It didn't suit his classic, British style then and does even less so now, but he chalks the purchase up to "eating too much kale salad during that time period." Stella quickly paired the tee with a dark pair of jeans, some suede loafers, a quick spritz of cologne, and a marigold-colored tie. Bada bing! Bada Boom! There's Monday for ya, pops!
Peter was happy to try it on and even model it, but even Stella, after seeing how "so not her dad" it all looked when worn together, said, "Daddy, after this you can change."
To carry on with the theme she'd established on Monday of "will Daddy really wear this to work?" Stella took Tuesday by the horns. She was approaching this experiment with her dad in a different way than she had when she dressed me. She wasn't going to get him to the runway. Oh no, she was going to get a laugh out of it. She was a bit manic and giggly when she was choosing his day-two outfit, and those lycra beauties she'd put back before became center stage on Tuesday. In fact, nothing else really mattered to her as much as those sweet short pants that day.
She grabbed one of Peter's old rugby club t-shirts, pulled down another tie, and handed him the clothing grab-bag in a pile. She then threw out a very casual, "I think you're gonna look awesome," just to secure her styling credibility and to negate any hunch that she may be doing it all as a joke. But her subsequent giggle fest and "stretchy pants" comment gave it all away. He may have looked awesome, but it was the kind of awesome you channel when you emerge from a house party the next morning still inebriated.
Stella said, "Actually, you look very cool." In all honesty, I had to agree.
On Wednesday, Stella let her legit style preferences come through. She searched for and chose a hoodie for Peter to wear because she "loves hoodies, especially on boys." Stella in the past has voiced that her favorite things for boys to wear is jeans and t-shirt, and she is very much a girl after my own heart. So I knew where Wednesday's look was going. Or so I thought. I don't think she meant to pull down the cat face t-shirt that I bought Peter at a gas station in St. George, Utah out of the closet, but that's what in fact came down, and you better believe she went with it anyway. Although her intent was to give her dad a simple t-shirt, jeans, and hoodie combo, she was more than delighted to find that his outfit now included a huge statement piece.
After seeing Peter come out of the room dressed kitty cool, Stella said, "Actually, you look very cool." In all honesty, I had to agree. Was it the hipster influence on fashion that made me like the outfit? Maybe. But I think it was mostly Stella's influence reminding me that being real and true to who you are looks good. Peter doesn't necessarily love cats, but he does feel comfortable in a hoodie and a t-shirt, and he walked out looking like a big boss. Just goes to show that if you're feeling your best, you'll look your best, cat shirt and all.
Thursday: Well, This Is Different
It was by sheer chance — or dare I say luck — that when Stella went to the closet on Thursday, two gold drawstrings were sprouting out between the tightly packed hanging trousers. Naturally, they caught her eye. "What is that gold thing," she asked me, and that gold thing was a pair of Chinese style silk pajamas Peter's father had bought years ago, never wore, then so kindly gifted to Peter on their last visit to see us. Peter had kept them in his closet, I assumed, to use as a last-minute costume someday, but I'm not really sure that's the whole reason. I mean, they're exceptionally silky.
When I pulled that number out of the closet and Stella saw what it was, Thursday's outfit was a done deal. And it wasn't for the reason you or I might choose to make him wear it. Unsurprisingly, Stella didn't care if it was over the top with its gold shiny flair, and she didn't care that wasn't appropriate for work (work-appropriate had clearly not been a factor all week). She didn't even care if it looked cool or creepy. It was soft and silky, and she knew her dad was going to love that level of comfort. Instead of laughing like I did when I showed it to her, she grabbed it from me and started putting her legs in it. "Oh, this is gonna be nice and silky," she said excitedly. She was right.
She paired it with a pair of Peter's black oxfords, a much lower standard of comfort, no socks, and when Peter emerged, draped in the gold treasure, Stella dreamily smiled at him and followed him around the room. I think she was jealous.
Friday: Monochromatic Madness
Friday was all about matchy-matchy. Stella chose a blue pullover sweater, a blue "Jackson Hole, Wyoming" t-shirt, and blue chinos. She switched it up a little with some orange and blue Adidas trainers, but would have probably also chosen Peter's blue Dodgers hat had it been in view. I found it interesting how the style and motivation behind each outfit up to this point in the week were so varying. Wednesday, she was all about comfort. Friday, she was feelin' head-to-toe blue.
After Peter was dressed in the outfit she'd chosen, Stella said, "It's like in the olden days." Maybe what Peter and I saw as the classic college look — a pullover and chinos — had already become outdated. So I asked Stella, "What's the olden days for you? 2012?" That was the year Stella was born, and she knows that, but she thought for a minute before responding and instead said, "'13."
Saturday: Tank Top Regrets
Stella was excited to get her dad in a tank top on Saturday. And why not? It was the freakin' weekend! After initially denying that he owned a tank top, Peter then remembered he'd brought one home from Thailand many years ago. Needless to say, Stella was thrilled. She paired it with jeans and his black oxfords, natch, and then ran to Peter's wardrobe and chose a navy blazer to complete the look, which to Stella said, "no-school Saturday, let's celebrate!" but to me said, "NOPE!"
On Sunday, Stella finally decided to dress Peter for work.
When Stella chose the jacket and oxfords, Peter commented on how Stella seemed to be getting better at choosing outfits more in line with how he would normally dress, especially for work. And sure, the overall look was more formal than the previous outfits had been.
When Peter took the jacket off and revealed the trimmed tank top underneath, which scooped low enough to reveal a healthy amount of his chest hair, Stella, who was looking on from the doorway of her bedroom, pleaded, "NO, NO, please put it back on." It was a look that definitely made a statement, even if the statement was, "night clubbing in Omaha, in 1997."
Sunday: Now We're Talkin'
On Sunday, Stella finally decided to dress Peter for work. After a heavenly lie-in enjoyed by all of us, Stella came into our room and stood on the bed to get a good view of all of her options. She had me go down the line, shirt by shirt, trouser by trouser, oxford by loafer, until she put together the ideal weekday outfit for Peter. It didn't bother her that her perfect selection just happened to fall on a weekend.
Perhaps she'd remembered Peter putting this outfit together before, but more than anything, you could tell Stella choose the outfit based on the looks Peter typically prefers and the vibe he gives off. It was sort of a nod to her dad's style. And maybe she chose this outfit because she'd spent a week seeing her dad in very un-dad outfits. Maybe she was ready to see that familiar look on her pops again.
Another Win All Around For The Toddler Stylist
Will Peter be inclined to have his daughter as his personal shopper any time soon? Probably not. But he would be more than happy to do another experiment with Stella. Especially for the laughs, the bonding, and for the insight into her perspective and personality. Much like I was when Stella's first fashion experiment ended, Peter was reminded to be more like a kid. Stella knew that the ways she'd dressed her dad six out of the seven days were completely different from the way her "proper dad" normally looks, and she knew he'd probably never put any of those outfits together for himself. But she saw him in a unique light this week. And perhaps it was the thrill in seeing daddy out of the norm that influenced her styling decisions so much.
As a spectator to the whole thing, it was fun to see my husband look quirky, not so polished, and even silly — each a style so different from how he normally looks on a day-to-day basis. But to Stella, it wasn't that silly. According to her, why not look different, be wacky, and have fun? It's so easy for adults to get stuck in routine and to shy away from taking fun or funky style risks for fear of the judgment by others, but Stella reminded us both to live more fully, more joyfully, and to laugh at ourselves and to wear stretchy pants if we feel like it.
Kids are amazing because they are so good at living in the moment. All week long I was struck by the diversity in Stella's outfit choices. There was never a common theme or the same motivation behind any of the getups she chose. Every single day was brand new, surprising, and full of excitement. So were her choices. I realized that was because Stella was simply acting on whatever she felt in that very moment when she perused the closet. On Tuesday, Stella was channeling a Risky Business vibe, on Wednesday, she was in chill hoodie mode. On Friday, she was like, I feel like seeing all blue. And even if those gold drawstrings led her to something she didn't really expect (or perhaps think she ever wanted) to see her dad in, she felt that silky fabric and was like, oh, hell yes, this is now happening.
Stella reminded her dad and me that it's all about embracing who you are and letting it shine through. Because when you do that, you'll be dripping in swag no matter what you wear, whether it be silky gold Chinese pajamas or an oversized cat t-shirt.