When I was a kid, I had a pair of sparkly red shoes that I adored. I’m sure a lot of millennial women remember having a similar pair in their closets, too — in the early '90s, they were a true staple when it came to spring fashion for kids. And while my friends would only wear their sparkly red shoes to special birthday parties, I would wear mine everywhere. I wore them to the pizza parlor, on playdates, to the museum, to the bookstore, to the doctor’s office, and every other place that you’d find a 5-year-old hugging her mother’s pant leg.
I had substantially more anxiety than is commonly seen in young children, and these shoes helped me feel confident and comfortable in my surroundings. The heels made a clicking sound when I walked, and I found that to be soothing because it emulated the clicking that my mother’s shoes made. The audible tempo of my steps would yank me out of whatever I was worrying about and force me to focus on the real world, and what I was actually doing at that moment. These shoes also represented who I wanted to be as a person: outgoing and exciting! Wearing them was a reminder to myself of who I knew I could be.
I imagine that a lot of other children have attachments to their clothes the way I did, but I wanted to know for sure. To show how fashion can help kids to be independent and confident in who they are, and how a sense of style starts young, we partnered with H&M and Jenna of Lunchpails and Lipstick (and her daughter Chloe, who is almost five). We invited them into our offices in New York and asked Chloe to appear in a photoshoot where she would be modeling looks in three categories: a day at school, a playdate with a friend, and a special occasion outing. Both Chloe and her mom would be styling one look in each category.
On the morning of the shoot, I got to chat with Jenna as Chloe was looking over her (many!) options. As a mom to three kids and an aesthetician with 15 years of experience, she’s passionate about bringing more style to motherhood. “I really like feminine things that have a touch of edge to them,” she said. “I love pairing lace with leather, for example. But I spend a lot of time running around with my three kids, so I also love a good T-shirt with a pair of jeans and some sneakers. I’m actually really into T-shirts. I have them in every color and every fit!”
Jenna also mentioned that Chloe also loves fashion. “She loves pink and fun textures. She’s really drawn to sparkle, and she really cares about her style,” she said. “At night, sometimes she’ll lay her clothes out and thinks about what she’s going to wear the next day. My other two kids aren’t like that.”
Here are the outfits that Chloe and Jenna assembled.
For School: Chloe's Pick
When the shoot began, Chloe dressed herself for a day at school. The first two things she picked out were the sparkly pink sneakers and the gold sequined pilot jacket. She told me she loved the sparkles (which I did too, clearly), and loved the way they cast shadows on the walls when they caught the sun the right way. She then chose a pair of denim shorts, a turquoise parrot tee, and a unicorn necklace (which was also pink and sparkly).
For School: Jenna's Pick
Then it was Jenna’s turn to pick a school outfit for Chloe. Since her daughter spends her days running around in kindergarten, Jenna chose a comfy and easy going striped jersey dress and sneakers. When I asked Jenna about her selection for Chloe, she said, “It’s an effortless play dress that she doesn’t have to fuss with — no unbuttoning, no adjusting. And kids in sneakers is the cutest thing.”
For A Playdate: Chloe's Pick
Next up were the playdate looks! Chloe went straight for the pink lace dress and pink ballet flats. Once she had the dress on, she was sashaying and skipping around the studio with a huge smile on her face. After we’d taken a few pictures of her, she politely told the photographer to hold on, walked over to the accessories table, grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a flower headband, and then sat back down for more pictures. Chloe told me she loved this dress because it was “easy to twirl in,” and it was obvious that she was really enjoying this look.
For A Playdate: Jenna's Pick
Jenna chose a similarly fun look for Chloe: a green skirt with flowers, a comfy tee with a rabbit and a kitten on it, and fringe sandals. “I love watching Chloe play with her friends,” Jenna said. “Little girls use their clothes to tell the stories they’re imagining during playtime. Chloe and her friends love pretending they are princesses and imagining themselves in beautiful clothes, and this look works because it’s a bit dressy.”
Special Occasion: Chloe's Pick
And then the time came for Chloe to wear the "special occasion" dress that she had been eyeing all day: this sequined tulle dress. “I like it because it looks like Elsa’s dress,” she said. “It’s sparkly and flowy and so beautiful!” Once again, Chloe was smiling and dancing around the studio in her silver ballet flats, showing her dress off to everyone. When we were taking photos, she curtseyed the whole time.
Special Occasion: Jenna's Pick
Chloe wore a white dress with a gold butterfly pattern and some darling white sandals for Jenna's "special occasion" look. She wanted this outfit to feel a bit fancier than the others, and be something Chloe might wear to a brunch or for a family portrait. “It’s the perfect length, so she doesn’t have to wear shorts underneath it,” Jenna said. “At the same time, it doesn’t get in her way and I can tell from the smile on her face that it makes her feel like a big girl.”
At five years old, Chloe's excitement for fashion and dressing herself indicates kids know clothes do more than just protect them from the elements. It shows they know that what they wear can symbolize who they are. To get spring clothes that are stylish and reflective of your kid's personality, check out the new line at H&M. And whatever you do, don't skimp on the sparkles.
Images: Lauren Perlstein
Makeup: Jamie Dorman; Hair: Akihisa Yamaguchi
This post is sponsored by H&M.