It was my daughter's thirteenth birthday this weekend, which was lovely. The mainstay of the gifts given were clothes. I find her endlessly easy to buy for as there are just so many cool things for girls of this age. However I was struck that her desire for new clothes was all tied up with how she wants to present herself to the world. This is no different to any of us; clothes are a way to project our own style.
I am always encouraging her to be a bit different from the rest, to embrace her individuality. But I am conscious that in amongst that sentiment I still want her to look relatively presentable. Such a fine line with girl's clothes - they can't be too grown up, yet the my-little-pony-pink wardrobe has long been left behind. Very few brands get this right and actually very few brands exist to cater for the middle ground of child to teen. At the moment on her desire list it's Topshop, American Apparel and Jack Wills. None of which are cheap and all of which are actually adult brands but with a distinctly younger feel.
What featured heavily on this year's birthday list were high-waisted jeans in a stone-wash that I would have been proud to have sported in the 80's (we all know I heart the 80's). Crop tops - also Madonna circa 1985. High tops. A bit of neon. I realised quickly that I was vicariously getting my chance to dress her like I did when I was young(er). Is it a coincidence that her fashion is a newer, come-around-again version of what I had? Is that how fashion goes - on a 25 year loop?
The last thing I want to do is stifle her style - but it's also my job to make sure she doesn't leave the house looking like a state. Where to draw the line? Vetoing her clothing choices spells teenage rebellion! And can I blame her? So we muddle through and I talk a lot about 'less is more' and the perils of showing too much skin and keeping to only a couple of clashing patterns.
I realise that when I was her age my Mum gave me the same advice, but deeply instilled was the impetus to look elegant but also individual. Elegance can often be synonymous with classic and classic can look dull! And no one wants to look dull, surely?
And after all that I also ask myself - why does it matter? Shouldn't girls be taught that it's not all about how they look and dress so that they can escape the demands of needing to feel perfect?! It's a minefield. And seriously, while we are here; how influential is Cara Delevingne with teenage girls? I figure the key - as with all of these things - is to be thoughtful about it. I spend a lot of time explaining to my kids why things are important - what is and what isn't. Meanwhile, as for the thought-provoking quotes that I stick to her mirror every couple of days (her friends who visit think I am nuts) - this is the current one: