I didn’t think I would struggle to buy clothes for my daughter this early in her life. She is only five and already there are issues. Not from her, as long as it is pretty and colourful she is content. Rather, the issues are coming from me.
When she was a baby I would love to put her in those traditional baby pink flowing outfits, just the way my mother dressed me. Pink bows, white lace, flowers and bunnies; clothes that imbued her sweetness and innocence. But something happened once she turned two. Suddenly all the clothes for her age matured and doubled in price, as though she herself had turned into a miniaturised adult with her own fashion account. Knee high boots, mini skirts and skinny jeans. Nail polish, matching handbags and anklets.
I have done my best to keep fitting her into the smaller sizes, just so she can still wear loose fitting clothes that allows her to be a toddler. But as she gets older, I am wondering where and how I am going to keep her clothes in a child’s domain. Looking at the clothes from my own childhood that I have kept for her, they now look like a total anachronism. How did children’s fashion change so dramatically in just one generation? The commodification of women across all spheres of society is nothing new but I didn’t think it would affect my daughter before she even started kindergarten.
Adding to this clothing challenge is another factor—we are Muslim and have our own set of standards of how both females and males should dress. Once puberty starts, clothes should be below the knee and not be tight and revealing. There is also the decision of whether she chooses to wear the hijab as part of her self-expression. Although this limits what we can wear ‘off the rack’, I never saw it is as a limitation when I was a teenager. Rather I explored my self-identity through poetry, art and music, or make up, hair dye and body piercings. But the quicker adult fashion enters the children’s department, the faster identity issues are being placed on these girls, before their teenage hormones are even on the horizon.
How do you negotiate fashion with your daughter? At what age do you start to notice their hips and breasts protruding from under their once flowing garment, and does this make you start rethinking what they wear? When is it appropriate for girls to wear high heels and make up, and who determines this age? Do we base it on our own upbringing, or has the generation gap moved too far for comparisons?
I want to protect my daughter and help her love who she is. I want her to know that her body is not for public consumption and that she isn’t a slave to fashion. But more than this, I want her to make her own independent decisions about her life, and form her own personality and understanding of our faith. The best I can do for now is be a role model, through my attitude and action towards my own body. As I watch her running and laughing wildly across the park in her flowing no-name dress, thongs and tiara, I see a confident and independent-minded female loving her life. May she always have this disposition regardless of what she is wearing.