Not all that long ago, women over 60 were relegated to the hinterlands of style. Phrases like “dressing like your grandma” or “dressing like an old lady” were the unkindest dig one could make about someone’s attire.
But the times they are a-changin’ and all for the better. Today, fashionable women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s are showing the world a new face, our face. Yes, it’s an aging one, but it’s also a fun-loving, fierce, visible, and fearless one.
It’s the face of survivors and thrivers who are actually enjoying the second half of their life and dressing to show it. And we owe it to our grandchildren to teach them how it’s done.
So what age children are we talking about where shopping education is concerned?
Ideally, you can start when they are as young as five or six. That way they will be used to making intelligent decisions by the time they reach those teen years. They will have more knowledge of their style, more sense of themselves, and more common sense about how to present themselves well.
Now, of course, we all know that teenagers are just going to wear exactly what they want to wear, including any number of crazy combinations. But if we can take fashion inspiration from younger generations, we can also provide gentle guidance to their children.
Here are some topics we know a thing or two about.
By the time kids are five or six, you can already see some of the colors that work best for their coloring.
You can say things like, “That color makes you look happy, and it makes me happy when I see you in it. That was a good choice!” Or, “What a (pretty or nice) pattern you chose. It matches your (sunny, playful, energetic, creative – pick your adjective) personality.”
Then you can ask them what they like about it. You want to support their good choices. If they say, “Mom picked it out” then you can simply ask what they think of it.
Some kids couldn’t care less what they wear or will just wear the same thing over and over again. Even then, there might be some way to ask them what they like about it. And then listen. That gives them room to be honest.
Yes, I know you want to spoil your grandkids, and it’s a grandparents’ privilege. But think about this: Do you want to establish a relationship based on what they can expect from you (and what they can expect from your will!), or do you want to be a source of wisdom that they want to keep around for a long time?
Before embarking on a shopping trip with your grandkids, sit with them and make a list of what they might need or want. Regardless of who is paying – you or their parents – set a budget. And then, consider where they will likely find what they need within that budget.
Talk with them ahead of time about which shops they like and why. And then see if those are within the budget you’ve set. You’re not only teaching them about style, you’re setting them up for responsible shopping into their adulthood.
For all of us, shopping for clothing with lasting quality is always better than going for quantity. Yes, kids are going to grow out of what they wear quickly.
Still, most of them like repeating outfits (unless you have one of those that loves to experiment) so there’s no harm in buying just a few things that are well made and will look for repeated wear. And be sure to point out that they do look good in those items and explain why.
When they see themselves looking sharp and being complimented on it, but especially why they do, that sets a great habit for future shopping choices.
Although children, like adults, have unique coloring, there are some colors that you may want to discourage them from wearing.
Mom may appreciate the darker ones because they hide stains better. But very dark colors make kids less visible, particularly at dusk or nighttime. It’s just safer to have them wear a lighter color when they cross the street or ride a bike.
Although red is certainly a stand-out color, it can be tricky, especially for very young and pre-teen girls. Red is simply a color of passion and high vibration. You might want to steer them to lighter versions, maybe in paler corals or pinks.
Just as with adults, the entire range of blues and greens in what we wear projects a sense of confidence, and that’s a great thing for a child. But generally, let them experiment in the area of color. It will give them a chance to express their individuality.
Without coming off like a nun with a ruler or a prissy school marm, you can still share the importance of wearing clean, pressed, and modest clothing that doesn’t expose them in unflattering ways or that looks sloppy.
Even more importantly, you can help them learn about what is good taste. And, you can do this subtly. Study artbooks with them and talk about why a particular photo or painting is beautiful. Take them to a museum or gallery.
Study nature and ask them how it expresses harmony, symmetry, and beauty; or why, when it is asymmetrical, it can still be beautiful, artistically.
This is the way you open the door for your grandkids to appreciate the natural world around them. That can greatly influence how they put themselves together in the future and is a great way to introduce them to the world of art.
Finally, Marie Kondo has reminded all of us to thank our clothes for the joy they create. Many children in the world have so many fewer things and fewer choices. Remind your grandkids how fortunate they are. And you can teach children to show respect for the value of their things by taking good care of them.
That means, folding or putting them back on the hanger at the end of the day, or putting them in the hamper for washing when they are soiled, rather than throwing them around the room or in a pile.
When kids are thoughtfully invested in making decisions about what they wear, they will likely be more careful with their clothes.
When was the last time you had a shopping afternoon with children? How did it go? What did you teach them? What did you learn from them? Would you repeat the experience? Please share in the comments below!