Have you ever quickly darted by the cartoon character t-shirts in Target, hoping your chatty toddler doesn’t notice the Princess Elena romper the store conveniently places within arm’s reach? Because if she does notice, it’s game over. Any adorable Cat & Jack dress I had envisioned pairing with a Mini Boden cardigan, knee-high socks, and patent leather Zara boots are out the window.
Well, not entirely, but if I buy the dress I want versus the cool character outfit, chances are my daughter will always associate the dress with contempt, never letting me put it on her. I know this, because it’s happened to me.
I have the pleasure of parenting and nurturing Henrietta, one of the most daring, adventurous, and strong-willed females I have ever met. I literally cannot tell her “no.” It doesn’t work. I’m sure it sounds like disobedience to most, but for me, it’s been a tango of figuring out the right word to reroute ideas or actions I find less desirable. (Side note: she does recognize “no” when it relates to hitting her little brother and things like that, which is rare.)
Make Every Choice the Right Choice
I try to set us both up for success by letting Henri choose things, like her outfit, but out of the options, they are always combinations I know I’d like. Win-win. I win because I’m not battling her, and she wins because she got to choose and is therefore pleased with what she’s wearing. Because when you are a princess who climbs trees, loves worms, and plays sports, you want to feel like you look fabulous even when you’re bouncing around.
Mix Stylish Pieces with Practical Fabrics
What else helps? I have learned to become an avid online shopper—mixing and matching the best brands for the performance and style Henri needs and desires. My personal preference is that all four (soon to be five!) children have clothes that fit their needs and personalities, but that I also adore. Ultimately, I love children to look and feel like children, so we stay away from mini adult looks, though I admit wishing I could pull off what they wear at times. Confession: I went through a short-lived phase where everything was mustard yellow and light brown and quickly realized that our children looked like drab sepia photos.
As a result, we’ve embraced colors and patterns, and learned to pair different styles together—pops of neon with just about anything that twirls is perfect for Henri. Since we live in Minnesota, I’ve also become an advocate for layering! I choose brands that I know function for kids and adults, and they must live up to their promises of quality and have some potential for being resold.
Find Brands That Grow With You
I have fallen in love with smaller companies that got their start on Instagram, but I’m constantly surprised and impressed by Target. We also love Polarn O. Pyret for outerwear, Patagonia for light outerwear (which they repair!) Bogs for rain and winter boots, Natives for everyday, Alice & Ames for twirling, Mini Boden for accent pieces, J. Crew’s Crewcuts for fun accessories, and Zara for trendy pieces that stand up to multiple washes.
Finally, I should add I’m not completely cruel. Thankfully Disney makes some really durable princess nightgowns, so Henri can get her Princess Elena fix while she slumbers!
Chelsey Werth is a photographer, producer, creator and mother of four. She grew up on a farm, but would rather “glamp” than camp. She loves to garden, cook and bake, and when she’s not being a modern-day Martha Stewart, she also runs a family blog called Hop & Howl.