Most three-year-olds fall asleep next to their favourite stuffed animal. My daughter? A mound of satin, tulle and lace. Gangly stockings hang on a nearby chair, her sparkly ballerina flats tucked neatly under her bed like a pair of slippers. A nighttime ritual to ensure the quickest route into her favourite dress, the moment she wakes up.
I dressed her in tights and a t-shirt for the first two years of her life. I felt that poofy dresses were for special occasions and playing dress-up. I wanted her to be comfortable when she played, and maybe it was an effort to avoid typical traditions of previous generations. Not wanting to force her into a dress just because she’s a little girl and it would be cute. I was also afraid I would be encouraging her to look pretty by putting her in a dress. Giving her the idea that it’s important to look pretty.
Her obsession with dresses began this past Halloween when she Trick-Or-Treated in a princess gown worn by a character in a popular Disney movie. She slept in the gown that night, and the next. Then it was the birthday dress and the Christmas dress (which she still wears today).
We make a deal on preschool days. She can wear whatever dress she likes up until it’s time to go (usually a fairy-type dress with thirty layers of tulle, spaghetti straps and no shirt underneath, of course). The moment we step back in the door, without so much as even taking her backpack off, she asks to put the dress back on.
Why the obsession?
I was convinced it was all of the princess movies we had been watching, and maybe that’s part of it. A heroine with a catchy song and a gorgeous dress – what’s not to love? But there was something else I noticed recently when I was bent over bundling up the foot of her stockings to slip over her foot, just the way my mother had done for me when I was her age. There was something in her expression as she looked down at me. A spark of confidence. Excitement.
The tightness of her stockings, the way the tulle of her dress whooshes over them as she runs around. Dressing up makes her feel good. It doesn’t matter if her hair is tangled, or if she’s brushed her teeth. She’s not wearing the dress necessarily to look cute or like a princess. She’s wearing the dress simply for the frill of it.