Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.
Everyone has opinions on how children should be dressed. Some are ridiculous and some are reasonable so it can be hard to sort them out. I’m going to be throwing my hat into that ring and trying to guide you into dressing your children to ease them into the adult world without keeping them from playing.
Complement the Adults
You and your wife likely put a lot of thought into how you dress, but how do your kids fit into that? If they’re dressed better than you it’ll look like you’re trying to show them off, if they’re dressed worse it looks like they don’t really matter to you, and if they’re dressed as well as you but totally different it looks like their very presence was an afterthought. You’ll want to make sure you have at least one outfit to go with every outfit in your child’s wardrobe. You don’t have to coordinate like they’re an accessory, so long as you’re both dressed to the same standard.
For girls that’s pretty easy, a cute dress goes from the playground to church, but boys are harder. If your son’s wearing a more juvenile version of what you would wear, then you’re probably good.
Children’s clothes seem to rarely go beyond the realm of the casual, but they should. Don’t buy your kids any formalwear they won’t use soon, but they do need at least one church-ready outfit. By “church-ready” I don’t mean your church, but rather any church. Every girl needs at least one nice dress, and every boy needs at least one outfit with a tie. Kids clothes are flexible in terms of formality, so whatever they’d wear to a more formal church would probably work right through black-tie optional and maybe even beyond.
Keep It Modest
Children are not sexual beings, so they’re likely to internalise everything about their childhood as being non-sexual, so long as it doesn’t cross the line into molestation. If you dress your young daughter in skimpy outfits than she’ll likely dress even skimpier as an adult. Essentially, hold children to the same standards you would adults.
Move Towards Adult Standards
The long term goal is obviously that your children dress appropriately as adults. To that end, every fashion decision you make for them needs to be a step in that direction. The only case in which it’s acceptable to dress a child significantly different than an adult is if that difference would later be abandoned entirely. If how you dress and how you dress your child are sending them mixed messages, they’ll end up taking the path of least resistance and make sartorially apathetic choices as an adult. You will have created the type of person that wears pyjamas in public and t-shirts in church.
Put Practicality First
This is where the enjoyment of childhood really comes in to view. Children will always want to play and you don’t want to quash that enthusiasm. So, be sure everything they wear allows for that. Don’t dress them in anything that appreciably restricts their movements, unless that’s the only way they can be dressed appropriately. Also, choose your daughters’ skirt length with that in mind. You don’t want it dragging on the ground and getting caught on things, but you don’t want her constantly flashing her playmates either.