Emily Writes: Revamp your wardrobe with advice from a kid

Have you been thinking about a style overhaul? Need to spruce up your outfits before you see the rellies at Christmas? Never fear! Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes has a fashion-obsessed five-year-old and he has many tips.

My son Eddie started choosing his clothes before he could even talk. There was something about clothing he just really liked. Where my second son doesn’t think too much about what he wears, Eddie has always had strong opinions. We let him pick his clothes at home and eventually when he was two he began picking clothes in shops. At three his favourite thing to do was bargain hunt at op shops for elaborate hats and costume jewellery.

I often wonder where he gets this from. His parents are bogans – his father has three Iron Maiden tee-shirts, a Slayer tee-shirt, a Megadeth tee shirt, and a few AC/DC tee-shirts and he just cycles them with the same two pairs of jeans. I only wear black, much to Eddie’s dismay. I’m very low maintenance.

Eddie is currently going through a stage of wearing a three-piece suit and black horn-rimmed glasses with the glass pressed out (in tribute to his hero snappy dresser Eric Yum Pry Mews). He teams this up with a train driver hat and a Santa costume jacket that he has been wearing off-and-on since last Christmas.

Always dress up – Bowties are essential for brunch dates.

I decided to sit down and talk to him about clothes and why he chooses to wear what he does.

The rules of fashion according to Eddie Te Hōia aged five

An outfit is not just an outfit. It’s how the world sees you and even more importantly, how you see yourself. With this in mind, Eddie suggests spending a lot of time, A LOT of time, working out what you’re going to wear. Even if your mum yells at you to hurry up – which she should never ever do. There are so many clothes. You can try to wear them all. Dressing fancy is also Very Good.

Rule 1: If you are happy wear happy clothes

I asked Eddie how he picks his clothes in the morning and he said “If I am happy, I wear happy clothes and if I am sad I wear sad clothes and if I’m excited I wear excited clothes.” I asked him what happy clothes look like and he lifted a Moana dress from the floor and said “this is happy”. I’m not sure he gave it that much thought. Because I am a proper journalist (I am not) I interrogated him further.

“When you put on a dress that is sparkly you feel the same on the outside as the inside and when you put on black clothes you’re a ninja. Green means happy. Rainbow means you are a rainbow.” I was becoming concerned he was a member of WINC so I ended the conversation there and we moved onto rule two.

He’s maybe two in this photo – but he still believes you can never have too many accessories.

Rule 2: There is no such thing as accessorising too much

Considered by some to be the world’s most elegant woman, Coco Chanel said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Eddie thinks this is bullshit and believes you should actually put six more things on before you leave the house. See a ribbon on the floor? Pick it up, tie it around your wrist. Why wear one badge when you could wear 16 badges? Why wear one belt when you could wear two? “Belts are very great for looking beautiful,” Eddie says. “Anything that makes you feel even more beautiful you should put some of them on and then some of them more on.”

Rule 3: There are no seasons for clothing or outfits

As it turns out, Wedding dresses aren’t just for your wedding day. They’re actually every day wear. Due to the fact that they’re “very, very beautiful”. Santa costumes do not only have to be worn at work Christmas parties. Team up a Santa hat or Santa jacket with every outfit. Why? “Santa makes people happy all the time.” If it’s cold, but you want to wear your favourite shorts, you can wear pants, leggings, or tights underneath the shorts. If it’s really hot and you want to wear a snowsuit for no reason at all – just wear it. “Snowsuits are beautiful. When you see a snow suit it is like a snow and snow is beautiful.”

It’s 30 degrees outside so make sure you put on woollen leg warmers and a thick wrap-around jumper. and two pairs of glasses.

Rule 4: All colours and patterns go together 

When you have your outfit on, ask yourself: “Does this actually physically make my eyes water because of the horrendous clashing of colours and patterns and fluro-rainbow-acid trip material?” Perfect. Now you look like a five-year-old who dresses themselves. Well matched outfits should be coincidental only.

Rule 5: Many household items can also be worn

For about two months Eddie wore a colander on his head. He never said why and we didn’t ask. It was just a nice change from him wearing a Christmas tablecloth that dragged along the ground. He has also worn a whisk as a necklace and stubby holders on his arms as bracelets. Find inspiration everywhere seems to be a key message from Eddie.

Wear a helmet always for “safety”

Rule 6: Every day is a fancy dress day

Eddie’s fancy dress clothes are with his “normal” clothes because he sees no difference between the two. Sometimes he’s a princess, a pirate, or a primate, other times he is dressed in these costumes but he’s “Eddie” and you will get in a lot of trouble if you call him Captain America or Moana when he’s Eddie. I’m not sure why this is. Eddie had become bored answering my questions and said I needed to leave him “to think” so I couldn’t ask.

Rule 7: You can’t wear an outfit too much

Eddie’s record for longest stint in one outfit was his Elsa costume which he wore fairly consistently for about two and a half years. It was washed until it fell apart. He would stand by the clothes rack watching it dry. His fifth-hand very old pink ballet jumper was his favourite item of clothing for two years. His younger brother has for six months now wore a green bucket on his head. The reason is fairly simple “I love it”. So if you have an outfit you love, you should wear it as often as possible – because you love it. And you deserve to be happy.

Sequin capes are a great way to dress up an already dressed up outfit.

Rule 8: Match, match, match

Eddie’s favourite thing to do is to save his pocket money and buy matching clothes. Two $2 tee shirts or two pairs of pants that are the same shade of red are a great find. He will then give the other top to a very close friend and they will co-ordinate wearing the same thing to kindy. He also insists I buy him and his brother matching outfits if I’m getting something new. “Matching is when you love someone so you go be the same so you’re friends forever and your whole life,” Eddie says.

Rule 9: Always wear a hat/crown/headband/floral head-piece of some kind

Eddie has a ridiculous amount of hats. Everyone donates novelty hats because who wants novelty hats – so he always manages to find a good hat at the op shop. Friends also buy him hats. His favourite is a hat shaped like a flamingo and his Seaworld hat. He often encourages me to wear a witch hat and one day I relented and wore it. In the Wellington wind it wasn’t ideal, but once we were in Te Papa it was fine. I got a lot of smiles which surprised me. I guess I am not a convincing witch. Or maybe they were smiling at Eddie because he was wearing a silver crown and Elton John glasses.

Casual Tuesday outfit

Rule 10: If someone laughs at you it’s OK to cry and maybe they’re just sad actually

An important rule. Eddie has been laughed at for his sartorial choices and we have had a period where he has asked me to get rid of all of his tutus because he had been teased. I have seen him miserably try to conform. Dressing up makes him feel happy and it gives him confidence. I hope he never loses that but it seems like it could be likely given the world we live in – and the way children are policed into conforming from such a young age. His approach to fashion is that it should be fun. And it should make yourself and others happy. I can’t see how that could ever be seen as a bad thing, and really, it makes me wish we all had that attitude.

But we don’t. So Eddie has had to deal with some mean behaviour. After one incident, he cuddled me crying, and then said between sniffs: “It’s OK to cry when you feel sad from people laughing at you, but maybe they’re just sad actually too because maybe they can’t dress up when they want to.”

And he might have a point there. Some of the staunchest “boys don’t wear skirts” brigade are men who I think possibly struggled very much growing up unable to express themselves. A lot of attitudes confuse me – how could you be offended by the immense life in a child wearing two pairs of shorts over each other, a tutu, a Peppa Pig top of the most garish pink and a bunch of gaudy beads topped off with a duck hunting hat?

Still, not great comments about what he’s wearing is (I think) a help to him. Of course, I wish he didn’t have to defend his outfits, but I love that he is learning to be confident and proud and free.

Letting him pick his own clothes has been a wonderful journey of self expression for him and us. We are happy not to have a mini-me like we thought he’d be. It’s a good reminder to us that he’s his own person, we don’t own him, and he’s not a decoration or accessory. We see his personality in his clothing and that’s a precious gift too.

And he has made us a little braver in how we present ourselves to the world. His dad wore an adult-sized Santa jacket out yesterday, at Eddie’s request, “It was actually quite comfortable,” he said.

I draw the line at a colander.

Emily Writes is editor of The Spinoff Parents. Her book Rants in the Dark is out now. Buy it here. Follow her on Facebook here.

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