"Do fashion stars wear pants?"
This is what Sophia asks me at the breakfast table the other morning. And because I speak her language (or perhaps she speaks mine) or maybe we have developed the capacity to understand each other in a way that transcends speech, I know what she is asking me. When one of us says something bizarre and convoluted, the other looks past the words to the place where they point, and all is illuminated.
This is what she is saying: Mom, I really don’t want to wear pants, because, in my opinion, they aren’t fancy. I have an odd compulsion to be fancy, despite the little exposure I have had to the world of fashion. Fancy, by the way, does not imply couture. Rather, it is a strange and unique aesthetic that incorporates bright colors, sequins, mismatched patterns, sandals with socks, tutus, gobs of plastic jewelry, and a tiara. Coats, pants, and anything that smacks of warmth or masculinity is decidedly not fancy. But, if fashion stars, i.e. princesses (or maybe women in magazines), somewhere in this world sanction the wearing of pants, I might consider being complicit with your request to wear a pair on this 40 degree morning. That is, if and only if I may wear a dress over said pants and other fancy things as well.
The right chess move is obvious to me in this moment.
“Of course they do, honey." I take it one step further, "Fashion stars even wear coats."
“Do they wear underwear?”
“Most of the time.”
She considers this for a moment and then delivers her verdict, “Okay. I’ll wear pants. But only if I can wear a dress over it. And my Belle crown.”
“That’s fine by me, kid.”
I have lowered my standards considerably when it comes to outfitting Sophie. There are only two rules I insist upon:
- That her clothing be appropriate for the current temperature.
- That she does not fish her favorite dresses out of the hamper when they are dirty.
What I find fascinating is that fanciness somehow does not take into account dirt. Sophie has no qualms about wearing something she has
- Worn three days in a row
- Wiped her face on
- Spilled food/paint/other staining substances on.
Apparently, this is a little known law of fashion: A thing is inherently fancy (or not) and its current state of cleanliness does not impact its degree of fanciness.
My mother would be quick to interject that I lived by this law in the third grade and that my favorite jeans (the ones with the zippers on the back pockets) would have walked away by themselves if she didn’t sneak into my room at night and wash them once a week.
But then, for me, it wasn’t a fancy thing. It was a tomboy thing. Sophie wouldn’t be caught dead in jeans.
Which is why, today, when we were driving home after catching a play at the local community theater Sophia and I had this conversation:
“Mom, tonight to the party I want to wear a dress, the same leggings and pink socks I am wearing right now, and my sandals.” Sophie changes outfits at least three times a day.
“That’s fine,” I say, “as long as it’s a long-sleeved dress, I’m down with that.”
Sophie eyes me in my jeans and leather jacket, “You can wear what you’re wearing, mom. You don’t have to change.”
I know, in our special word-transcending way what she means. She is not simply approving my wardrobe for public appearance the way, say, a mortified teenager might. Oh no. She wants me to be LESS FANCY than her. Jeans = not fancy. I check this out:
“Sophie, are you saying that because you don’t want me to be fancy?”
“Yes.” I love how up front five-year-olds are.
“Okay. In truth, Soph, I have no desire to change my clothes, so I will be going as is.”
Sophie relaxes into her car seat with a satisfied smile.
“Oh, and I’m not wearing a coat,” she informs me. “My dress will be strong enough.”
“That’s where you’re wrong missy. I don’t care what you wear underneath it, but you’re wearing a coat.”
She sighs. Her fancy factor depreciated by the coat.
“Okay, but I’m taking it off as soon as we get there.”
“As you wish, but even fashion stars wear coats in 40-degree weather.”
“I know mom.” Good. Just so long as we understand each other.