Little girls love pretty dresses. "They still have that fairy-tale princess dream in their heads," says Laura Henschel, whose daughters are 7 and 10. Her youngest, she says, "would probably wear dresses every day if I let her. She just wants to feel pretty."
Her older girl is more of a tomboy, though, Henschel says, and thinks girls dresses restrict her activities. There's a line, Henschel says, between the pretty princess phase and the more practical, active one.
Heather Bannon, who has daughters aged 5 and 7, says her girls wear dresses nearly every day. "If I left it up to them, they would always wear party dresses," the frillier the better.
Letting girls pick their own dresses
"My girls are very specific about what they'll wear," says Bannon. "It has to flare out. It has to be pretty. They have their own sense of style," she says. "It really awes me how gender-specific they are."
Henschel's daughters are also quite emphatic about style. For example, a dress has to be long enough that they can move around freely without showing their underwear. "Know your target audience," advices Bannon. "Make sure to get something your kids will want to wear."
Letting kids choose what they want to wear isn’t a terrible idea. It can actually make your mornings run a lot more smoothly. Parents Magazine suggests providing choices for your little one, taking into account their preferences, and making getting dressed in the morning a sort of game to get them moving faster so that you can get out of the door on time.
Shopping for girls dresses
Both moms say their girls love bright colors. One of her daughters, says Bannon, refuses to wear brown. "She just won't wear brown. She tells me, 'It's not pretty.'" Henschel also notes that brightly colored clothes don't show dirt as much as light shades. "Children are not prim and proper," she says. Even if outfits are easy to clean, Henschel says, her girls can get them dirty minutes after donning. "We avoid white at all costs."
However, washability is also a factor for everyday dresses, and she looks for wrinkle-free fabrics. "My kids have to be able to throw it in a drawer," Henschel says. She looks for durability as well. A sundress for example, has to have stout, firmly attached shoulder staps. "You always have to look at the straps," she says.
Comfort is also important, says Henschel. "The lighter the feel the more comfy it is." Both women like simple knit dresses for their kids, because the girls like to wear them and because they are easy care and easy to put on. T-shirt styles, polo dresses and other simple-to-pull-on dresses without buttons, zippers or snaps are favorites.
Henschel says her younger daughter is drawn to fussy clothes with belts or other accessories, "but then she doesn't wear them. Or if she has a dress that ties, she'll leave it untied. "And they don't like the kind that tie around the neck. They say that hurts their neck."
Everyday clothes also need to be roomy and economical, the mothers say. "They outgrow stuff so fast," Bannon says. So let your girls wear their pretty dresses as much as they like, and enjoy the little princess phase while it lasts. They'll grow out of both all too soon.