Comment Home / Reviews

The advent of personal style

I dress Madeleine the way I want to dress myself. But, one day, she will identify her own style. How should I hope she'll dress?

What is personal style and how does one develop it? Is style the absence of mainstream clothing, the avoidance of normalcy, the exception to the rule?

The calm whispers of dawn wake my daughter and I each morning. Fall's last licks of sunshine stroke our cheeks. We rise together, enjoy our first meal and then dress for the day.

For this little one, the ritual of clothing has already begun.

These mornings have caused me to think about the advent of personal style. Where does it begin for each of us?

As with most things in life, we follow role models—first, our parents.

My mother has always dressed with what one could call pizzazz. She'd don multi-coloured pant suits for galas, black dresses emblazoned with Aboriginal designs for fundraisers and her trademark fire red glasses to teach cooking class at my middle school. When I was a teenager, her fashion choices unnerved me. I was afraid that her distinctive style would doom me to social excommunication, but to my surprise, she was dubbed the "cool mom" in the hallways. My mom was different. She wasn't cut from the same Mommy cloth. She was unique, she had presence, and the students were drawn to it.

Without a conscious thought, I followed in her footsteps. She was, after all, my example. My mom dared in her personal style, and so have I, I like to think. Establishing my own style began with second-hand binges on torn jeans and band T-shirts (a particular favourite: my Primus's "Sailing the seas of cheese" tee), but it ended with the racks of the local and handmade. I followed in my mother's footsteps, and my daughter Madeleine, I can only expect, will do the same.

But for now, my child at a meagre seven weeks is at the hands of her mother. It is cold outside so we dress sensibly, but it is nearly impossible to avoid dressing my daughter for my own pleasure. Sure, she needs comfort, but not at the expense of visual appeal. For the feet: darling charcoal boots made from New Zealand rabbit's wool. For the legs: chocolate brown leggings from a friend in the United Kingdom. For the body: a mint green, robin's egg blue and pink polka-dotted onesie that subtly hints at her gender. And for the head: a handcrafted cap, adorned with vintage ribbon and buttons, made with love by a particularly crafty friend.

 
Madeleine Crook

I dress Madeleine the way I want to dress myself. But, one day, she will identify her own style. I have been asking myself (mostly as a result of writing this column), when it comes time, how do I hope Madeleine will choose to dress?

A few weeks ago the clothing chain Forever 21 opened in my neck of the woods. There is a YouTube video showing over a thousand keen teenagers waiting in line for the grand opening. The line laced itself through the labyrinth of the mall and eventually around its exterior like a mile-long boa constrictor lying in wait. What were they waiting for exactly? $4 tank tops and knock-off sheath dresses. Forever 21 has a gaggle of lawsuits under its belt due to allegations of copying designers. Is this fixation with the mainstream culture of "cool" what lies in store for my child?

For now, I choose not to dress Madeleine in Baby Gap, Please Mum or any of the other name-brand outfits hanging in her own closet, already half full. I'd rather she wear clothing that comes with a story, like the pink knit cardigan from the hospital auxiliary store that was made by hand by a local volunteer. In these small ways, Madeleine's clothing choices can become about relationships and about people, not simply about mass markets, labels or brands. Because after all, she is a child of God, uniquely made, and her story is just beginning. Her style should express it.

 
Madeleine Crook

When Madeleine sets her mind to creating her own outfit one day, I hope she will dress with originality. And, when she is old enough to understand the impact of her choices on the world around her, I hope she will dress with responsibility, choosing quality pieces, and with modesty, respecting herself and those around her.

How do I want my daughter to dress? Creatively. Modestly. Responsibly. It's a Christian way to dress, I think.

 
Madeleine Crook

 
Madeleine Crook

Help us spread the word:
| More
Christina Crook Christina Crook
Christina Crook is a freelance writer partial to typewriters, snail mail and locally-made goods. ... read more »

Posted in Arts.

Subscribe to the Comment Weekly Newsletter
Comment's online articles serve as bridges between print issues. Get an email in your inbox every Friday, so you don't miss out.
  • Stay up-to-date and informed
  • Only one concise digest email per week
  • We will never share your email address. No Spam!
We will never sell or rent your email address. Your privacy is important to us

Related Articles

We'd love to hear your comments. Tell us what you think of this article! We'll use the best comments in Comment's print edition, and top commenters each month will receive a free, signed copy of our editor's recent book: Discipleship in the Present Tense.

Copyright © 1974-2014 Cardus. All Rights Reserved.

Features

  1. Hope Beyond Frustration: Biblical Wisdom for the Cultural Apocalypse

    March 13, 2014 | Peter Leithart

    "Conservatives" cannot hope; they do not want to hope. They want the world to remain in steady state forever.

Reviews

  1. A Real Bonhoeffer for the Real World

    April 17, 2014 | John G. Stackhouse Jr.

    Can we still treasure a Bonhoeffer deeply flawed? Must our heroes remain on their pedestals?
  2. Sweetness and Power

    March 27, 2014 | David T. Koyzis

    Thinking about an upcoming Scottish referendum forces us to think beyond the United Kingdom and into Canada, Crimea, and elsewhere.

Interviews

  1. In the Beginning was Economics

    April 10, 2014 | Paul Williams with Naomi Biesheuvel

    "Our whole working lives, which is an awful lot of what we actually do, is a response to that initial command."

Cardus Blog

  1. Flahernomics

    April 23, 2014 | Ray Pennings

    The passing of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has prompted a bit of an elbowing competition regarding the definition of economic conservatism. The Globe and Mail describ...
  2. It Really Is All About You

    April 17, 2014 | Brian Dijkema

    The Lenten season can sometimes make one feel a bit self-absorbed. Do we really have to spend all that time denying ourselves, searching our hearts, repenting, praying? In m...

Print Issue

  1. March 2014: Faithful Compromise
    Comment Magazine - Faithful Compromise Daniel is the poster boy of refusal to compromise. Except, of couse, when he did. Daniel was faithful amidst compromise. His expectations were cut to the measure of exile. He ha...
Comment on iPad