My daughter scrunches the top of her blue jeans down.
“They’re too high. They’re covering my belly button,” she says, wiggling her hips from side to side to slide the jeans lower.
“You’re four,” I say, grabbing the belt buckles and hiking them up around her middle. “You are absolutely not allowed to wear hip huggers yet.”
She gives me the look—the squinty-eyed, pinched-lip look that says just wait until I’m sixteen—and when I turn around the jeans “magically” slip back around her hips. At least, that’s what she claims when, a few minutes later, she’s bent over with a crack that would make a 300-pound plumber proud.
I’m still trying to determine if her insistence on low-riding jeans and tacky Disney princess t-shirts is a matter of comfort … or more likely, an indication that her teenage years will involve many days in which I will bite my tongue as long as a majority of her flesh is covered. Already she loves to experiment, mixing and matching skirts, jeans, leggings, tights, tank tops, wool sweaters, and the occasional elbow-length satin gloves or feather boa, with the finesse of a runway designer.
I wasn’t nearly as obsessed with clothing at her age. In fact, I let my mother dictate my style until I was in the sixth grade, when I finally took matters into my own hands by perming my mousey, poker-straight hair and turning it orange with large doses of Sun-In. The only evidence of my experimental phase is a faded Polaroid where I’m flashing the camera a come-hither look in an acid-washed miniskirt, multiple layers of socks in various colors, a pink shirt with the collar flipped up, and a wide swath of blue eye shadow.
Now I tend to stick with the Old Faithfuls of fashion: blue jeans and a black shirt. I love black. My closet, in fact, is a veritable rainbow of black, shades ranging from washing machine-faded to wore-it-once-to-a-wedding. For variety, I also have a few browns and the occasional off-white.
So the morning I come downstairs in my bathrobe, bemoaning the fact that I can’t decide which black shirt to wear with which blue jeans, I know I’m in trouble. I know because my fashion-obsessed daughter has already taken it upon herself to stylize her little sister, and her eyes are sizing me up in hopeful four-year-old expectation.
“How about if I pick out your clothes, mom?” she asks.
Only vaguely aware of what I’m getting myself into, I agree to let my little fashionista have her way.
“Really?” she says, with obvious enthusiasm for the challenge.
“Really,” I say—but she’s already halfway up the stairs. How bad can it be? My closet has a pretty basic color palette.
The thing is, she skips the closet altogether because she knows what’s in there: black. And brown. And the occasional off-white. Instead, she opens the drawers to my dresser—that overstuffed collection of God-knows-what—and digs out a pink flowered shirt that I swear I gave to Salvation Army years ago. Delighted with her find, she pairs the shirt with a fringy, green striped skirt that I cannot believe still fits me, and black stiletto sandals. Black does go with everything, after all.
Apparently my jewelry collection is as bland as my closet, because she also opts to loan me a dangly, sequined green choker from the dress-up box. The final touch? A hair clip flaunting an enormous butterfly.
She steps back to admire her work as I strut the hallway like a catwalk, and she can barely suppress her excited, little-girl giggle.
“Oh,” she says, clasping her hands over her heart like a mother sending her daughter off to the prom. “Oh, Daddy is going to think you are so beautiful.”
I’m not sure about that, but I do know one thing: I wish I had a Polaroid camera. I haven’t felt this spectacular since the sixth grade.