Why I Encouraged My Daughter to Find Her own Style
One morning, when I was 9 years old, my stressed-out mother turned to me and said, “It’s time for you to pick out your own outfit each day.” I was ecstatic!
For years, my mother chose my outfits – and my sister’s, too – and dictated how we wore our hair. It was unbearable and humiliating at times.
Instead of wearing my long, straight hair down like the enviable Peggy Lipton from The Mod Squad, she made me wear my hair in braids until I was in ninth grade. As for my sister, my mother forbid her to wear bangs, so she had to wear her hair pulled back, which highlighted her extra round head.
My mother’s taste in clothes wasn’t always stylish either. She sewed and designed many outfits for us and she wasn’t exactly Miuccia Prada. One year for Easter we looked like we were wearing old draperies.
But then suddenly, at age 9, freedom! I picked out a black turtleneck, black skirt, black tights and white go-go boots. I loved it! I looked slamming as I walked downstairs. I felt sooo cool.
But my mother took one look at me and freaked out. She hurried me back upstairs and picked out a different outfit that she thought I should wear. I can’t remember the outfit exactly, but I’m sure it was something like a jumper with a red bow, a white shirt with a Peter Pan collar and my signature braids. So much for fashion freedom.
These memories are so vivid and the impact on me so strong.
The Beauty of Self Expression
Perhaps this is why, when I became an adult, developing my personal style became so important to me. And later, when I became a mother, how letting my daughter develop her own style was so important, too.
For me, fashion has always been a form of expression and a way to show the world who I am.
In a way, I see it as an art. As an actor, I interpret a role by using parts of myself to create that role. It’s really the same with fashion and style. If you choose to use the tools to express yourself, they are there and available to you.
But it wasn’t always easy to express my own personal style in a culture obsessed with perfection. Having a daughter made it all the more real.
As I watched my daughter, Sasha, now 20, and her friends grow up, I became profoundly aware of the pressure young girls go through to be “beautiful.” And I became aware of it on a "mom" level, which means I had more perspective, wisdom and maturity than when I was going through it myself as a tween and teen. I realized, too, from my experience with my mother, it was not about me; it was about my daughter.
As I saw the damage created by being exposed to the thousands of media messages aimed at shaping appearance – the kind of exposure that gives us the unbearable statistic that 42% of girls in first through third grade wish they were thinner – the question of, ‘How can I help,’ was part of my daily mantra. Could Sasha keep her self-esteem intact and see that beauty was all about WHO she was, not what she wore? Was there a way to see fashion and makeup as tools of expression and NOT as a way to look like someone else? Could I help guide her toward that kind of thinking?
I decided I could. As her mother, it was my job to help instill a sense of self in Sasha. And that meant truly seeing whom she was, separate from me.
Raising Independent, Beautifully Confident Daughters
I remember as a little girl, I loved dolls. Sasha hated dolls. She loved experience. She loved doing. She began studying ballet at the age of 4 and that continued until she graduated high school. She has always been very aware of her body, her strength and her ability. My goal each and every day was (and still is) to celebrate all of these things that make her Sasha: her wicked sense of humor (yes, even as a little one), her ability to use her body to express herself, her extraordinary, curly hair, her honesty, her integrity, her courage, her beautiful brown eyes, her fearlessness, her dimples, her brain, her emotional intelligence, her femininity, her heart of a lion.
It’s almost like you fill up your child with the extraordinary-ness of them, then let go and watch what happens. And that’s what I did. And I watched as my daughter went from a princess to a clown, to a goddess, to the most amazing young woman I know. She moves through the world and embodies all these qualities that are a part of her; a part of her soul. And she has created her own style along the way.
Yes, there have been times when she wore an outfit that made me gasp or want to criticize, but I bit my tongue, took a beat and remembered when I was that little girl in black with the white go-go boots. Then I smiled at my beautiful daughter and said, “Sash, do you know how gorgeous you are in every way?”
True Beauty Detective doesn’t push beauty ideals, we promote empowerment and acceptance through conversations about beauty.
The mission of TBD, created by entrepreneur and actress Holly Fulger, is to reach and connect with girls as young as 8 and women through 88 (or beyond!) and help them form and/or share healthy, accepting views of beauty and encourage them to create and communicate their own style by discovering the true beauty within themselves and have a platform to communicate about it in efforts to truly change the conceptions and conversation.