A Lesson for Children: Dressing Well

As soon as our children start to utter their first words we are quick to teach them when to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  When they begin eating solid foods we show them the proper way to hold a fork and use a napkin. We teach them to share, to be kind to others, to respect their elders.  All important.  There is one lesson, however, that our casual, ‘anything goes’ society often overlooks: the lesson of proper dress, which is actually another form of good manners.

Around 1996: My children on Christmas Eve
Around 1996: My children on Christmas Eve

How do you teach ‘dressing well’ and ‘proper dress’?  Three simple ways: the first is by example.  Children learn by observing their parents; if dad wears a tee shirt with jeans and sneakers out to dinner, why should his son expect or want to look any different? On the other hand, if mom wears a silk blouse, skirt, and nice shoes, her daughter will see that as something to imitate. Secondly, it is taught by explaining that clothes are a way to express ourselves and to show respect to people and certain occasions. When you ‘dress up’ you are sending a message that where you are going and/or who you are with is important.  Lastly, it is taught by enforcing your standards for certain occasions, making sure that your children have collared shirts, nicer shoes, and ‘fancier’ outfits. Making sure they are comfortable and fit properly.

Hayley and Brad dressed for dinner at Disneyworld
Hayley and Brad dressed for dinner at Disneyworld

Some may see this as too much trouble or too much of an expense. Too much trouble? Who said raising children was easy? This is an important life lesson. Expensive? C’mon, those gym sneakers and sports logo sweatshirts are not cheap. You can find plenty of classic, dressier clothes at very reasonable prices: Children’s Place, The Gap, Target, outlet stores.

Around 1994 Hayley and Brad going out for family dinner in Kennebunkport
Around 1994
One of my favorite pics! Hayley and Brad dressed for a family dinner outing in Kennebunkport

It’s no surprise that my lessons about dressing well started at an early age, and very much from Ginger.  There was a time and place for casual clothes, and times when you always dressed up – regardless of your age.  These times included: church, all holidays at home, going out to dinner, when we had company.

Grandson Henry on Easter
Grandson Henry on Easter







In order to teach this (or any) lesson to your children, you must first embrace it yourself and be on the same page with your spouse to present a united front.  Yeah, that may be a challenge, but I believe this has more meaning than at first meets the eye.  Dressing well and appropriate for the occasion – at any age – can ultimately affect self confidence, self esteem, pride and self-respect.  It is a tool for life.  Teach them at a young age and they will be better prepared to dress up for that first job interview, and wanting to look their best for that first date.

Well, ladies, let’s hear from you now!!!

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  • My mom and grandmother were both very much into dressing well. My grandmother and I would often shop together and discuss which outfits to buy and what events they would work for. My mom and I shopped almost evey weekend and often shared clothes and shoes. They taught me to dress well and appropriately for every event, no matter how small. I love the pictures of your kids!

    • Love that! You were fortunate to have those role models. Thanks for commenting.


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