That feeling of dressing for a party ... always accompanied by a slightly sinking heart and major attacks of stress and anxiety. For me, it started when I was about three and has never quite left. I love choosing what to wear for everyday life - I adore clothes but find dressing up really difficult.
It was always that way. One never felt quite right at the party and those given for small children at the time were never exactly relaxed; a formal tea table, peculiar food [margarine spread sliced bread with hundreds & thousands anyone?], some alien form of entertainment presided over by a resting actor, and competitive games involving never, ever, being the one to land on a chair as they were removed one by one. Exclusion! Alienation! Failure to sparkle! The other big factor: my generation didn't get much of a say in how they wanted to dress. Personally, I would have given ANYTHING for something frou frou & preferably pink. My mother, with exquisite taste, ignored me and favoured plain white silk dresses worn with black patent shoes. It probably looked really sweet but Oh, how I longed for frilly full skirts! Oh to be the FAIRY PRINCESS girl just once!
Happily the parties given for children today have a lighter touch. Less formal and given more in a spirit of celebration and fun than a sense of parental duty.
Theme parties [such as those so beautifully organised by lesenfants.co.uk] that reflect the personality of the party giver, parties properly geared to the relevant age group. Phew! However the question remains: what to wear? Event parties involving mud, climbing walls or water chutes have fairly obvious practical solutions, as do fancy dress themes, but for a regular party in a regular house, children face exactly the same essential dilemma as grown ups; they need clothes that they love and that make them feel as confidently themselves as they can be. Social armour for the under 10s!
Boys have their own rules: they don't normally want to dress up that much so for them it is often more about a favourite T shirt and trouser than that transformational ideal that even very small girls experience when they visualise a party outfit. Children want to feel like the best most glamorous version of themselves when they arrive at that balloon bedecked door - nothing really changes with age!
There has never been a better time to be that fairy princess child. The shops are full of tutu skirts, endless websites sell glittery glamorous clothes and sparkle pink accessories are everywhere. The irony is that now that such a lot of stars and glitter is pushed at little girls, lots of them don't like it. My own daughter, who I was ready to indulge in Strictly Come Dancing levels of net and sequins, preferred jeans - about which she has always been deeply fussy. Her extremely pared back aesthetic has meant getting creative about ways to make an outfit special without compromising her look - putting versatile basics together with just a touch of magic rather than trying to track down a party dress plain enough to pass her [very strict] criteria. Luckily she was extremely fond of hats so one could normally jazz up the severity of her look with some extrovert headgear - a floral wreath or a pretty little coronet for example.
At Tulip & Nettle we go for a look somewhere between full blown Disney pinkness & my daughter's severity! We like a frock to be age appropriate - nothing too flashy or 'cocktail', but special in terms of gorgeous fabrics and pretty proportions. Because our clothes are all UK manufactured, they are expensive to produce so we aim for a timeless quality; party clothes that will become hand me down heirlooms! For little boys with dandy tendencies [and they do exist] we suggest a velvet trouser for a flamboyant touch - much easier to wear than those mini man suits with matching waistcoats that pop up through a Google search.
The real secret to buying the right party clothes is probably to understand who your child wants to be in their most cherished version of themselves and then to help them express it. Not always easy but it will earn you eternal gratitude - I still bear a teeny weeny grudge about missing out forever on that flouncy fairy dress. Not proud about it but there it is!
A big thank you to Amynta from Tulip & Nettle, for her wonderful guest blog. Make sure you visit their website for some fabulous party clothes http://www.tulipandnettle.com/ Love Katie x