The Best Tip For Getting Your Grade-Schooler Dressed, Without Stress

My daughter started kindergarten last week, but our battles on what makes an appropriate school outfit have been going on for years. Since her first day of preschool three years ago, my then-2-year-old little lady has been super opinionated about her daily look, fully committed to wearing her ugliest, most clashing, most inappropriate, and sometimes even dirtiest clothes to school as often as possible.

Very quickly I gave up my visions of raising an Instagram-famous mini fashionista. No matter how many Crewcuts dresses or hipster headbands I bought, it wasn't happening. Quite opposite, in fact. It was almost as if she could smell my desperation for her to wear certain items and would swiftly and permanently put them on her "not going to do it" (her words) list.

Even after I lowered my standards to the bare minimum — basically, your body has to be covered, and you can't smell bad — we still had dressing drama. I'd finally agree to an outfit, and five minutes later she'd come out of the bathroom naked after deciding she actually hated the outfit she'd so vehemently requested. Her socks hurt (all of them). She hated any piece of clothing with a seam. Next time you're in the Gap, try asking if they make any seamless clothing. I did, and they don't, just like every other clothing retailer in the world.

After fully giving up this past Summer and allowing her to wear cropped bike shorts, stained t-shirts, and filthy flip-flops all season, I knew back-to-school dressing was going to be a struggle. I took her shopping a few times, hoping that some cute new clothes might inspire her to up her style game. Still, I was anticipating a struggle every morning at 6:30 a.m., when I have to wake her up to make her 7:30 bus.

Then I was gifted a life-changing tip by a friend with a slightly older, yet similarly obstinate and style-challenged daughter. "On Sunday, have her pick outfits for the entire week, and put them in little piles in her closet," she said. "I swear it works."

And holy sh*t, she was right! After two weeks of about no-stress dressing (OK, we're still having some sock issues), I am a believer. Even better, she's actually looked super cute almost every day, wearing outfits I'd actually call Instagram-worthy. No one is more shocked than me.

I've done some serious contemplation about why this strategy has so drastically changed the way she and I deal with her daily wardrobe. First of all, her early rise time means she is blurry and grumpy every morning, and I think in that state she actually appreciates having one less decision to make. Second, planning outfits so far in advance means she's less emotionally invested in each outfit because she doesn't have to put it on immediately. Wearing those animal-print leggings five days from now seems like less of an ask. But yet, she doesn't balk on the day I actually hand her Friday's leopard-trimmed pile.

I'm sure getting older, and being surrounded by even older kids who are more and more aware of wanting to look and be cool, is part of her new-found fashion compliance. Mainly though, I think the week-ahead plan is just a magic strategy that doesn't sound like it should work but actually does. Except for socks. Socks are evil.