Supporting her personal style in the face of peer pressure
As children get older, the pressure to abandon their personal style in favour of peer-approved fashion choices increases. How can you help your daughter resist negative peer pressure, and stay true to her own unique sense of style?
Resisting the pressure to conform
When our girls are little, it’s easy to encourage their personal style because everything they wear is somehow a crowd-pleasing combination of sweet and sassy. But when the adorably feisty five-year-old who dressed in a tutu and astronaut helmet becomes older, beauty anxieties come to the fore, and any standout, spirited fashion-statement may be frowned upon socially. The pressure on girls to conform to please peers, parents and boys can become incredibly intense.
“Parents must understand that this generation of girls is facing unprecedented pressure from peers and marketers,” says Rachel Simmons, best-selling author of Odd Girl Out and co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute, “[These] are powerful forces that push [girls] to want to fit in.”
How can parents help girls strike the balance between managing the pressure to fit in and the desire to pursue a unique personal style?
Trend-following versus personal style
Playing with trends can be fun. But when girls copy a look because their friends wear it (or the fashion and beauty pages dictate it), they may be ‘on trend’ – but that’s not the same as having their own style.
“Girls often say they like to express themselves and be unique,” says Alison Deyette, TV host, stylist and lifestyle expert, “but, when they actually stand with their friends, they all look the same.” She explains that girls often blindly follow fashion rather than learning how to incorporate aspects of a trend into their own signature look.
Encourage your daughter to wear clothes that flatter her body and reflect her individual personality, then thread elements of a trend into that look. (For example leopard-print shoes or accessories, if a leopard-print outfit isn’t ‘her’.) Helping her learn how to work fashion and beauty trends to her own advantage will boost her body confidence and encourage her to appreciate her individuality.
Value her opinion on personal styling
It’s important to reinforce your daughter’s efforts to cultivate her sense of style and self-expression. Show you value her opinion by asking for her feedback on your own fashion choices. Go through her wardrobe together to see what items both flatter her, and reflect her personal style, then do the same for your own clothes, asking your daughter to honestly assess your current look. Go shopping together and support one another in making discerning choices about what looks and feels fantastic.
Unique style spotting
Make a game of noticing women (and men) who have fabulous style. Discuss how those people's fashion and beauty choices communicate a message about who they are. Once your daughter sees real people being unique and having fun with fashion, dressing to please her peers might lose its allure.
- Make a date with your daughter to go through her wardrobe – AND your own. Each try everything on, and keep only the items that make you feel amazing. Identify which cuts and colours flatter each of you most and why, so you can both shop with those looks in mind in future
- Analyse new seasonal trends together. What do either of you love or loathe about them? Which trends do you each want to play with, and which will you avoid? Help her see that incorporating trends into her personal style should be a thoughtful choice, rather than a peer-driven obligation
- Set a budget and try out some new shopping destinations together, rather than the homogenous chains where her peers shop. How about a market, charity shop or independent boutique? Challenge each other to find one really great item (even if you decide not to purchase it)
- Keep the conversation ongoing and encouraging. Let sharing ideas about personal style be a fun, bonding experience