My mother made my final primary school summer dress. At the time I thought that she just loved making clothes for me, and as the apple never falls far from the tree that’s probably fairly true, but looking back I’m beginning to wonder whether it wasn’t more than that – in all the trousers and shorts and sundresses, why did she make a school dress. Blue gingham and white piping isn’t exactly the first thing you’d reach for as a creative outlet. I strongly suspect that the answer is that she couldn’t actually get a school dress that was long enough for 10 year old me. We’d already done the letting down of every available millimetre on my winter pinafore and moving the buttons on the shoulder straps (and the “just pull it down a bit if you walk past the headmistress and I’m sure you’ll be fine”), desperate to eek it out until the end of the Lent term. The previous summer’s dress, which would go on to drown my younger sister, just wan’t going to cut it.
The benefit of hindsight comes with the realisation that I’m at that stage again, only this time as a mother of a very tall daughter. I don’t know exactly how tall Kitty is right now, but she’s easily chest height on me and I’m 6’0″. Her Dad is 6’1″, her Grandpa 6’2″ and her Grannie (my mum) was regularly called ‘Little Mama’ coming in at 5’8″. Kit was never going to be petite, and if she stops anywhere shorter than me I’ll be very surprised. Last year she started the school year in age 7-8 and finished in age 9 summer dresses, and now, while she doesn’t have a uniform, she’s rapidly growing out of age 10 clothes.
Which means two things. Firstly, she’s growing out of the awesome clothes with penguins and robots and yellow submarines. And secondly, it’s becoming really difficult to find age-appropriate clothes that do actually fit her.
I can’t dress her in glittery tweeny clothes, not just because they’re just not appropriate and bring out just a smidgen of feminist rage at the conditioning of young women by the clothing choices available to them, but because they dictate the way in which people react to her. If you’re out and about with a six year old who looks like she’s a six year old and she started being very six, especially at the end of term when she’s a bit overwhelmed, I imagine that people will give you a wry smile if they’re fellow parents. A six year old being very six, who looks like she’s easily 10, and you get the looks and all the silent judgment you don’t need. I’m fairly resilient when it comes to being judged on my parenting by strangers, but it isn’t fair to her. If she’s having a wobble, the last thing she needs as she tries to get back in control of her emotions is to feel people watching her, and she’s aware enough and smart enough to pick up on that. I would do her a disservice if I dressed her up to be all grown up before her time.
To date she’s
been forced to continue wearing despite serious shortages in sleeve length grown through some of my favourite baby brands, and it’s always taken me slightly by surprise because in my head she’s exactly the size a six year old ought to be. When she grows out of her current bits and bobs from Frugi that’s it, there are no more sizes. There’s one more size to go in most of Boden and we’re out of most of the Scandinavian brands, although thank goodness Mini Rodini run on the large size – this penguin shirt is a size 116/122 (usually branded as age 6) and it still just about fits. Just. About. If you don’t look too closely.
Suddenly I have a lot of sympathy for my mother, who did all of this without the internet, and with fairly limited options nearby (though I had some awesome tie dye thanks to living near Totnes).
I wonder whether it ever crossed my mum’s mind as she taught me how to sew, that one day I might need those very skills (and her very own overlocker) to make clothes for another very tall little girl? I’m very glad she did, though I’m equally glad I’m not called to tackle gingham.
And now I’m throwing open the comments for your help. What do I not know about, what brands are there out there that make gorgeous colourful kid clothes that come in size tall?
Thank you to Ladida who commissioned this article. If you are interested in collaborating on a post, please take a look at my Work With Me page