Kids have, how shall we say…a unique sense of fashion. Some children seem to choose their clothes solely based on comfort or whatever’s within easy reach. Others put a bit more thought into the process, attempting to combine as many colors and prints as humanly possible into one outfit.
While I’m all for freedom of self expression, there comes a time in a kid’s life when learning how to match their clothing becomes less of a whimsical guessing game and more of a social skill. I generally give all my children the freedom to dress themselves, while retaining veto right on special occasions (holidays and family picture day).
I’ve been trying to slowly teach Juliet (age 6 1/2) how to match since she now attends school once a week. It’s been a mild catastrophe. I somehow manage to either completely confuse her or wound her pride by insulting her fashion choices. We were both frustrated and she avoided getting dressed at all cost…until now!
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I created this graphic to subtly describe the nuances of matching to her. It turns out it’s harder than it seems! Amazingly, once Juliet listened to my quick explanation, she totally got it. Now every morning, she chooses an outfit and then comes to tell me why she chose it and how it matches. She’s gotten it right every day so far!
Side note: even though I created this for my girls, it works just as well for boys. Maybe even better since they generally have fewer colors in their wardrobe.
Here’s what to do: I recommend pulling out 5 or 6 outfits out of your child’s drawer and walking them through the printable. Show them what a solid is, what a print is, and how to identify multiple colors within a print. Then start matching some up! Show him or her how to combine prints with solid colors and neutrals with anything. Then mix all the clothes up and have your child try to do it. You might even purposely put some obviously non-matching outfits together and have him or her pick out which ones don’t work. It’s a really fun learning game!
You might also consider laminating the printable and taping it to your child’s dresser or inside their closet. Ages 3-4 might have some trouble grasping it right away as they continue learning patterns and colors. By age 5 or 6, though, they should be mature enough to understand it on the first try.
When doing this exercise, you might actually discover that your child doesn’t have a lot of great pieces that can be put together in matching outfits. Maybe you always buy clothes in primary colors when shopping alone but your child prefers neutral colored prints. The best way to ensure your child has plenty of outfits that look cohesive is to either buy their clothes in complete looks or to decide that you’ll only ever buy prints for tops and solids for bottoms (or vice versa). I can tell you right off the top of my head which of my children live for bright colors and which ones would only ever wear different shades of the same color forever, if I let them.
Sometimes when I get dressed, I’ll pair two complementary colors together or a couple of neutral colors that are more of a creative matching game. My kids often wonder (aloud) why I’m wearing something that doesn’t “match” but the nuances of the color wheel are lost on a 6 year old.
If you have older children who are trying to grasp some higher level matching skills, (or maybe you personally need help) then read on. Figuring out how to pair different colors together in unexpected ways is one of my favorite skills!
It’s important to realize that it’s easiest to match outfits when a closet is full of complementary color combinations. You probably already know if you or your child loves a classic monochromatic outfit (think white shirt and pants), an all black outfit or something crazy like a blue shirt with polka dot skirt. Clothes are such a personal thing and a great way to express that unique style – so don’t plan on making major changes to your older child’s wardrobe without their input. But if you can just convince them to expand their favorite color range a bit or add a couple prints here and there, they just might find that they love it.
An easy way to help kids 10+ understand some of the complexities of matching is to show them a color wheel and try to figure out which colors they both love and look great with their skin tone. You can start by helping them identify if they are more drawn to warm colors like earth tones or if they really love cool colors like blues and greens. You might also want to consider yours or your child’s eye color and hair color before deciding on the most flattering colors.
Learning about the concept of analogous colors (those that are neighbors on the color wheel) can help you, and your kids, understand why certain colors naturally work well together. Secondary colors are equally helpful to understand as they are almost opposite each other on the color wheel but also look great together. Say, for example, you have a child who only ever wants to wear green all day long. By helping him understand that orange and violet are complementary colors, he might be able to expand his closet into some more adventurous shades without having to replace what he already owns and loves.
Still nervous about matching if you add more color or prints to a closet in your home? Start with just one unfamiliar piece that’s a little out of your comfort zone, say a leopard print top. Then the rest of your outfit can be super safe with matching neutrals like black pants or a brown skirt. Try it with a casual look first when you or your child is just out running errands and then gradually work up to more adventurous matching for work or school (where you’ll see people you know). Side note: throwing on a leather jacket or high quality leather shoes (think boots, pumps, etc) are a great option for upleveling an otherwise casual outfit for date night or the office.
If you realize that you’re more of a neutral diehard, you might just want to stick with a neutral base for yourself and all your children. That certainly makes matching easier and it’s always a good look, no matter what your age. You (or your kids) can always add a pop of color later if you feel the need, but different tones of neutrals are often enough variety on their own.
Sometimes our children (and even their parents, ahem) can fall into wardrobe ruts that leave them feeling uninspired or less confident than usual. With a little prompting, you can urge a son or daughter to try new outfit combinations in colors that might go better together or just be more flattering for him or her.
Again, I wholly support any person’s desire to dress outside of the box. Rock that individual style! But, if you or your child’s pattern mixing has become a social stumbling block, maybe it’s time for a few hints. Have fun!