Steppin' Out in Style

By Susan Kawa

I have to say my five-year-old son tends toward "frightening" when it comes to clothes. He's much too opinionated about fashion, and always has been, despite the fact that "matching" has never been high on his list of clothing priorities.

It started when he was 2-years-old, and insisted on wearing his "uniform" everywhere: wingtip shoes, no socks, flannel PJ bottoms, no shirt, a life jacket, and a bicycle helmet. I am not exaggerating. I have pictures, which I thoroughly intend to reproduce at poster-size for his wedding reception.

Last month I had the lack of foresight to invite him to the Wal-Mart fabric department to help me choose a sewing project. In the past, this has been an enjoyable and relaxing pastime for me ("in the past" being the pivotal words here). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that his instant assumption was that the "project" would be something for HIM.

After tap-dancing my way around "whipping up a tuxedo," I was able to steer him toward the practical and easy-to-sew "vest." For some inexplicable reason, he staunchly detested the Simplicity one (my choice because the instructions happened to be moron-proof, my primary criterion for sewing projects). He positively insisted on the McCall's version. He even memorized the pattern number and caught me when I tried to switch (they were the same vest! I swear!)

Then he vetoed my choice on fabric (fleece...again, moron-proof), because he spotted this deliciously rich red striped upholstery fabric. The woman at the cutting table was very complimentary about his choice (no doubt because SHE doesn't have to figure out how to get peanut butter off of it). His choice cemented, he was in his glory and already planning what color pants he wanted me to make (did I volunteer to make pants, too? I don't remember that). Five-year-olds, I've learned, take the picture on the pattern envelope much too literally.

Then we had to have this huge discussion about buttons. I'm sure you have no idea how traumatic button choice can be for a kindergarten fashion plate like my son. Personally, I'd like to know who decided that humanity needed so many different kinds of buttons, anyhow?

Naturally, we ended up with his button choice, because after all, who really cares if they don't match? (I'm not talking about the buttons matching the vest. I'm talking about the buttons matching the OTHER buttons). I can just see him announcing at show-and-tell that his mother made this thing, and his friends remarking, "We didn't know your mother was blind!"

I'm not even going to get into the lining issue. Explaining the concept of "lining" to a kid is like telling him that food has ingredients, which in and of itself qualifies as philosophy and should be reserved for places other than the Wal-Mart fabric department.

What might have taken 15 minutes dragged on and on, as we contemplated the pros and cons of contrasting thread colors. Really, the whole process was exhausting.

I have to say, in retrospect, the vest came out pretty well, no thanks to his barrage of tips and suggestions. He wears it often, under his favorite navy dinner jacket. You know, for serious play dates. Or McDonald's. It doesn't quite go with the Godzilla sandals, but I'm sure he'll pay big money for the negatives someday.

Susan Kawa is a wife, mother, and freelance writer. More of her essays can be read at

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