A secret worth sharing: Little boys can be just as fun to dress as little girls

They say that little girls are the most fun to dress. I won’t deny they are a joy to shop for, and I swoon (all the way to the checkout line!) over patent leather shoes, smocked calico dresses, and patterned leggings. But, here is a secret this mom knows that is not widely shared: boys can be as much fun to dress!

When I myself was still a child, surrounded by treasured girl dolls and a wardrobe of outfits for them, I thought: how could pants and shirts compare to dresses and accessories?

Then in young adulthood, I viewed footage of Jackie O and John F. Kennedy’s son, JFK Jr. or “John-John,” from his childhood. He wore captivating Eton suits and Peter Pan collared shirts. It opened my eyes to possibilities for boys beyond mini athletic wear (though this can also be very cute). Some of the timeless style of America’s prince, little JFK, Jr. is echoed today in England’s Prince George.

What are we teaching our children in a world where girls are the ones we spend extra time to dress while leaving boys out? This becomes problematic: as though we are decreeing that girls are worth showing off and boys are not or worse, as though girls are worthy of our extra time and attention, while boys are not. The child who is made to feel special is more likely to have a healthy self-image in adulthood, and a child dressed with extra care is more likely to present her or himself with extra attention to detail later in life when say, interviewing for a job. Is it really true that boys don’t look as adorable as girls in carefully crafted outfits that show off their bright, smiling faces? Hardly! A beautiful child is a beautiful child. Period. So why ignore the fun wardrobe potential of our little boys? The most well-rounded men in the world look incredible in clothes and know how to dress (or at least open to some great suggestions from their other halves!). So why not start our boys out with that foundation?

There is a boutique near my home that caters to fancy dress attire for children and I had occasion to go there recently. As we have all seen countless times, their girls’ section is three times the size of the boys’. This girls’ section is filled with dresses adorned with purple bows and white flowers; and celestial, eyelet-trimmed frocks. They are a treat for the eyes. But when I am there on a mission to shop in the boys’ section, I am quite able to walk past such beautiful clothing without drooling. I gleefully head to the back, (where it is inevitably less crowded) and feast my eyes on seersucker suits, striped like periwinkle blue and white candy canes. I ooh and aah over little navy and white saddle shoes. I admire smocked overalls in crisp, Fourth-of-July colors and sailor suits trimmed with storybook charm.

I purchased a seersucker Eton suit and happened to mention to the stylish and grandmotherly checkout woman that I love shopping for little boys’ clothes. “Really? I can’t remember the last time I heard that,” she said. “But I actually feel the same. I am a grandmother of six and I enjoy dressing my boys just as much as my girls. Wish more people felt that way!”

But they must, I thought.

Surely there must be others who enjoy it equally as well, even if in different ways. Then I got to thinking: how often have I heard someone say one of the many reasons she wanted a daughter was that she loved the idea of buying clothes for her? How often have I heard someone bemoan that boys’ clothing isn’t as cute? How often have I too treasured shopping for dresses with matching bonnets and socks trimmed with lace? And yet, much as I enjoy girls’ clothing, I don’t prefer it. Boys’ clothing is different, yes, but can be every bit as cute, and I think it’s time to celebrate the often undervalued potential for admiration that a boy’s wardrobe holds.

Admittedly, the beautiful boys’ clothing I have described thus far is traditional attire, classic garments from years of yore when dressing little boys was approached with as much attention to detail as their female counterparts.

Here are a few of the many versatile outfits that bring the joy to dressing your baby boy:

Like a man’s tuxedo or suit and tie, classic boys’ dress-wear never goes out of style. Sailor suits, short tail, saddle shoes… they were fashionable for tots in days of yore and they will assuredly remain standbys for many years to come.

For baby boys, I adore those insanely cute onesies with whimsical animals on the feet and tush, and t-shirts with ties silk-screened on to make your little guy look as spiffy as he feels comfortable.

For toddlers, I love relaxed fit t-shirts and shorts in prints that call to mind a nautical adventure or an exciting safari. Little boys and adolescents look amazing in kid-sized versions of their fathers’ most eye-catching clothes.

Is there anything cuter than the look of dapper accessories like fedoras, suspenders and boat shoes for toddlers? I have yet to see a little
prince in any of the above accessories who did not look adorable.

Have you noticed the bow tie is making a big comeback in men’s fashion? It is in boys’ fashion, too. The bow tie adds instant appeal to an outfit,whether worn with khakis, seersucker pants or jeans.

It could be argued that this is a lot of fussy detail, considering boys tend to be little athletes who love to play outside and get dirty without having to worry about mussing their clothes. Yet these days, the same can be said of girls. Both boys and girls need to be able to rough it sometimes with a wardrobe that allows for simple sweatpants, t-shirts and sneakers.

So yes, a mother can delight in buying clothes for her son, and though in different ways, just as much as she delights in dressing her daughter. A friend recently told me, “Every time I dress my daughter up in a beautiful outfit, I am reminded that one day I will be the one getting her ready for prom. And further down the road, I hope to someday tie the sash on her wedding dress and watch her walk down the aisle. I feel like the pretty outfits along the way are all leading up to that hugely special moment between a mother and daughter.” Knowing that one day your little girl will be dressing for prom and perhaps someday picking out a wedding gown can definitely color all the outfits that precede with a rosy, sentimental hue. Think that magic doesn’t exist with boys? Think again.

Someday, you’ll see the little boy you raised all grown up, and wearing a suit with a tie and matching pocket square. Your eyes will rim as he adjusts his cuff links and he may even ask your help fastening his boutonniere. As you accidentally graze your finger with the straight pin, you’ll tell him how very handsome he is. Secretly, you’ll see the little boy who once wore miniature suspenders over a t-shirt with a smiling frog and sneakers that glowed when he walked.

You may have to go to a few more stores before you fall in love with an outfit, since many retailers still give their girls’ sections more options. In some ways, your creativity has more room, since popular opinion still holds that girls are more fun to dress. But whether you are shopping for clothes your boy can wear to school, to a wedding or on a camping trip, I guarantee it can be as creative and rewarding an endeavor to clothe him as it is her. Skeptical? Give it a fair shot. You may just have a great time. And when it comes time for your little boy to wear his new duds? You’ll get a few big smiles and nods from others who share the secret that boys can be awesome to dress, and exclamations of surprise from those who never realized just how worthy of attention a little boy’s attire can be.