I have no idea

No, not for me. (Well, not anymore…)

When I entered 1 Player Dad mode, along with the division of property that comes with the end of a relationship also came the division of my daughter’s things, including her clothes. Prior to 1 Player Dad mode, I largely left the selection of Esme’s clothes to her mum (with a few random choices made by me, such as the odd t-shirt, pair of pyjamas or undergarments). My experience in this arena was pretty much zero, so I figured it was best to let the experts handle this one. However, once I was rolling solo I needed to fill out the rest of my daughter’s wardrobe, which meant I needed to step into that unknown arena – shopping for girls clothes on my own.

My first expedition shopping for clothes for Esme by myself was a traumatic experience. I drove to a mall where there were a number of children’s clothing stores, figuring that this would be the best approach to see what’s out there in this foreign land of girls clothing. As soon as I walked into the first store, I realised I was way out of my comfort zone. This was no man’s land, literally – I saw no guys in these shops, just women working and shopping.

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My first mistake was I didn’t know what I was shopping for – I knew that I had about half of Esme’s clothes, I just didn’t know what those clothes were, so what was I buying to fill those gaps? I wandered the clothing racks aimlessly with a look of bewilderment and despair, which was clearly picked up by the shop assistants in the first store. “Can I help you with anything?” Yes, you can download ‘how to shop for girls clothes’ directly into my brain like The Matrix please, and don’t tell anyone about it.

Neo shopping

Ah Neo, if only it were that easy…

“No thanks, i’m just having a look” was my slightly-less-than-honest reply. No, really – clearly I know what i’m doing here, just leave me be and i’ll be making my well-informed selections to be with you shortly to purchase said items…

…or i’ll just walk out empty-handed and move on to the next store, where the same process is repeated: the shop assistants ask this clearly hapless father if he needs any help, and I walk out again, empty-handed. I think I left that first shopping expedition with a couple of t-shirts and a feeling of defeat, like I just got pwned in straight perfect rounds by someone at Tekken (not that I know what it feels like, but my friends tell me it sucks).

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When I first moved back to Wellington, one of my friends generously offered to take me shopping for clothes for Esme, and bought her a huge haul of clothing to set her up for winter. As we went to the different stores, my friend would ask me if I liked certain items, and I just stared blankly and threw up my hands in deference to her opinion.

Friends also gave me some clothes that didn’t fit their kids anymore, so that also helped start me off with a new wardrobe for Esme. But, as children tend to do, my daughter kept growing which meant it wasn’t long before I needed to go shopping once again.

Over time, I slowly worked out the whole buying clothes for girls thing, discovering what stores I gravitated towards, and what kind of style I tended to dress her in. Today, i’m much better at this clothes shopping business, but i’m no natural – it’s still a challenge!

One thing which makes shopping for my daughter’s clothes more challenging is the fact that I’m about as fussy with her clothes as I am with my own. Anyone who’s ever gone clothes shopping with me knows that it can be an excruciating experience as I try things on, check all angles, and sometimes throwing out a few breaking moves to test the practicality of the item of clothing. Being a (semi-retired) bboy doesn’t help either, where the freshness of your outfit says as much about you as the moves you throw down on the dance floor, so a lot of this ‘selectivity’ carries over to clothes shopping for my daughter.

So here’s my (slightly ridiculous) method for clothes shopping for my daughter. Most of this will probably be unnecessary to most people (who aren’t as picky as me), but you might find one or two tips that might be useful to you:

The Prep/Recon phase

  • Make a list of what clothes you need – Duh. Don’t do what I did when I went shopping for the first time!
  • Online recon – i’m not confident enough yet to shop online without seeing the clothes physically first, but i’ve started doing some scouting through the websites of the stores I usually shop at to save myself some time and eliminate the stores who don’t have what i’m after. It’s also useful to check out the outfits that the stores put together as suggestions, so you can see what works – and if you like what you see, just buy the outfits they suggest!
  • Take a photo of the clothes you have – I don’t do this all the time, but if you’re shopping for a few things and don’t want to double up on similar looking items, or you’re wanting to see if your potential purchase will go with the clothes you currently have, take a quick photo of the clothes you want to compare at home before you hit the shops.

The Actual Shopping phase

  • This is a solo mission – well, it is for me anyway. With my daughter being so young, the last thing I need is for her to have to put up with my sloth-like, indecisive shopping process. Yes, there’s a downside of not being able to try things on for size, but I don’t think that would be happening at this age anyway. One of the few times I took her along with me for clothes shopping, she wasn’t in a particularly jovial mood. When I saw this cool kimono-like dress and wanted to try it on her for size, she was all like “I dont’ want it!” Well, if I listened to her, I wouldn’t have had a samurai daughter for our ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ cosplay:10433295_10152059443211237_7597346665151914394_n
  • Ask the shop assistants – I have this thing with a lot of shops, but clothes shops in particular, where I don’t like being approached by the salespeople. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it’s hard to ask for something i’m not exactly sure about…plus I don’t like the feeling of being ‘sold’ to. However, they’re the professionals in this scenario – they know what you might be looking for, or what items go well together, so don’t be afraid to ask them for suggestions. You’re not obliged to buy anything, so even if they try to guide you towards the checkout and you’re not ready or not sure, just say that you’re shopping around or checking out some other places before deciding.
  • When in doubt, always buy bigger – because generally speaking, kids don’t shrink. My daughter is apparently tall for her age, and the Plunket nurse says that she could end up as tall as me (182cm, or 5’11…so close to 6ft dammit!) when she’s an adult. So i’m usually buying clothes sized one year higher than her current age. Even if the clothes are a bit bigger (as the size of clothing of the same year varies a bit between stores), she’ll grow into them eventually, whereas a snug fit will be too small by dinner time.
  • The actual (time-consuming) shopping process – So when it comes to actually heading to the shops, I usually head to a mall about 30 minutes drive away where most of the children’s clothing stores are that I want to check out. I do a round of the six stores I usually frequent (Farmers, Cotton On Kids, Pumpkin Patch, T & T, Charlie and Me, and The Warehouse), unless i’ve eliminated any from my list through the online recon process above. I note any potential items for purchase in those stores, sometimes by taking a photo on my phone. Then I make my final decision, make the purchase, and the process is complete.Visiting all of those stores, and revisiting the final store(s) to complete my purchases is time-consuming and probably unnecessary. However, it’s the only way to satisfy my fussy clothes selection habits, and reduce buyer’s remorse if I see something I would have preferred at another store.

Funnily enough, I still feel out-of-place in these stores sometimes, and if I leave it too long between shopping trips those feelings of befuddlement come back again. The skill of shopping for girls clothes is similar to training a muscle, in that it needs to be worked regularly or you become ‘unfit’. As my daughter gets older she’ll probably want a say in what she wears, so this process will undoubtedly change (and hopefully get easier!), but for now this is how I navigate the previously unfamiliar terrain of shopping for girls clothes. It’s a time-consuming, challenging process made worse by my pickiness, but i’ve come a long way from my first feeble attempt. If you’ve got any tips or suggestions, let me know below!

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