14/08/2014 16:57 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Three Into Four: How To Get Your Kids Dressed (The Dream V The Reality)

Jennifer Barton

Once upon a time, I thought that having little girls meant that getting dressed each day would be easy. And fun.

Some of my fantasies? We'd all wear spandex leggings - we'd be cool, comfortable and sooo Eighties! - we'd experiment with bold primary colours (my daughters' tastes would have evolved far beyond boring and predictable pink) and we'd even dress up sometimes, but in an amazing way: Witches with medical credentials (Witch's hat - check. Lab coat - check. Stethoscope-as-a-necklace - oh yeah!). Swashbuckling pirate princesses. Anyone from Jem and the Holograms (the most amazing cartoon to ever have existed).

Little did I know that attempting to get my girls dressed in the morning would turn out to be the most chaotic, tantrumy and insane part of my day.

(Also, how does Diana have the energy to change her outfit three times before 9am? I can barely manage to pull on the clothes from yesterday that I'm inevitably wearing for as many days in a row as I can until a major food stain forces me to think about pulling out another option...)

Before Diana had a choice in the matter, she was dressed in homage to Bolshy the bulldog and a hybrid mix of whatever I wanted to be wearing, but couldn't because I was pregnant/breastfeeding/not a baby or toddler.

Think polo shirts with tutus. Or wildly printed leggings with peasant tops. And copious amounts of jungle print. Of course, even as a baby, she would throw her hats and mittens wherever she could, but mostly she put up with being her lunatic, dog-print obsessed mother's muse. She even used to smile when she got dressed in the mornings.

How times have changed.


From the age of two, when D used to wake up screaming: "I need my heels. NOW!," entering her room to get her dressed has involved preparation, patience and at least two cups of coffee beforehand.


The conundrums are seemingly endless, but span the range of demanding to wear black tie (aka her fancy party dress) every single day to insisting on flip-flops or sandals in the middle of winter, in the rain.

Other current issues? Jumpers are always a struggle; jeans, currently a no-go. D even has an opinion on hairstyles: plaits are in, ponytails are out. Post-ballet class, ballet slippers must be kept on for the duration of the walk home and sometimes the rest of the morning. Necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery? Always a plus. D likes to be creative with her pieces, though, pushing her necklaces up onto her hair into hippy-headbands or stacking multiple bracelets on her ankles (hello, fashion-stylist-in-training!)

While D does love dressing up, we seem to have miraculously bypassed the tutu-out-of-the-house stage. D does insist on putting her impossible-to-clean mermaid costume on right before meals, accessorizing it with everything in sight except for the one thing I'm desperate to see: a bib.

After daily screaming and sobbing fits, I had to institute a "pick your outfit the day before" policy, which seems to be working (there are still tears many mornings, but fewer in relation to clothes). She's even starting to be OK about trousers - as long as she's checked that Liv won't be wearing a dress.

Happily, Liv now fits into D's "Bulldog era" hand-me-downs (D is OK with this, especially since there is little pink in the mix).

But I'm worried Liv's demanding clothing days arrived along with her first birthday: having acquired her first pair of shoes last week, she has started following me around the room, holding them and then throwing them at me until I put them on her.

For the time being, at least, I can still savour being able to dress her like a small boy, although I worry D's girly flair has rubbed off on me. The other day, I did the unthinkable (for me): I put a bow in Liv's ultra-short locks.

Also, the dream has sort-of come true: My creepy fantasy of dressing like my daughters has become a reality. D, Liv and I all have black spandex leggings. And - amazingly - no one minds wearing them.