Prevent This: Not Seeing Yourself in the Mirror

You may not know who Iris Apfel is, but if you saw her photo, you might say to yourself, “Oh yes, her”. In the September edition of REAL SIMPLE magazine, she is quoted as saying that the “…worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and not see yourself”. Full marks for the REAL SIMPLE editorial staff, as for so many kids, this time of year is just all about gearing up for school…and experienced parents know the items that will get worn and used the most are the ones that make their new owners feel like their best selves.

How can you make sure that back-to-school dollars are being spent in a way that will only enhance the self-esteem and productivity of the students in your household? Have them calculate the DIMS (Does It Make Sense) Score for a potential purchase where they will need to answer the “Style Question”.

When children feel good about an article of clothing, or piece of equipment, it really can enhance the genuine feeling of capability that comes from feeling ready to tackle an upcoming task or project. The last question Gifting Sense users are asked to answer every single time they generate a DIMS Score (except for a Toy) is as follows: “Style is a way to tell people about yourself without saying a word. Does the styling (icons and sayings used, colour, design, length) of [the item being scored] tell people what you want them to know about you?” Let us say upfront this question is not about how much an item costs – but rather what it says – in some cases literally!

The “Style Question” was designed to get kids into the habit of just taking a moment to consider if the icon on a t-shirt represents an idea they believe in – or if shoes they like are both flattering and functional. It is not about how much you spend. As the focus on sustainability increases, it could be about a manufacturer’s, or retailer’s, practices and policies.

Some people have marvelled at how we have been able to distil the importance of recognizing that sayings or icons on t-shirts (for example) can sometimes telegraph a message you had no intention of delivering. Other people really dislike this question. We believe the “Style Question” is an important one that can really help kids by giving them pause for thought when they are buying clothing in particular. We explain why below.

Parents have told us stories (read nightmares) about their kids being sent home from school in order to change into more appropriate clothing; about their kids being asked to turn a t-shirt inside out at school so that a slogan such as “Your Mom is Hot” is not on display. Parents have told us about their kids attending dances and not being able to walk in the high heeled shoes they wore, or even dance in the outfit they chose for the event. Parents have told us about their kids playing music whose lyrics contain almost only expletives. When we all care so much about our kids and put so much collective effort into their upbringing – how do these situations occur? We think it is in part because kids just aren’t used to really thinking before they buy something. Although thanks to an increasing focus not only on financial literacy, but also on sustainability, that tide is turning.

Does the boy wearing the “Your Mom is Hot” shirt really want a date with one of his classmates’ parents? We suspect not. Do you want a call at work saying your child has been sent home to get clothing that isn’t covered in artwork suggesting violence is acceptable? You probably do not. And although there are as many views on the use of expletives as there are people – most of us find their excessive use discomforting.

The “Style Question” was designed to get kids into the habit of just taking a moment to consider if the icon on a t-shirt represents an idea they believe in – or if shoes they like are both flattering and functional. It is not about how much you spend, but rather if your choice is consistent with who you are and what you want to be able to do when using the item in question. This one question just might be able to help your kids avoid looking in the mirror and not really seeing themselves. “Does this purchase tell the world what I want it to know about me?” As the scoring labels for the “Style Question” indicate, if it doesn’t, it should.


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