June 11, 2013

When my daughter was just a baby I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.  Although a little extreme maybe, it’s a very interesting read and it opened my eyes to the current princess culture and the mass marketing campaigns that are targeting our very young daughters.  As a result we have tried to avoid the whole princess thing in our home.  When I say princess, I really mean Disney princess.  We do own Brave, but have avoided the earlier ones as I find the messages in those movies to  focus heavily on outward beauty and being saved by men.
Well, in some ways this has come back to bite me in the butt.  My daughter is three and LOVES all things princess and dress up.  I honestly don’t know where she even learns about it all.  When she goes over to her friends houses she will seriously be taking her clothes off as she walks through the door so that she can put on one of their princess dresses.  And when she comes home it’s all she can talk about. So I decided that we need to come to some middle ground.  When I really think about it the actual idea of a princess is not what bothers me, it’s the messages that so many of the princess movies promote about females.  And to be honest I love to dress up and look nice and so I am sure that she has learned a lot of it from me.
Our compromise is that I will make her dress up clothes, even princess dresses, as long as they are not Disney princess specific.  I also refuse to pay crazy amounts of money for dress up clothes so I am going to be sewing them up from my stash of fabrics.  They will not all be pink and sparkly.  I will make them from what I have so there will be a wide range.
In the end I decided on Simplicity 9497 for the pattern and am actually making up four at the same time (we participate in babysitting swap where we often have 4 young girls over at a time.)  I am just trying to be creative with the ribbon, bias tape, beads etc… that I have.

I started them this morning and it’s pretty much all that my daughter talks about.  I will make sure to show you some pics of the finished products.  In the meantime here is picture of what I have to work with.

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  • Reply mjb June 11, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Check out this series: (it’s character specific, but they don’t have to be). My 2.5 year old son referred to his baby sister as “princess sister” and “princess baby” this week with no princess talk from us, nor do we dress her in tutus and over the top headbands, which seems to be super popular.

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      I like the elastic in this pattern. Would really grow with the kids.

  • Reply Whitney Hardie June 11, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I can’t wait to see these. They are going to rock!

  • Reply Alisa June 11, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Our girls love to dress up as princesses but they have no idea about the Disney princesses. We have a few princess dresses (bought at thrift stores) as well as some dresses from their older cousins. They play princess but also mommies, teachers, cashiers (“store”) and much, much more. Give her some dress-up clothes and she (and all her friends) will have so much fun!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      yeah, and the fun is really the most important part right?

  • Reply Meg June 11, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    We also had a ‘princess dilemma’ in my family growing up: my dad refused to let anyone call me princess because he didn’t want me growing up thinking I was entitled royalty… Perhaps a bit extreme, but his own way of saying both girls and boys don’t have things just handed to them. But I agree – there’s nothing wrong with some pretty clothes!

  • Reply Mikhaela Reid June 11, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    I have a three-year-old girl too and the same dilemma. The only Disney Princess movie she has seen is the Little Mermaid—the nurses showed it to her when she was hospitalized a few months ago and she became OBSESSED. We don’t own any of the films but it’s hard to keep her away and she LOVES tutus, sparkles, silver shoes, etc.

    I like your compromise of no branded characters. I DID make my daughter a mermaid costume but it was NOT an Ariel costume: (scroll to bottom of this post for her costume)

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:34 AM

      I really like your mermaid dress up. It’s adorable.

  • Reply Misformilk June 11, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    My little girl was really into princesses too… And I had similar misgivings about Disney themes. I liked a couple of books by Leah Wilcox for her. Also lots of pretty sparkly things that aren’t just princess. And I focused on how princesses are polite and kind, and read and write a lot! Shes 6 now and has declared that she’s “over” pink and princesses. Fairies are the “new” princess!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      so happy to hear that there may be an end to the princess obsession some day.

  • Reply creativecounselor June 11, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    My daughter is 2 and she’s already obsessed with frills, sparkles, tutus, etc. She’s never seen a Disney princess movie (I have a 4-year-old son, so the kids are much more likely to watch Diego and Thomas than princesses), but still loves to dress up in the hand-me-down princess costumes that I got from a friend (and dress up her animals as well). Undoubtedly I will be following in your footsteps making princess dresses in a year or two!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      It seems to get them all somehow. good luck!

  • Reply sweetcaroline June 11, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    My daughter (2) loves pink, glitter, sparkles, puffy skirts and sleeves, etc. She has had no exposure to any princesses, really, except that the Disney ones appear on her pull-ups. We call them the “fancy ladies”. I think some kids are just hard wired to be more drawn to those things than others, just as some kids are nuts for babies (my boys included) or animals (none of my kids). We work to balance her exposure to stereotypical things, working to make sure her and her brothers know that girls can do any thing boys can and vice versa. Try Julia Donaldson’s newish book A Gold Star for Zog for a wonderfully atypical storybook princess.

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      thanks for the book recommendation. Going on the list today.

  • Reply katherine h June 12, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    You and your family may like reading these books together….

    The Paperbag princess

    and The princess and the packet of frozen peas

    2 stories with not-quite-traditional princesses!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      thank you so much! we will have to check these out for sure.

  • Reply Emilie June 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    They will be awesome!

    Just a note: Every year in the week after Halloween I stalk Target and Walmart and they eventually mark their costumes 75% off. I grab all the good ones still left for around $5 each and we are stocked for dress-ups for the year!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      good tip! I will have to check this out next year for sure.

  • Reply Leuinda Fields June 12, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Reply Leuinda Fields June 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      *sorry. computer glitch*

      I second _The Paperbag Princess_.
      Here is a bit of the view from the other side:
      First, my son’s BFF is princess everything, Disney included. As soon as we get to her house, just like your daughter, my son strips his clothes and dresses up as Belle, heals and tiara included. And, to console him when his cousin left town, we took him to Children’s Place for some sandals. He picked out the most dazzling pair of teal flip-flops covered in glitter and sparkles. He grabbed a headband to match and told me he couldn’t wait for his BFF to see how pretty he looked. Of course I was concerned about what his non-girl BFF would say but I was more put out over how impractical they were! My son runs everywhere we go and climbs anything in sight. Plastic flip flops are just a skinned face waiting to happen!
      When he isn’t dressed as Belle, he’s dressed as Batman or Spiderman and he loves Ironman. But the superhero shows–from our day and the new versions–are so violent! Explosions, guns, lovely phrases like, “Meet my fist!” Ugh. Even the previews for the new Ironman movie were a bit rough. So I’ve decided my job as parent is to control the message. Being a superhero is about being helpful, making good decisions. When we play Batman around the house, it sounds like this, “Help, Batman! These motorcycles are stuck in a canyon and can’t get out!” Or “Spiderman! This train has derailed! How can you help us?” Actually, I’ve been caught in the rain so many times, one of our superheroes is named Super Umbrella Man. :/


    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:47 AM


      I’ve never even thought about the same dilemma from the boy perspective. Superheros can be very violent. I guess I will need to deal with that in a couple of years. I like how you are focusing on the good messages though.

  • Reply sallie oleta barbee June 12, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Oooh I LOVE The Paperbag Princess! Seriously the best princess story ever! Definitely hear you about the questionable message the typical princess story delivers to young girls. No need to reinforce that! I loved playing dress ups – and it was always more about the ‘dressing up’ part than the playing princess part. I would have killed for a dress-up box full of fun homemade duds!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:49 AM

      Well I hope she loves them. It’s a lot of work, but for me it seems like the right compromise.

  • Reply Stephanie June 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    This is so interesting! While I’m not having any kiddos of my own, I have nieces (and nephews) that I love dearly and worry about! I cannot even imagine raising a child – girls in particular just because I know the challenges faced firsthand. I think I would worry about the princess issue as well.

    Your dress-ups seem like a great idea! I’m excited to see what you come up with.

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:51 AM

      its something I never even thought about before i have children of my own. now i am so aware of how i talk to little girls especially. i try not to focus on how cute they are all of the time and ask about their interests etc…

    • Reply Stephanie June 15, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      I read an article about that a few years ago!! I try to apply that with my nieces, but funny how it’s so hard! I automatically want to tell them how friggin’ cute they are. But yes, that’s a really great point as well. You’re a good momma! 🙂

  • Reply Clio June 12, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    As a child, I remember desperately wanting a Barbie and my mom saying no. As an adult, I respect what my mom was trying to do but also recognize that it probably fueled my longing – I probably would have lost interest in Barbie if it wasn’t such an issue. So, I think you are handling this really well.

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:50 AM

      thanks clio, yes, I think I also have some of that want what I can’t have aspects to my personality. hopefully my daughter didnt get that gene.

  • Reply Hayley June 12, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Oh do I hear you. I have two girls (4 & 2) who are every day one of the following: princesses, ballerinas, fairies, mermaids, or wedding girls. And my oldest loves pink. I think most of it is that they enjoy being “fancy” and wearing dresses. I have made them knit princess dresses (great since they live in them and are super comfy) and “puffy skirts” (tutus). What we’ve experienced so far is not what they wear (that will come later I’m sure) but how they talk. It’s amazing how young bad ideas about beauty come into play, even before they were into princesses. I have also found some good things about princess stories like being able to relate selfishness to the wicked queen & stuff like that. Consider this practice of how to work through issues that will come up in grade school and later (eek) high school!

    • Reply Kelli Ward June 13, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      thanks for the advice. it really does blow my mind the ideas she already has gotten about the need to be pretty. it makes me so sad. so yes, i guess we just try to focus on the good morals we can teach them through their interests.

  • Reply Jen Bennion June 13, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Can’t wait to see Alpha’s new dress-ups! Also, I have that pattern, you totally could’ve borrowed it. I used B I think to make Violet’s Wendy dress 🙂

  • Reply Zoe June 14, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    I remember when I was at the princess dress up stage (only 10 or so years ago, wow!), none of my friends or I dressed up like Disney princesses. Actually I think everyone was into fairies or fairy princesses. The standard costume was pink with a poofy tutu, wand, little pink top and tiara. There was nothing about beauty as far as I remember, it was just about being a magical fairy.

  • Reply June 16, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    I’m a generation older than most posting here (born in the early 60’s) and I have a different take. I adored pretending to be a fairy princess. My mom would make me a princess costume and I carried around a Tinker Toy “wand” and pretended to be a princess for a couple of years I guess. And I was an ugly kid – really…wild red hair, freckles, bucked teeth, glasses…all those things that kids tease each other about, I had it. Escaping into the beautiful fairy princess role was a joy. My mother was a bra-burning feminist of the 70’s and she taught me about loving me for me and being independent. At that time, some psychologist had not yet made up some drama about stigmas of how children would be damaged about an image of beauty they could not attain, or that movies were too violent for kids, etc. My parents taught me the difference between reality and make believe. That’s how I survived the terror from the original movie Halloween – I reminded myself it was make believe and Hollywood theatrics. My brother was a superhero with a towel pinned around his neck and a toy capgun on his hip, who went around beating up the bad guys and would save me from monsters. And everyone turned out just fine. Children pretend – that’s what makes them children. And make-believe promotes creativity and innovation. In fact, since the anti-make believe crowd started crooning, there’s nothing but garbage and re-makes coming out of Hollywood. Did you know that the Pink Panther cartoon was the first cartoon pulled from TV because it was too violent? The Pink Panther! And that’s why Looney Tunes changed as well. It’s just not cool drop an anvil on someone. Really? That’s hilarious! And … it’s make believe.

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