We Are Both Right

Boy Wearing Little Girl Dress Up Clothes to Preschool? Not Acceptable.


Do feather boas have a place in a preschooler's ensemble? Not at school! ©thiralia/stock.xchng

I’m a mommy blogger on the What to Expect website.  A while back, Heidi Murkoff, author of the What to Expect series, was asked the following question:

“My son loves wearing his older sister’s frilly dress-up clothes and boas. I don’t mind it around the house, but now he wants to wear them to preschool. Should I let him?”

You can click here to see the question and Heidi’s response.

To me, it’s a silly question.  Of course the answer is no.  Maybe not for the same reasons you have, but in my mind wearing any kind of kids dress up clothes to school is inappropriate.  And, while I agree with Heidi in simple terms, I respectfully disagree with her reasons for thinking so.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded mom, and pretty much accepting of just about anything that kids do.  Tommy’s sharing his popsicle with the dog again?  That’s a teaching opportunity about germs.  Toddler dressing up in mommy’s bra and parading out in front of company?  Sweetheart, let’s learn the word privacy today and how it applies to mommy’s underwear.

Kids don’t know any better a lot of the time, so you can’t fault them for being ignorant.  Instead, you teach them what they need to learn, and you do it in whatever way you know how.  The great thing about kids is how spongy they are.  They soak up knowledge anywhere they can get it and anyway it is given to them.  Take social cues, for example.  Many folks (parents, grandparents, teachers, school secretaries, parenting expert-authors, and so on) have clearly defined notions in their heads of what makes a girl and “girl” and a boy a “boy”.  Girls wear pink.  Boys wear blue.  Disobey these societal rules and you just might be a homosexual.

Even in Preschool.

How ridiculous, right?  I mean, who gives a rip if a kid is gay.  So your preschool-aged son (which makes him three or four years old, by the way) likes to play in kids dress up clothes of the “girlie” variety.  Who am I to say that boy faeries don’t wear skirts?  I’ve never seen a boy faerie, how would I know?  Oh, and, he’s FOUR, folks.  His parents have years to go before he starts really worrying them with his wild and crazy sexual explorations.  I’m pretty sure that even the most progressive four year-old child isn’t donning black lipstick and a kilt because he wants to be “alternative” (as we called that style when I was a teenager).  Nah, this wee one just thinks that toddler dress up costumes of the skirt, tutu, and gown persuasion are pretty.

I see no problem in allowing a boy to play in little girl dress up clothes.  The operative word in that sentence is play.  Which (finally) brings me to my point about why little boys shouldn’t wear dresses to school.  We don’t go to school to play.  We go to learn.

Here’s what it boils down to.  School is the beginning of understanding what it means to become a productive member of society.  The end goal of all that schooling is to enable us to figure out what we want to do to become successful members in a workforce.  There are certain behaviors that are acceptable at home and in one’s casual time, and others that are appropriate for school or the workplace.  We go to school to pay attention and learn, not to play dress up all day.

Even in Preschool.

Of course there are political reasons for discouraging little boys from wearing dress up costumes to school, especially if they are of the feminine variety.  Frankly, if those were the only reasons I’d fly a double salute and let my kid wear whatever he wanted to preschool.  But, where I rebel against the stupidity of other adults and their idiotic and thoughtless reactions to seeing a little boy in a dress, I do conform to the principle that a school is an institution much like the workplace.  We should dress in business appropriate clothing at work, and similarly at school.  Should a little boy be allowed to wear frilly kids dress up clothes to preschool?  Well, should he be allowed to wear his pajamas to preschool?  The answer is the same for both questions.  In a word, no.

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Amanda says she doesn’t have a problem with boys wearing girl’s clothing to school (and kind of wishes she could get in on the sparkly tutu action herself!).


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