Lost: one party dress, one red-nosed clown, one childhood

I’m dealing with the really serious issues today: party dresses!  Well, it does have a serious side but I’ll get to that later. 

I went to a party for four year olds with my eldest daughter last week.  There was a clown, which was great, but he was definitely not your average slapstick, red-nosed clown.  He had an electronic keyboard driven by a laptop, which was all plugged into a microphone and a large and loud bank of speakers. 

As I watched the four year olds dance to the Top 40 hits pumping out of his elaborate set-up, half of whom looked as if they weren’t sure whether to join in or run away, I noticed something missing.  Where were all the party dresses? 

Ruby has a couple of classic, little-girl party dresses that she loves to get out of the wardrobe and dress up in whenever there’s a party to go to.  But there were only one or two girls, other than Ruby, wearing what I would call a party dress on this occasion.  All the other girls were wearing leggings and yes, dresses, but dresses without swirly skirts and sashes and bows and all the other beautiful things that make life as a four year old going to a party feel so special.  Most of the dresses were cotton, T-shirt style shift dresses – trendy yes, but fun – well not so much.

The abundance of dresses for four year olds which were clearly copied from the latest pre-teen trends, combined with the dance music and the decidedly techno-savvy clown made me a bit sad.  If you don’t have the opportunity to wear a beautiful party dress when you’re four, then when do you ever have the chance?

An idea for my third book has been bubbling around in my brain for a while; I haven’t had the chance to write anything about it yet because I’d like to finish the second book before I start the third.  But the idea is to do with the fast pace at which our little girls are almost forced to grow up these days, and the loss of a beautiful piece of their childhood in the face of fashion, media and technology.  Clothes, music and even birthday parties all seem to be sending the message to our girls that being four is not cool, that we should put away childish things as soon as we can, that being older and sexier and same-ier is the thing.  As I said in my blog last week, I think media and technology all have a place but so does letting a four year old be four years old.  Which means there should be time for party dresses and nursery rhymes and old-fashioned clowns every now and again.  Doesn’t it?


  1. Anita Fredericks

    A very timely topic for me as my daughter and I discuss her chosen “Princess Tea Party” theme for her upcoming birthday. Reading your blog has reminded me how important parties – and dressing up – are, and that I can’t use her birthday party as a bargaining tool for good behaviour because they are just too important to miss. I’ll have to find something else to bargain with… and leave the Princess Tea Party alone.

  2. Trin

    I have to admit is most cases my eldest six year old still loves to wear the swirly party dresses which I think is wonderful. Recently at party at the park it was me who persuaded her not to wear it as it’s not practical to play in the sand and on all the equipment. We decided then on jeans and a pretty pink top only to arrive and find lot’s of girls had still worn their special dresses which was quickly commented on. I felt like a big party pooper! As you said I think the girls really love to wear them, when given the opportunity. Picture this Miss six’s favourite dress is the one bought by grandparents from overseas it’s blue and white checked, massive skirt, big bow, puffy sleeves and a big rounded collar and Dorothy comes to mind everytime she wears it but as far as she is concerned I think it is just as beautiful as she does…….I am trying to hold on to and enjoy all things which make this age special as I can instinctly feel that she is starting to approach the next age group which is actually quite devastating since she is my only girl and boys things are a whole other story.

  3. You’re absolutely right Trin when you say that girls love to wear pretty dresses ‘when given the opportunity.’ And that was the thing that got me thinking at the birthday party: had the girls at the party been given the opportunity to wear a party dress? Or did they not have one in their wardrobe because party dresses are certainly not trendy or up-to-the-minute in the way that leggings and smock dresses are. Which is of course the beauty of a party dress – they’re timeless.

    And Neets, I love the Princess Tea Party idea – 4 year olds in beautiful dresses sipping lemonade out of tea cups whilst dining on fairybread finger sandwiches! And I’m sure there won’t be a clown with a laptop computer anywhere in sight …

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review « While the kids are sleeping

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