This week, my five-year-old daughter goes back to school and starts kindergarten. This is a tremendous milestone for multiple reasons, and as we say goodbye to the carefree days of summer, we have many things to consider: school supplies, backpacks, the eternal question of what to pack for lunch, and last but not least, school clothes.
My daughter's school dress code is pretty relaxed: As long as she can get in and out of her own gear, and it's seasonally appropriate, we're all good. Of course, no one is more concerned about what she will wear than my daughter herself (who refuses to slip into pants and generally sticks to a palette of pink, red and purple). But the big question on my mind is, with a new school full of unfamiliar teachers and parents, what am I going to wear?
I know, I know, who cares what the parents wear? Yet, this day is not unlike our own first days of school (or at a new job, for that matter). What we wear makes an impression, so it's important to take into account how we come across from the start.
At my daughter's preschool, I was one of the working moms (in our neighborhood the split between stay-at-home and working parents is pretty even). My routine was consistent with that of most two-career families juggling kids and jobs. I'd drop my children off at school on my way to work.
What wasn't so consistent with other parents was my sense of style. I work in a creative field, and as a fashion editor, I'm privy to new trends as soon as they hit the catwalks and I'm usually pretty excited to try them out for myself. My colleagues are exactly the same, and when I worked in the Condé Nast building, the cafeteria was just another runway, only it was editors parading around in the newest styles.
So, the parents and staff at my daughter's preschool were used to seeing me show up with children in tow dressed in sky-high platform heels and bell-bottoms or color-blocked dresses with Peter Pan collars. The headmistress even told me she looked forward to seeing what I wore each day. The other working parents, while always polished, stuck to pretty conservative slacks-and-oxford shirts for the men and tailored dresses for the women.
Then I changed jobs, and now I have the pleasure of working from home in the mornings. Full of breakfast prep, school runs and a whir of emails and deadlines, my outfits aren't decided until midday. As a result (and much to the headmistress' dismay), I am usually wearing very casual clothes (think cutoffs and T-shirts or sweatpants and hoodies) when I drop my kids off.
With the new school year looming ahead, I have a decision to make. Do I make the effort to show up in style on those first few days as I get to know the teachers and parents? Should I show off my personality in a peplum top and leather pants, or stay in the background in jeans and a tee?
The truth of the matter is that, as much as I love fashion, my thoughts are going to be solely with my daughter as she enters this new environment. I could walk to school wearing a garbage bag, and as long as I'm there to hold her hand, usher her into the classroom and give her hugs goodbye, it really doesn't matter what I wear. The only accessory I'll need is tissues... and lots of them.