Supporting her unique personal style in the face of peer pressure to ‘fit in’

  • Age: 10-16 yrs
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Supporting her unique personal style in the face of peer pressure to ‘fit in’

As girls get older, the pressure to abandon personal style in favour of peer-approved fashion choices often increases. How can you help your daughter stay beautifully true to her own unique sense of style, and to herself?

When our girls are little, it’s easy to encourage their personal style because everything they wear is somehow a crowd-pleasing combination of sweet and sassy. But things change significantly as our girls grow up. When the same adorably feisty five-year-old (who dressed in a tutu and an astronaut helmet) becomes a 10-year-old, and then a 15-year-old, suddenly beauty anxieties come to the fore and any standout, spirited fashion statement feels frowned upon socially. The pressure on girls to conform and visually shape-shift to please peers, boys and parents can become incredibly intense.
“Parents must understand that this generation of girls is facing unprecedented pressure from peers and marketers,” says Rachel Simmons, best-selling author of Odd Girl Out and co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute, “[These] are powerful forces that push [girls] to want to fit in.”
How can parents help girls strike the balance between managing the pressure to fit in and their increasing confidence and desire to rock a personal style that reflects their best, most beautifully unique selves?

Trend-following versus personal style

Playing with trends can be tonnes of fun – however, when girls copy a look exactly because their friends wear it (or else the fashion and beauty pages dictate it), they may technically be ‘on trend’, but that’s not the same thing as having their own unique style. “Girls often say they like to express themselves and be unique,” says Alison Deyette, TV host, stylist and lifestyle expert, “but, when they actually stand with their [group of] friends, they all look the same.” Deyette says this is because, when it comes to beauty and style for teenagers, girls tend to blindly follow fashion rather than learning how to incorporate aspects of a trend into their own signature look. “Not every trend is for everybody,” she continues. “If leopard-print skirts are the trend, that skirt may look great on one girl but appear less flattering on another.”
Encourage your girl to focus first on wearing clothes that consistently flatter her unique body and celebrate her individual personality, then thread elements of a trend into that look. (Try leopard-print shoes or hair accessories, if the leopard-print skirt isn’t ‘her’.) A trend should never change her signature sense of style, but rather give her overall look a playful pop. Helping her learn how to work fashion and beauty trends to her own advantage will, in turn, boost her body confidence and encourage her to appreciate those things that make her unique.

Value her opinion on personal styling

It’s important to reinforce your daughter’s efforts to cultivate her own sense of style and self-expression. Demonstrate that you value her opinion by asking for her feedback on your fashion choices. Together, go through her wardrobe to see what items truly flatter and feel like her authentic style – but do the same for your own clothes, asking your daughter to help you honestly assess your current look. Then, make time to shop together. Support one another in making smart, discerning choices about what looks and feels fantastic on each of you. “If you want her to value your style opinions,” says Deyette, “be sure to value hers.”

Unique style spotting

Help give her perspective by making a game of regularly watching for women (and men) in your wider day-to-day world who have fabulous style. Take pleasure in noticing and celebrating how those people use unique style to communicate a message about who they are. Once your daughter sees real people having fun with fashion, dressing to please peers might begin to lose its allure.

Author: Cris Gladly, writer and brand-integrity expert.

What next: action steps to help your daughter find her own look

  • Make a date with your daughter to go through her wardrobe together – AND your own. Try on everything and both keep only the items that make you feel truly amazing. Identify which cuts and colours flatter each of you most – and try to discern why, so that in the future you can both shop with those flattering looks in mind.
  • Analyse and discuss new seasonal trends together. What do you each love or loathe about them? Which trends do you each want to play with, and which do you want to pass on entirely? Make incorporating trends into your personal style feel like a thoughtful choice, rather than a peer-driven social obligation.
  • Set a budget and try to visit some new places together rather than the same ‘must-have’ brand stores where her peers shop. How about a market, thrift shop or independent boutique? Set a challenge for each of you to find one really great item (even if you decide not to purchase it). Help her see that unique, stylish items can be found when you look in new places.
  • Keep the conversation ongoing and encouraging. Let sharing ideas about personal style be a fun, bonding experience between you the two of you.

Our experts

  • Jess Weiner

    Jess Weiner CEO of Talk to Jess and Dove Global Self-Esteem Ambassador

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