Animal Prints for a Little Girl: Yes or No?

Months ago, in the dead of summer, I had the idea to make Lila a Minki house coat this winter.  Minki is sofffffft like kitten fur and tends to wash well, so I let Lila choose from the huge selection of Minki at work.  She’s obsessed with tigers and insists this is tiger print.  Ok, kid.  The spots and color variation will help hide toddler messes, right?

She recently received an invitation to her cousins’ jungle-themed birthday party.  Prizes for costumes.  Personally, I’d rather be hung by my thumbs than make a cutesy leopard sort of costume, so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone- a cute little minki housecoat with a button-in tail and an ears headband.  My daughter won’t be a pariah at the party and I won’t have to make one of those costumes.  It’s win-win, right?  (How does that kid pee in that costume?) I drafted most of the housecoat pattern, borrowing a Peter Pan collar and the sleeves from two Oliver + S patterns I have on hand.  The sleeves stop at the elbow, and the hem stops at her knee.   She’s precious, but little kids aren’t very neat or graceful and I don’t want to impede her physical activity with overlong skirts or sleeves.

I didn’t question the choice of fabric for a little girl’s coat until I’d set in the collar and the sleeves.  All of a sudden I thought I might just be walking a fine line between creative interpretation of a theme (jungle for a toddler party) and dressing my baby like a tiny tart.

Once I added the lower part of the coat, I thought it might be decent.   After all, it’s a cross between a utility at-home garment and a costume for a kiddie party.

(She’s turning into a camera monkey.  Insisted I photograph that pose.)
However, the coat turned out much nicer than I expected.  It’s neither heavy nor light, and drapes beautifully.  I couldn’t help self-lining the bodice so its soft against her skin, and I used black silk buttons.  Again, I couldn’t help myself.  This could serve as a lighter weight alternative to her “proper” winter coat.  Would I be the world’s worst mommy for dressing my 3-year old in generic animal skin and parading her in public?  Lila likes the coat, it fits well and allows for little girl antics.  
I want to avoid venturing into the territory of Questionable Taste.   What is it about animal skin?  What does it say?  Can kids wear it?  Do you wear it?  Am I being a prude, or worse?  Should I just start over and make the dreaded all in one costume with ears and a hood?  Is it ok to dress a little kid like a miniature adult?  Should a child be infantilized through dress for as long as possible?  Where’s the line?  Am I over-thinking it?

32 comments

  1. I'd say it might come down to accessorising, or what else she wears with the coat in public. If I saw a kid in that and say, black patent ballet flats and some horrible side ponytail, I'd be thinking beauty pageant horror. But if it was teamed with gumboots and other mismatched I-dressed-myself little kid stuff, I'd understand that it was chosen in the 'cute animal' sense not the tarty leopard print sense. I've never done animal print myself; I just don't like it. Maybe a cute, playful little girl is just the right person to be getting away with it?

  2. I think it is cute and appropriate. And since she picked it out, you know she really likes it. I do understand your concern about keeping children children, since Abercrombie has just put out a line of bikinis for 8 year olds with push-up bras in them. You definitely want to keep your little girl as she is, innocent and child-like. I also enjoy your sense of humour.

  3. I would like to make myself a housecoat out of minki. It is the softest. I used it for the inside of that baby robe I made a while back. I think you are over-thinking. I don't think it's the print and if Lila likes it, all the better.What bothers me about some kid's clothing I see at school is the shortness or tightness of things. All the jeans they make for little girls sit so low nowadays. There's something not right about that.

  4. I think as far as fabric is concerned, kids can wear almost anything. The difference between bad and good taste (IMO) makes the clothing itself e.g. how short a skirt is. I love the coat and your little girl will tell everybody about it, behaving like the toddler she is instead of acting like a mini-adult. That also makes a difference as to how people might perceive it.

  5. Animal prints have different connotations today than 10 years ago. People makes all sort of things with animal prints now, from laptop cases to wellies. Perhaps if Lila (who looks very cute, by the way) insisted to pair it with a pink princess dress, it would be too much, but otherwise I think people will understand that she is a little girl in a tiger phase.

  6. One of my principle rules of parenting is "Choose your battles." Unless it ventures into the realm of genuinely slutty, why fuss? We had several party dresses worn to rags at preschool; why not?If the primary concern is the reaction of other adults (I have a hard time believing the other three year olds won't think the coat is fantastic), maybe it's time to move to a place where there are fewer "no white shoes after labor day" rules for three year olds. Beautiful coat, and kudos to you for making it something she can put on herself and enjoy.

  7. Seriously? She's three. Preschoolers get a free style pass on just abut anything. As long as you're not dressing her in fishnet stockings and heels, I think you're good to go.And it looks divine and fuzzy and warm and fun, which makes it a win in my books. :)

  8. As someone who did let her little girl wear "cheetah" prints at that age, I can tell you that we never got any raised eyebrows or odd reactions. As other commenters said, the print is really irellevant, it's about the style. With 3 year olds around here wearing little heels, jewelry, and juicy couture, she looked downright conservative in her little leopard-printed jumpers and maryjanes! I think the coat is adorable and nothing to worry about.

  9. Over-thinking, as far as I'm concerned. She likes it, the other children will like it, it feels cozy – I wouldn't worry!Somewhere down inside me I'm pretty sure I would have liked this as a kid. I don't think anyone will waste a second thought on it, unless you let her wear a tutu and high heels as well.

  10. I don't like animal prints on little kids when it is "knowing" and part of a "tarty" outfit overall. On the other hand, it is cute when it is an unexpected print in a classic kids outfit. Your daughter's coat is on the "cute" side of the line in my book.

  11. You mean you think she'll leave the house without the fuzzy ear headband that you're going to make for the party? Nah, let preschoolers be preschoolers and enjoy. She looks cute, the color/style looks good on her. And she looks so SNUGGY. As far as wearing party clothes to rags – this is why preschooler mommies should hit the thrift stores, there's a huge selection from mommies who don't let their kids do that, and it's all in perfect shape.

  12. Oh she looks adorable!! I agree with what all the other guys have said that as long as shes dressed like a kiddie and not like a mini adult you have nothing to worry about, and if she loves it thats surely all that matters:)

  13. Yes it is totally cute and appropriate, think cheetah girls. The question is always for me when dressing my kids in things I like is do they like it or am I forcing my own style choice on them. My own mom tried to make me like everything she liked and really we are quite opposites so it made for difficult times when I was a teen style and otherwise. I would let your daughter be the final decision maker. My nine year old son loves pink golf shirts, very preppy 80s with the collar it. It drives my husband mad but well its just clothes and he is working on developing his own style.

  14. You're overthinking. She looks like a toddler having fun! Animal prints evoke safaris, raw energy, 1950s sultry Hollywood, and cheezy working girls–copying nature. So many of the fur designs are so beautiful! Kids can get away with anything. Worry when she's 13 and wants to wear it skin tight and real short. Kristina in Ohio

  15. OH! Toteworthy, I had to laugh. :) Many, many people here don't wear shoes at all after labor day. It's mostly me and my own old-fashioned ideas of appropriate children's wear. Much hand-wringing. I do let her dress herself, as long as it's clean and appropriate. I would never, never in a million years have picked out an animal skin for her. I rather tried to steer her to the brown or pink cuddle bump. But she's already very… self-assured. Thanks for all the comments, good to know I'm not training my kid to be a harlot. No black stretch lace, no fishnets, got it…

  16. Totally adorable, totally not tarty. And a lot of that has to do with Lila herself. She's clearly such a sweet, wholesome little kid who likes leopard print. And that's what everyone will see :-)

  17. It's fabulous. I don't think you are overthinking, because that is what good parents do – they observe and reflect and adjust their behavior and expectations based on their conclusions. Good work.I do have a question about minkie. Does it get very static-y? Oh, and I have met a few folks here in Vancouver that recently moved from Brisbane. And found out that other acquaintances (who in my mind were generically "from Australia") are in Brisbane. Small world.

  18. Thanks for the affirmation, I do my best. :)Brisbane City Council is branding this place the "New World City," and trying very hard to convince us all we live in an interesting, vibrant, important place. It should be, on paper… Lots of public parks, heaps of immigrants, plenty of jobs. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so friggin' hot.And no, I haven't found Minki to get staticky or pilly. I'll report more after many washings.

  19. Just don't let her wear it with her fishnets and heels and she won't look like a tart! Seriously, I can see no harm in using animal prints. The style is suitably childlike.

  20. No harm at all. I made my son a tiger set at that age. He loved it, so did the little cousins who it got handed down to. It was a hoody jacket with a center front zipper, ears on the hood and a pair of elastic waist pants with a tail. Very soft and so much fun to be a tiger. grrr!

  21. This post is a good illustration of having different perceptions perhaps due to different cultures (even though I know you are not Australian). Where I grew up, fun fur (we called it) was used specifically for kids costumes or little girls coats. Minky is just a grown up, more luxurious sister of fun fur IMHO. So when I see animal minky prints I think, cute coat or child's costume.

  22. I suspect the fact that you're genuinely thinking about its appropriateness is a good sign that you're pretty safe from crossing the "line". The robe/coat style, whatever a person's age, would not cross the line.At my son's baseball game, it was pouring rain, and I saw a 10 yo(?) girl walk by in a leaopard print sweatsuit, carrying a zebra print umbrella. It was certainly eye-catching, but also cute, I thought. Sweatsuits and umbrellas are other safe styles (:

  23. You're being not just a prude, but a really out of date one :-). This is hardly a leopard-print thong, or some of the recent excesses.Signed: a grown-up tart, obviously? (thanks)

  24. What a beautiful girl! Seriously. My mom made all my costumes and they were clever and theatrical and never cutesy wootsy. I don't think her coat wanders over into questionable territory–although I get your point in that bottom photo. I love animal prints, albeit in ironic or small doses… and yet I wish there was more talk about it–the history of animal prints/skins in fashion and what they symbolized on women. I love to overthink ;).

  25. She is beautiful…and she loves the fabric and she connects it with tigers…any other interpretation is outside her realm….People's interpretations say more about them than the person or thing they are forming an opinion about.

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