New Children’s Books Tell Girls To Value Their Dresses

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A couple of new books for little girls were reviewed in The New York Times today and they focus on female protagonists who love their dresses. In fact, their love of their dresses is the entire plot of the story. What a lovely sentiment for a little girl who is already being inundated with messages that she’s too pretty to do math, allergic to algebra, and should perhaps don a lingerie set.

According to the Times, in I Had A Favorite Dress a little girl learns how to refashion her dress into into a tank top and a scarf after outgrowing the garment. I agree with Times writer Pamela Paul that at least consumerism is absent from the narrative and the little girl learns to become resourceful with her beloved dress.

The protagonist in Birdie’s Big-Girl Dress tries on multiple dresses in preparation for her birthday party. Materialism here is also excluded, according to Paul, as Birdie tries on “dress after dress” in stores only to be disappointed. She eventually finds what she’s looking for by going up into the attic and making an outfit with her grandparents’ old clothes.

While I applaud children’s books that teach girls to do something other than shop and paint their nails, it’s disappointing that these values about recycling must come wrapped in a fixation on appearance. Being resourceful with clothes and accessories might be handy, but it still doesn’t encourage our daughters to consider pursuits that go beyond looking pretty.