Buying Clothes for a Picky Almost 3 Year Old

Updated on March 13, 2013
K.H. asks from Tempe, AZ
11 answers

My daughter is extremely particular about the clothes she wears. I buy what I think she'll like and then she turns her nose up. I take her with me and she chooses something, but then when we get home, she won't have anything to do with it. Anyone gone through this? What do you do? I gave up long ago the idea of my daughter dressed in totally coordinating, super cute clothes. She likes what she likes but I have a hard time figuring out what to get her.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think she's working you, honestly. Give her the option of 2 different outfits every morning and she must pick from those. She has no idea what she wants, she's 3, you know? She's just pushing to see how much she can control you and it's working.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have found tho, that if she thinks a certain piece of clothing is a gift from a family member, she is more apt to wear it then if it's just from me.

Also, I have no problem returning stuff. It's the price I pay for not taking crying kids with me. When I bring it home, they look at it/try it on before the tags come off. If it doesn't fit or they don't like it, I take it back. Once the tags come off, it's theirs and they WILL wear it at least twice.

I try not to buy the 'because' clothes. If they are with me and pick something out, they better have a need for it beyond the 'my friends have this' and if I buy an item THEY pick out, they WILL wear it.

Another thing I've done is to let them put items in the cart, and then before we check out, we go through them one more time just to make sure that we still need/want the item. If they don't want it when we reach the register, I make them take it back to where we found it.

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answers from San Francisco on

Well, if she turns her nose up at clothes I picked out, I would try to take them back and get something she does like, BUT if she picked it out at the store, then she WILL wear it!

I think she's just trying to see how much control she has over YOU.

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answers from San Francisco on

You as the parent need to get this under control now. If she acts like this at two, she will get worse. Start laying out two outfits and give her five minutes to pick the one she likes. Let her know if she can't decide then you will decide. If she still sticks her nose up, take her to day care in her pajamas and you'll start to see a difference. (Of course take along an outfit so she can get dressed later)....let the teacher know what's going on before hand. This is not uncommon.

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answers from Los Angeles on

It's somewhat about control and somewhat about not knowing how to make sound choices...she's 3. My daughter was this way at 3, too. Then my granddaughter...the things I learned that worked with both were:
~ If you take her with you let her know whatever she picks out she WILL wear. If she then flat out refuses and will not then return it that day or the next, and don't get something to replace it, her consequence is she loses out. This is where not knowing how to make sound choices comes in, maybe she did like it in the store, but seeing it at home she doesn't. So, you help her by:
~ Simplifying her wardrobe. Does she like leggings, jeans, skirts, what? Buy only solid color bottoms in the colors and styles she "likes" and will wear, in as simple a style as possible. Leggings and jeans, that's all you buy. Skirts only? That's all you buy. This way you pull out a bottom, she then has her choice of a top from 2 to wear with it. My daughter would only wear jeans for awhile, so she had about 10 pair the same, the only variation was the shade of blue denim. My granddaughter would only wear leggings, black, even in summer, so I bought black bike shorts, she wore them. If you have a child like my granddaughter who would only wear leggings and t-shirts life is bliss, she would bathe, dress in the next day's t-shirt and leggings, and go to bed, waking up dressed in the morning :)
~ This is where the cuteness comes in, buy cute tops in colors to coordinate with the bottoms she has, stick to plain styles if that's what she prefers. Say, all her bottoms are in pink or purple, you buy only tops that have pink or purple in them, preferably both colors so they go with all her bottoms. Since my daughter would only wear jeans and loved pink and purple that's what her tops were. My granddaughter, everything went with black, especially if there was any trace of black in it.
When you simplify the choices she has by coordinating the colors, she'll always be color-coordinated, but still retain some control since she picks the top :)
~ Do the same with jackets, hoodies, buy only colors to match the tops and bottoms she has, then they coordinate. My daughter had denim jackets for years for mild weather, purple or pink winter coats. Her shoes and boots were pink and/or purple as well, or a neutral tan, we always received compliments on how well-dressed she was, so I know this works.
~ Buy socks in only one or two coordinating colors so they go with everything and her choices aren't overwhelming.
~ You can add pizazz to her simplified outfits with jewelry in coordinating colors. A couple of necklaces and bracelets to switch around to start.
~ By now you may have realized it's not in your or her best interest to take her shopping with you, too much eye candy for her. Either go alone or become friendly and familiar with the online stores you physically shop at. I do this with my little guy (4 next month), I order from Crazy 8, Old Navy, etc., during sale and clearance times. I coordinate his stuff, too, though he isn't picky he is always coordinated, in blues or browns.

Once you balance her choices and control, which she still has but is limited to minimize conflict, it will be easier on the both of you. Plus she'll look like you want her to, coordinated in cute, if not super cute, outfits. Do this as long as she stays particular, it will get to be a habit and the frustration it saves is priceless. BTW, fashion consultants recommend the same thing, coordinate 2 or 3 basic colors so your whole wardrobe goes together, see a top you like buy it in all the colors you wear.

Hope this helps!


answers from Grand Forks on

My friends son has some sensory issues, so finding clothes for him that he finds comfortable is difficult. Clothes will restrict movement, or tags scratch, or the fabric is too stiff etc. When they find a shirt or pants that he does like they buy the same item in multiple colours, and he mixes and matches those items.



answers from Seattle on

No suggestions, just sympathy. Both of my daughters are like this (one 3, one 6). That said, the younger one mostly just gets to choose from hand-me-downs. The older one has sensory issues, which just adds soooo much more difficulty to the process.

They both tend to run around looking like ragamuffins. Oh well. As long as they are clean and comfortable, I'm not going to fret (too much).



answers from New York on

At her age, I would say, "Here are two pretty shirts. You're a big girl, so you can choose which one to wear. I am going in the next room to do some mommy things. You can come and see me as soon as you choose a shirt." And then, step out into the next room. You don't need to dramatically assert authority; you just need to step away from the drama and let her pickiness be her problem, not yours. If you feed in to this drama, however well-meaningly, there'll be hell to pay by the time she turns 13.


answers from Kansas City on

i think the key is to make sure you're not straightjacketing her into clothes she truly hates over and over again. if you are allowing "some" choices (a choice between outfit A and outfit B for example, or allowing her to pick which socks she wears) then to me it is extremely reasonable to play the "i bought it, you will wear it" card. i would bend as much as i could - but taking a preschooler shopping and bending over backwards to make her happy with her clothing is a little extreme imo. i'd have a talk with her about what kinds of things she DOES like - plain shirts, princess shirts, purple, pink, etc, and then try to stick to her likes. but she'd wear what i bought. ESPECIALLY if she picked it out. no question. that is just plain diva so that would stop immediately. she picks it out, she wears it.



answers from Washington DC on

Oh Zelda Girl, I am right next to you on this one!!! We are actually reverting back to picking out her outfits at night (she is picking!) and that way the a.m. struggle is a little bit less. Lately, she wants to wear the same shirt everyday and black leggings too. While I never want to stifle her inner goth girl it gets we have resorted to moving 2 or the 4 pair of black leggings to a secret place so they aren't even an option. Shirts she used to love she refuses to wear now. I don't see it as a lack of control on your part but as a need for control on her part or exerting her will. I like the idea of giving her options and time to choose all by herself. It isn't always perfect be we have used the threat of, "if you won't pick I will" and that usually gets her motivated. Best of luck, I totally get where you are!



answers from Washington DC on

What does she like? And do you take her to the dressing room to try things on? My SD hates tags, so anything with a fabric tag in it the tag gets cut out. I have a friend whose DD wanted nothing but Elmo, so she went to the thrift store to look for Elmo shirts the child could destroy in wearing over and over and over....

My DD would not wear shoes unless she chose them. She's recently gotten past it, but I would take her and play Cinderella til she agreed to a pair because it wasn't worth not having her along.

I would also explain that she was going to be able to pick out a shirt but then she had to wear it. When she dresses, give her an old favorite and then a new one. Let her pick a shirt and you pick the rest of the outfit. Maybe she just wants control.

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