Last year, my kids were lucky enough to be in a wedding. That meant that my daughter got to be a flower girl (which you might remember from my bonkers flower girl dress roundup), and my son got to be… well… what he was will vary based on who you ask.
If you ask him, he was a flower boy. His sister and cousins were all flower girls, which meant they had pretty dresses and baskets of flower petals to throw. Given that my son likes tutus, glitter, flowers, pink and purple, and you know… the “Cupid Shuffle”… he saw the flower girl gig open up, and he was all in. There was just one problem: the persistent and horrible gender roles that stalk weddings… even for kids as young as four.
Anyone planning a wedding knows about the codified traditional gender role thing, and how insidious it is. The gender role hammer slams down not just when you’re trying to do something truly revolutionary (like, be a woman, marrying another woman, while wearing a suit). It gets you if you’re Meghan Markle and want the parent who raised you to walk you down the aisle. It pounds you if you want to wear a jumpsuit to get married. And if your four-year-old boy wants to live out his dream of being a flower boy? Well, prepare to have his dreams crushed, or for ten thousand hours of debates.
So of course, after the wedding, I did what any mother-who’s-a-wedding-publisher-with-a-photo-studio of her own would do. I had him come into the office, and we let him live out all of his flower boy fashion dreams. It was epic. It was excellent. And the photos made him (and me) grin from ear to ear.
But after taking the photos, it still took me months to write this post, because while the article we wrote a few years back about Tomboy Flower Girls was a sensation that swept the Internet, it’s unclear if the world is ready for the flip of that idea. The standard issue warning is that he’ll one day be embarrassed by these photos (though I’d like to think he’s not going to grow up to be the kind of person embarrassed by a little boy in a tutu), or even that it’s dangerous to put pictures of my son in his favorite flashy outfits on the Internet. We’ve chosen to live in a place where a boy in a tutu at the grocery store elicits mostly high fives, if anything. But when I posted our holiday card photo in his favorite tutu on Instagram, I was inundated with comments and questions, in a way that made his little kid choices feel more loaded with adult meaning than they should be.
But the thing is we need to do better by our kids. Through a series of elaborate compromises, we ended up ordering two pink suits off Amazon (one literally came on a slow boat from China… it took weeks). And in last-minute negotiations, we dyed the suit purple on our stove, which frankly ended up with an outfit that was five times as flashy (much to my son’s delight). We finagled a flower basket for him at the last minute, and even snuck some flower petals into it. But the process of having to tell him that he couldn’t wear what he wanted… even though the other kids were all wearing outfits he loved, was deeply unsettling as a parent.
And the worst part was the reason. “Lots of the adults don’t want you to wear the clothes that you like,” I had to say. “It upsets them. I’m sorry. They’re focused on all the wrong things.”
I’m tired of failing our children. I’m particularly tired of this particular way that we fail our boys, even our smallest ones. I want my son to be able to wear all the glitter tutus, lip gloss, and sparkle shoes that he wants. I want him to be able to dress to the nines on his own terms, without worrying about the prescribed gender of his outfit. Even (especially) when he’s in a wedding.
So, while the world waits for an ultra glam gender-bending line of kids wedding fashion for boys and girls (Christian Siriano, I’m looking at you. Call me for a collaboration, mkay?) we’ve rounded up our picks for Flower Boys, or any kid that wants to wear what their little heart desires to a wedding… even if it upsets fully grown adults sensibilities.
Because we don’t know your kid, we’ve rounded up a full range of options and outfits. If your kid just wants a flower girl dress, head over to this roundup, where we’ve got nothing but options. But if you’re looking for something a little more gender bending, these are our best ideas (based on many hours in the trenches, figuring out my now-five-year-old’s fashion dreams… with a nod to the fact that sadly, you may have to negotiate your kid’s dreams with a judgmental world).
For the kid who just discovered kilts (and probably watched How to Train Your Dragon too many times): Two-Button Schoolboy Blazer ($148), Polka Dot Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt ($14.99), Striped Skirt ($109.80), Gold Classic Slip-On ($39.95)
For the kid secretly rooting for the preppy villain in your ’80s coming of age movie: Chest-Pocket Cotton Shirt ($19.99), Two-Piece Modern Fashion Suit ($166), Metal Aviator Sunglasses ($2.78), Asher Skate Shoes ($39.99)