What happens when you let your kid choose your wardrobe for a week?

Decatur mom and daughter bond over fashion therapy

A decade after 12-year-old style blogger Tavi Gevinson exploded on the fashion scene, the trend of child style bloggers is back and they are younger than ever.

Gevinson was a pioneer whose 2008 blog Style Rookie gained thousands of followers and landed her a front-row seat on runways next to Vogue Editor Anna Wintour. The former fashion rookie is now 21, but a crop of new kids are the next new thing in style blogging.

They include the children of fashion influencers such as Arielle Charnas of Something Navy who documents her daughter’s outfits on a new channel called Something Mini. Then there is the 7-year-old Harajuku-based Coco Pink Princess whose outfits from baby Gucci have earned more than 500K Instagram followers and a recent shout out in New York Magazine from fashion editor Eva Chen.

But not all young style bloggers are seeking fame and fortune. For one local mom and her daughter, the process of creating and documenting their outfits has meant so much more.

Four years ago, Rachel Reiff Ellis, 39, of Decatur became an unwitting participant in the trend when she posted a wardrobe experiment with her young daughter on her Yestertime blog.

At the time, Ellis was a stay-at-home mom with a growing family including 5-year-old Rosie who had a passion for fashion. It was initially a fun project for them to do, but Ellis learned a big lesson.

“It made me realize kids are almost never in control of something. They don’t get to make a lot of choices for adults and for themselves,” she said.

Ellis watched Rosie get a boost of confidence each time she saw her mom wearing an outfit she had selected. As part of the rules, Ellis could not comment on any of the outfits or make any suggestions or adjustments.

Now Rosie is 9 and in January, they did the wardrobe challenge again, but for different reasons, said Ellis.

Unlike the growing ranks of kid bloggers often promoted by stage-mom parents, Ellis saw an opportunity to help her daughter who had begun struggling with anxiety.

“She was going through a rough patch and my husband suggested we do the wardrobe challenge again,” Ellis said. “We gave her time to reconnect with who she is and empower her.”

It was interesting to see how Rosie’s tastes had changed over the years. When she was five, she choose lots of colors and mixed patterns with the abandon of child unconcerned about the opinions of others.

“At (age) five, it never crossed her mind about what people would think. This time, she checked in with me more. She would ask me, ‘How do you feel about this,?”’ Ellis said.

This time, Rosie’s picks for her mom leaned more toward grays and blacks and other neutral tones.

Instead of posting the images on her blog (which she no longer updates), Ellis turned to Facebook and she allowed Rosie to describe her wardrobe choices in her own words.

On Day 4, Rosie selected an olive green ensemble:

"I picked this vest again for you kind of as an experiment, but I decided it works. You can wear the same thing three, MAYBE four times a week, but not five. That’s not the right thing to do. Green goes with everything. The thing about all one color is it’s good for days you feel tired. Just choose a color, open your drawers, and get everything of that color to get dressed. It’s not as much thinking."

“I think she got more this time especially given that other people know what we were doing. I gave her some of the feedback people left on my post and I could see it change her posture,” Ellis said.

The posts were heavily shared on Facebook and Rosie became a minor (or mini) celebrity.

She was invited by a fashion editor (of the magazine Ellis used to work for)  -- a woman with a great wardrobe -- to give style tips and create new ensembles.

Rosie’s spirit was buoyed by the idea that someone in the fashion industry cared about her thoughts and ideas on fashion.

“I think it built her up in really positive ways,” Ellis said.

For the most well-known style influencers, the stuggle between authenticity and making money is real, but when kids are involved it almost always lends a sense of innocence.

Style blogging has become a complex machine and the motives of pint-sized bloggers (or at least their full-size parents) may be questionable, but maybe, as for Ellis and her daughter, it is less about money and fame and more about bonding over a bit of fashion therapy.