What to do with a very Fancy Nancy?

My girlfriend who lives in New York CC’d me on a quick email she sent out of frustration to her other mom friends. She has a precious daughter about to enter kindergarten who apparently likes to be FANCY all the time! (My friend is beautiful but very natural. She can be fancy when the occasion calls, but she is not a prissy woman concerned with her appearance.)

Here is her note (I emphasize she jotted it off quickly!):

“Okay, so today going to church might have been the last straw. The fancy dress, the necklace, the lipstick (very pale kids pink), the curlers in her hair the night before so it could be bouncy, then her crying over MY shoes having high heels and being fancier than hers.

So (her husband) is saying, and I kinda agree, that it is time to say enough with the fancy.  Do any of you have any opinions on this and how to go about saying that, doing that, showing her how NOT to worry about her looks so much? A good lesson on vanity is in order I think.

I’m at a loss as to how to limit it without seeming like I’m forcing her to be something she isn’t and knowing that she is all about the ID right now and maybe I should try to wait until she can have a thought that isn’t about herself for half a second.

We talk about others and being kind and thinking about others etc….I think she gets it, but this princess-must-be-fancy-stage is all about her and it is 24/7.

Can I say only fancy dresses to church? Or only fancy dresses on Wednesdays? Or only curlers for church? She is just living off the compliments of everyone around her.  “(Name deleted to protect the innocent) you look so cute, I love your hair, aren’t you fancy!”  Has anyone else dealt with this?

Just asking for some honest tips and opinions to tone down the Princess.”

I am at a loss as to what to tell her. None of my kids have ever been super concerned with their appearances. I do good to get them to brush their hair and match their bottoms to their tops.

Rose loved the princess books and movies and also likes the “Fancy Nancy” and “Eloise” books, but she’s never gone through this stage. (She is however very interested right now in that TLC show about choosing a wedding dress at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City. She watches it whenever possible.)

So what do you think: Did you have a little girl that liked to have her hair curled and be dressy all the time? Do you think it’s just a stage or does it signify something more that my friend needs to nip in the bud? Do you help them be fancy or just let them achieve whatever they can on their own and then maybe they would lose some interest? Would you limit the fancy days? How would you try to explain to a 5-year-old not to worry so much about appearance?

(Guys be kind in your advice. These are really good parents and an awesome little girl – who just happens to like to be fancy.)

64 comments Add your comment


July 10th, 2009
10:52 am

What annoyed me the most, when my daughter was a pre-teen, was trying to find clothes that were age-appropriate. Seven or eight years ago, we went shopping for a holiday dress one year at a then-favored department store that had a large children/teen section, and I was literally shocked at the clothing that they had for the 11-13 group — lurex, sequins, glitter-garbage, etc., etc. After fruitlessly searching for an appropriate dress, I finally asked the salesperson in despair, “Where are all your PRETTY dresses?!” She rolled her eyes and said, “Talk to our buyer — she really went wild this year, and NONE of our customers are happy — I can’t sell this to anyone!” It wasn’t as if I wanted smocked velvet for my 12 year old — but I didn’t want her to look like a Madonna back-up singer, either.

Luckily, my daughter and I have never fought over clothes. She tends to dress a bit more modestly than most, and prefers to have her boobs and butt covered. I sometimes had to veto selections, but they were generally based on fit and size, not inappropriateness. She’s at the age, now, though, where I do have to suggest appropriate clothing for events that she is unfamiliar with — i.e., we had a lot of trouble finding an appropriate outfit for her grandfather’s funeral, or attending an ordination, etc.


July 10th, 2009
12:14 pm

DB…I am with you! My daughter is very conservative about dress. I am happy that there are other mothers out there who suggest appropriate attire. I am beginning to think that no one knows what is appropriate.

I cannot get into baggie jeans, flip flops and a t shirt for church and my daughter is not allowed to wear this! DO NOT give me the GOD does not care….I KNOW this but I think we can show a little respect and dressing nicer is one way.

Our son is a snappy dresser and we get a kick out of it as he wore blue jeans and t shirts mostly throughout high school. He wears a shirt and tie to work. He comes home ( to visit) sometimes straight from work and we are amazed at his fashion savvy….argyle socks that have a color to match his shirt and tie!

Becky, I am not into buying shoes from garage sales. I have sold some them and they are usually scooped up. Usually shoes I thought I would like but never wore. I was told that children need their own shoes as they conform to their feet and if the pattern of the shoe has been set, then it may not be a good one for the next child.
Is this old fashioned or has anyone else heard this? I am curious about it.


July 10th, 2009
12:54 pm

MJG: Oh, yeah, we had that “what to wear to church” conversation several times in her mid-teens, when her friends were wearing jeans and t-shirts to Sunday services (but not at our church, interestingly enough). That, and strapless or spaghetti-strap dresses/tops. We finally compromised — jeans to youth group on Sunday evening, but Sunday morning was dress, skirt or dress pants. Then there was the conversation on the manners of keeping her shoulders covered in church, so no halter top dresses, spaghetti-strap tops, etc. Then there was the discussion about what was appropriate to wear to job hunts and job interviews . . . kids aren’t born knowing this stuff, they have to be taught and guided. We avoided most of the “what to wear to school” battles due to the strict uniform at their school, so for that I am thankful!

I’ve heard that about children’s shoes, too — but usually applicable to very young infant and toddler shoes. I don’t think a lightly worn pair of shoes for a slightly older kid are going to make much difference, and since kids tend to outgrow shoes quickly, a pair of shoes that hasn’t been worn much (i.e., Sunday church shoes), are probably ok. Some of the shoes I see at garage sales are shoes that the kids didn’t care for, anyway, and seldom wore (a disliked color, etc.).


July 10th, 2009
1:49 pm

motherjanegoose and DB, I have been very forunate (and VERY picky) when I buy shoes at yard sales or thrift stores..They have to be in really good shape for me to even look at them…The kids’ Dr. doesn’t seem to think that there are any issues with the wearing them..The girl is more pron to say no, she won’t wear some of them than the boy…I just bought her a pair of black dress shoes at a yard sale last weekend that still have a store tag on them..I paid $1.00 for them and the tag says they cost $39.00…I jsut refuse to pay $70-$80 for them a pair of shoes that they are going to outgrow in 2 months..


July 10th, 2009
2:06 pm

DB…hahaha…Sunday church shoes…yes you and I know what we mean but does anyone else?
I am thinking black patent mary janes for the younger set and brown loafers for boys!!!!

Do you remember going to an actual shoe store to be fitted for shoes? Do you have a shoe horn?
Do you need one for flip flops….LOL….have a great weekend!

Becky…who could turn down a $39 pair of shoes for a dollar….KUDOS!


July 10th, 2009
6:10 pm

MJG: Black patent Mary Janes — with NO heel! — and brown or black loafers, oh yeah! There used to be a wonderful independent children’s shoe store in Sandy Springs that did a fabulous job fitting kids’ shoes. The owner once commented that he felt that some of the chain stores for kids tended to deliberately fit a bit small, to encourage additional sales.


July 10th, 2009
6:21 pm

I’m a teacher, and I have had quite a few “Fancy Nancy” students over the past 20 years. I currently teach gifted 6th graders, and the girls are often torn between maximizing their cognitive assets or their physical ones……I try very hard to compliment them daily on their cognitive assets—–”Great question!” “Way to think that on through!” “THAT’S thinking outside the box!”. I hate for girls to think that their self-worth is tied exclusively to their outward appearance. So many times I have seen them dumb themselves down so that the boys will like them more.


July 10th, 2009
6:22 pm

I meant to say, “Way to think that ONE through!”


July 10th, 2009
6:24 pm

BTW, hubby and I were only blessed with one child, and I am SO GLAD that we were blessed with a boy. I don’t know how to do Fancy Nancy! Or hair, or that matter!


July 10th, 2009
8:51 pm

Welcome jodee…we’re glad to have you…


July 11th, 2009
10:45 am

Jodee, welcome! I think that phenomenon that you commented on — girls “dumbing themselves down” is one of the reason why some middle-schools are experimenting separating math and English classes by sex. It has been great at our school — I’m convinced that boys and girls often have radically different learning styles, and being able to practice scholastic leadership in a classroom without worrying about whether or not the cute guy two rows over will still be interested in you after you beat him on a geometry problem is a GOOD thing, in my book. That’s why many families are proponents of same-sex schools, especially for girls.


July 18th, 2009
9:39 pm

OK. I too have a “fancy nancy” at home. She is 4. And I honestly do not think there is anything wrong with her wanting to look pretty and fancy. She understands that some things (like her dressup makeup, jewelry, and costumes) are for home. But, like in the books if my daughter is wearing socks they have ruffles (because yes they do make her play soccer better). We recently bought her school supplies for the year and her backpack and lunch box are…you guessed it….fancy nancy. It is a phase. Set ground rules and stick to them. I remember when you had to wear a dress places otherwise you were not dressed correctly. Just tell your friend to hold her ground on the important stuff (only she and her husband can decide what that is for her family), choose her battles, and decide if this is worth the fight.


July 20th, 2009
8:03 am

Whatever happened to NO means NO? Parents today try to hard to be their kids “buddy”. Enough is enough. If the child is dressed cleanly and properly, that’s enough. If she (or even he) wants to get “Fancy” at home, so be it. Stick to rules and enforce them.

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