Saturday, March 3, 2012

Every-Day Dress-Up

Fantastic Giveaway:  If you'd like to win a prize pack with Every-Day Dress Up and five brand-new Women's History Month picture books, please leave a comment below!  You will get one entry for each comment you leave this month on Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month.  The winner will be drawn on April 1, after all comments are submitted.   

March 3 - Today's post provided by Selina Alko

I am delighted to be here today as a visiting author and illustrator!  Let me tell you a little bit about why I created Every-Day Dress-Up.

Five years ago when my son was a toddler, I noticed that his female friends had a particular penchant for princess dress-up.  At countless birthday parties and play dates, it wouldn’t be long before the little ones would rifle through chests of pre-fabricated fairy tale attire.  In no time at all, the girls (& some boys, too!) would parade down imaginary runways in their Cinderella finest.

I should disclose that I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is considered a progressive neighborhood.  Most of the moms in our circles work, and many have powerful jobs.  The dads in our circles are equally and actively involved in parenting.  It’s a far cry from the divided households many of us came from, where our moms were in the kitchen all day and our dads were mostly absent.

Nobody seemed to question the ubiquitous princess dress-up.  Had the feminist moms around me all just resigned themselves to the Disney-fication of their girls as a rite of passage?   It was just a ‘phase’ after all, my friends would say to each other, rolling their eyes.

There was something about the whole thing that didn’t sit right with me.  That little girls like to dress up was understandable, but emulating Royalty was another story, although it was all they knew.  This is what they were being exposed to from all angles; The fairy tale videos, the princess books, the television shows, etc.,

Personally, I didn’t want to buy into it.  

Luckily I have the best job in the world!  I write and illustrate picture books, and I can make books about anything I want (so long as I have a willing editor).

By the time my daughter was born a few years later, I had started to develop the seeds for a manuscript about a girl who dresses up as real women in history; women who have done great things with their lives.  I thought it might be fun to have the protagonist chose someone different to dress up as every day of the week.  It seemed like a good way to teach girls about aspirational roles, and also, to encourage them to create their own outfits made out of things found around the house.  This was how I played dress-up when I was a little girl (not so much as well-known women, but by using found ‘every-day’ objects, plus my mom’s wardrobe as inspiration).  

Thus, Every-Day Dress-Up began to take shape.

I had my daughter in mind while I created the text, sketches and final art.  I wanted her – and girls just like her – to know that there are other, attainable options than the ‘princess ideal’.  I wanted to empower them with the idea that they, too, could grow up to do great things with their lives!  I think strong female role models are essential to little girls, just as I try to be one for my daughter by showing her my love and passion for my work as an author/illustrator.

Some of the icons in my book include: Frida Kahlo, Julia Child, Marie Curie, Ella Fitzgerald and Amelia Earhart.  There are short biographies of each woman at the back of the book.  It is my hope that girls (& boys) who read this book will learn a little bit about these accomplished heroines and, in turn, will be inspired to do something meaningful with their lives.

Here are some pictures of my daughter dressed up as Frida Kahlo, Ella Fitzgerald and Amelia Earhart.

Editor's Note:

SELINA ALKO is the acclaimed author-illustrator of I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother and B Is for Brooklyn, and the illustrator of the beloved My Subway Ride and My Taxi Ride. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two children.


  1. Thanks for sharing the story behind Every-Day Dress-Up and the adorable photos of your little one. I'm sure your book will inspire many young girls(and boys, too).

  2. I am ordering you book for my niece. It is perfect for princess-free households.

  3. Great concept! I wish I'd had this when my kids were younger.

  4. Lovely idea and very needed. I want to point out that my four sons loved dress up also. Because they recognized play and pretend, they would dress up as both male and female characters from history and from literature. "Off with their heads" was one of their favorite sayings as they borrowed my tiara's and my own play clothes. We loved dressing up as the villains, also. My school is having a living museum day with students dressed up as characters from history. They'll stand silently while others answer questions about their character.

  5. Thanks so much for including that spread, its lovely and it tottally sold me on buying this book.

  6. Definitely much needed. Girls often play dress up with princess gowns because that's what is given to them. If they have this type of exposure and the appropriate get-ups then I'm sure they'd be more comfortable exploring other dress-up possibilities.

  7. I love this idea of encouraging girls to look beyond princesses for role models. I look back at my youth and remember that I got a big kick out of pretending to be Nancy Drew or other female characters who didn't wait to be rescued but who rescued themselves. To this day those are the kind of stories I love best.

  8. My daughters are a bit older, but I will get this for my nieces! Thank you for representing a different way to dress up than the usual princess theme.

  9. My five-year-old grandson also enjoys "dress-up." And his costumes vary from Hercules and Crime Fighter to Ballerina. Let's not forget young boys as possible readers, too!

  10. This sounds like a wonderful book-- fun, with a great message! I must get it for my daughter. Thanks for sharing the inspiration behind it. Your daughter is darling!

  11. Looks like a wonderful book! Love the strong women as role models.

  12. so agree, looks like a wonderful book. My girl fress p as all sorts of figures and not just princesses-darling pics

  13. I love this book. I got a copy for my niece because I thought the outfits were inspiring, and ok, the Frida Kahlo page made me laugh out loud. So creative! Not your typical dress-up book.

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  14. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this website, I am a big fan of Women's History Month. While I'm not worried about the proliferation of princess dresses I am worried about providing "proper" dress up clothes for my 2.5 year old son. There don't seem to be any! It's also difficult to find non girly-girl kitchen related items. Don't even get me started on trying to find clothes for his boy baby, it's mostly dresses and what's not is pink or purple and girly.

  15. Looks like a great book!
    I am always on the lookout for quality, engaging
    children's literature to both teach and entertain
    my kiddos. (Not big on princesses around here,
    either ... unless she's of the Paper-Bag variety!)

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