Why I’m Teaching My 2.5 Year Old Son About Fashion & Self Expression

Why I’m Teaching My 2.5 Year Old Son About Fashion & Self Expression

By Loni Venti

Before Loni takes over our blog, I wanted to share a funny little store about how her and I first met. I posted a picture on Instagram probably 2 or 3 years ago. It was me on a staycation with my bestie at her snowy cottage up at Green Lake, in British Columbia, and of course I couldn’t go out and not be Instagram ready, so I applied a fabulous red lip.  After all our fun snowy adventures I posted a picture on the gram with the hashtag #redlip.  Later I went back and this beautiful goddess of a person liked my photo. Curious, I clicked on her feed and she was the beauty editor for Cosmopolitan!  Star struck!  I was so excited.  I ended up following Loni’s incredible journey of motherhood, fashion, and beauty in New York and through Instagram and we became besties!  In a big world it is incredible how you can find like-minded incredible people to share this journey of life with!  Loni has become a bean fan, as much as we are a fan of all the incredible work she puts out in the world.  One day, I will get to meet her and her little Leo in person and commemorate our long distance friendship with, of course, some bubbly! I asked Loni to takeover our blog today because I admire how she is raising her son and teaching him about self-expression through fashion, which is what PK Beans is all about. Take it away Loni! - xo, Traci

 

It may sound silly, but at 2.5, my son Leo already has his own signature style. Currently it looks like: joggers, tube socks, a graphic tee underneath a PK Beans hoodie, and an oversize beanie. He loves pairing bright, unexpected colors like neon orange, hot pink, and royal blue. He gravitates towards shoes with a lot of personality, like sneakers with flames (his “fire shoes”) or green triceratops slip-ons—horns and tail included. And yeah, he looks really cute all decked out! But for us, this is about so much more than material things or looking good on the surface. We are trying to instill confidence and a love of self expression through creativity and fashion.


This is something that took awhile for me to learn personally, but its impact was eye-opening and life-changing. Growing up, my peers had a one-style-fits all approach to getting dressed. I craved the colorful, creative looks I saw in magazines or on MTV, but they felt completely out of reach—like they were made for someone cooler, prettier, more interesting, or well, just not for me. The few times I dared to experiment with my style, it was never well-received by my classmates, resulting in snide comments or worse. All of my most coveted fashion purchases from my youth (a sparkly Janet Jackson style baseball cap, a perfectly worn-in vintage army jacket, and seriously cool, extra wide corduroy bell bottoms), collected dust in my closet. I begrudgingly squeezed into whatever jeans, fitted tops, and unimaginative accessories helped me blend in. Thankfully a decade or so later, that all changed. 


After my first few internships in the magazine world, I gained the curiosity and courage to dress a little more outside the box. While there were definitely editors and tastemakers who strictly followed the “rules'', there were others who used fashion and beauty as an extension of their art and creativity. This spoke to my heart. I began with baby steps, like trading a neutral purse for a bright yellow bag and grew to bolder statements, like dying my hair pink with a fuchsia lip to match. I realized quickly that whenever you commit to wearing something because it makes you happy—you will always feel fabulous. No approval from the cool kids needed. Some people call this “owning it.” It’s an intangible kind of thing, but once you can metaphorically grasp it, it becomes a valuable tool in other areas of your life too. You start showing up authentically, not seeking anyone’s approval, and not feeling the need to explain yourself. My favorite part of this process? When others see you completely, unabashedly being yourself, you empower them to be themselves—completely and unabashedly—too. 


Fast forward another decade or so, when I welcomed my beautiful little boy into the world. The magic and beauty and emotion and chaos was unlike anything I could have ever imagined or prepared for. Like any parent, I had so many wishes for him and lessons I hoped to teach him, including the importance of being your authentic self. And knowing how style can be a vehicle for self discovery, my husband Artie and I agreed to make sure that Leo was always empowered to express himself through fashion and beauty choices. 


When he was just a tiny infant, we would hold up two outfit options and let him grab onto one, so that he was (sorta, kinda) helping us choose his outfit. And as he gets older, we incorporate him into the process more and more. We talk about what colors he feels like wearing, we discuss what we might do that day and see if there’s anything we want to factor in (like how it might be fun to wear a dino sweatshirt at the natural history museum or rain boots to splash in the puddles on a drizzly day), and then we get busy selecting shirts, pants, socks, and some fun accessories too. 


Leo’s most prized wardrobe pieces are his PK Beans I Spy Hoodies. He has three, one in Spice, one in Heather Grey and a new one from the Spring Collection in the Paper Airplane print. He pretty much reaches for them whenever they’re clean. Aside from being beautifully made and a super cool cut, they’re really comfortable, zipper-free and snap-free, and keep him warm without being bulky (so you can layer on more if you want to). It’s also the first sweatshirt he was able to pull on himself. His eyes sparkled and his smile beamed as he proudly said, “WHOAAAA! I did it!” That little moment of independence was quite powerful and has really stuck with him. I think that’s exactly what Traci Costa had in mind when she created PK Beans. She designed these fun, stylish clothes that empower kids to play, explore, discover, and confidently grow and develop—and we’re living proof that it’s working. 


I know that as Leo’s style evolves over time I may not always be as enthusiastic about his aesthetic. But that's kind of the point, right? My hope is that Leo will have felt supported and empowered enough to experiment with his look, truly express himself, and never feel like he needs to blend in. I hope that he’ll live an authentic life where he won’t anxiously seek anyone’s outward approval (including mine) in order to feel valuable and lovable. I hope that he’ll learn that just being himself is more than enough, and that by doing so, he’ll create a safe space for others to be themselves too.  


As with many things in life and parenthood, I know that most of this will be out of my control and may not go according to plan. At the moment while I write this, he’s building a “giant, giant, GIANT” Lego tower and is wearing tiger pants, dino slippers, and a neon orange beanie—all of which he chose for a fun day of adventures at home with mama. But in 3, 7, or 12 years from now, he might cave under peer pressure at school, when dating, or while doing whatever the futuristic version of social media scrolling is. I can only commit to doing my part, striving to lead by example, and of course, loving him unconditionally as he grows, learns, and evolves. And no matter what happens, at the very least, he’ll know that whenever he’s with me, he can always always ALWAYS be himself.

About Loni:
Loni Venti is a beauty writer based in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her words on allure.com, harpersbazaar.com, byrdie.com, cosmopolitan.com, and more. She is passionate about challenging conventional beauty standards, anything vintage—makeup, fashion, movies, records, you name it, and above all: going on adventures with her sweet and silly little Leo. Find her on Instagram (@loniventi) and say hi!
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