Friends and clients have come to me many times over the years, bemoaning the fact that their girls, no matter how gender-neutral their parenting, no matter how enthusiastically trucks and trains are offered, still tend to love frilly dresses (and high heels, and lipstick) with a passion that confuses and worries their not-so-frilly mothers.

(And, to be sure, not all girls like frilly dresses at all. And not all not-so-frilly mothers worry.)

I’m not trying, in any way, to label or pigeonhole or stuff your girl in a box (or exclude your boy from said box). And, I won’t even begin to try and explore what’s going on genetically that makes girls and boys tend towards certain differences. (If the generalizations in this post apply to your boy, or don’t apply to your girl, please read on. There are profound human tendencies at play here, too.)

Instead, I want to share another perspective about frilly dresses, one which is noble and which speaks to all that is good about humanity.

Here’s why lots of girls love frilly dresses, and how you can understand and support your daughter if she does.

Humanity is deeply touched by beauty. Beauty matters, and beauty is powerful. Historically, beautiful art is loved and coveted. Beautiful flowers are honoured and enjoyed. Beautiful music brings us joy, and makes us cry. And a beautiful face might inspire art, music, or poetry – or might sink a thousand ships.

The sad thing is that in our culture today, beauty has acquired an ignoble connotation. It is profoundly undervalued. To us, today, beauty and sexuality are all mixed up, and the word, “beauty” is most often used when talking about a narrow range of physical, female appearance, and the occasional sunset over a beach. Beauty is often considered a silly, feminine thing, and is, therefore, not a priority.

(We are missing out.)

But, our children, and particularly our girls, haven’t had the appreciation for beauty squeezed out of them yet. Their sensitivity hasn’t developed, but they are drawn to what sparkles, what flows, what is colourful, and what represents beauty. And they want to wrap themselves up in it. They want to know that they can inspire that deep sense of appreciation that comes when we see something beautiful, that they can swirl beauty around them. They want to open the hearts of those around them with their own shine, and sparkle, because beauty brings out the smiles and kindness and happiness in humanity. Why wouldn’t they want to wield that love-filled power?

(We grown-up women are well aware that our culture considers beauty to be part of femininity, and that our culture considers all things feminine to be silly. And most of us don’t want to be thought to be silly. We are deeply disconnected from the diverse and radical power of beauty. In protest, against femininity and silliness, I grew up wearing black, dressing for success, and focusing on being professional, or sexy, rather than truly beautiful in my own unique way.)

Over time, children develop a more specific cultural understanding of what is beautiful, but in every culture, most girls tend to want to drape themselves in what their culture considers beautiful.

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t give women, or girls, much to choose from. “Beauty” has been degraded to a sales pitch, and sexualized into something shameful.

So how do we support our girls?

We rejoice in real beauty. We re-sensitize ourselves to look for beauty in many places, we surround ourselves with it, point it out to our children, nurture it, and value it. We point out the curve of a back that makes us happy, we give attention to beauty in our homes, and we admire beauty joyously, in mother Earth, father Sky, plant, animal, human, or human-made, form.

We do not glorify the Disney princesses or try to look like them. Instead, we point out and cherish beauty in other forms, other ages, other cultures, and other times. We don’t discourage our daughters’ love of frilly dresses, instead we cultivate their eyes and hearts, show them real beauty in art, music, and nature, and enjoy it fully.

We will need to practice, those of us who have grown up in North America.

If you’re a woman, and like I was ten years ago, you just don’t get the relevance of beauty. You may be so worried that your daughter will be hurt by our cultural beliefs about feminine beauty that you run the other way – away from any reference to physical beauty at all. If you’re like I was, you’re angry, that you’ve been labeled, pigeonholed, or stuffed into a box, and you don’t want that for your daughter.

If that is you, I implore you, do not give up on beauty!

Instead, here are some things to do with beauty: Reframe it, rediscover it, honour it. Question it, create it, spread it all around. Explore with it, admire it, rejoice in it. Paint it, revel in it, and wonder at it.

As you live your beauty practice, you will feel a little corner of yourself, likely overlooked for many years, come alive again, and you will see your daughter open up in a different way.

We’d love to share Princess Training Camp with your girl. We’ll explore, create, and enjoy beauty, in a positive and inclusive way, and we’ll have a whole lot of fun!

Click here for all the details on Princess Training Camp 2015… and please share your thoughts on beauty below! I’d love to hear your experiences and perspective!