Essays That No One Would Publish (Again)

Bored With Dressing a Baby Boy? Try Elf-Core

When I was pregnant, and people found out I didn’t know the sex of the baby, they’d often say, “Well, either one is great of course, but girls are just much more fun to dress.” It sounds weirdly gendered, and it is, but it’s also totally true. First, there’s just a much larger variety out there for girls (they can also dip into the boys’ stuff more often than the reverse is true, because the patriarchy lives!) With girls, for example, you can play with both hats and the little bows people insist on strapping to their newborns’ bald heads. You can buy sweet onesies and tiny dresses, mini-jeans and bloomers. With boys, well, most often well-wishers will resort to gifting you those awful message vests, with weirdly racy phrases like “Lock up your daughters” emblazoned across the front.

Of course, if you happen to be a woman, which I am, and you even slightly enjoy clothing, which I do, there’s the added pleasure of being able to dress your little girl in the outfits you wish you came in adult sizes. Smocked floral dresses with thick woolen tights and pointelle galore: not an easy look to pull off in your early thirties, but lucky for you, you have a human doll to vicariously dress through.

So when I had a son, which I had predicted I would, I was at first a little sad about sartorial opportunities lost, before I hit upon the look that made it all worthwhile, and that is elf-core.

When you hear the word “elf,” you might think of Will Ferrell in the eponymous film, or indeed, of any of Santa’s minions. Not a bad place to start, but not the best fashion template for our purposes. Whatever you do, don’t go by Google alone––that will just lead you to lots of Orlando Bloom fan sites and pictures of young woman who’ve undergone body modification to make their ears pointy. Instead, when dressing your child in elf-core, you should conjure up images of Elizabethan-era elves, and their kin, the elben of German Romanticism: these little guys were often seen as like fairies, in that they were tiny and mischievous, but with stocking caps.

So what is elf-core, you ask? It is earth tones, although you can play with the palette a bit, as I’ve found myself more in the gray and navy realm as of late. It is brown faux-leather booties that look like they belong on a fawn, if a fawn wore booties. As far as material goes, it’s anything you might wear while mucking about in the garden: twill, corduroy, or just plain ole comfy cotton. No jeans––elves don’t do denim. Occasionally, elf-core can benefit from an injection of hippie, with the odd tie-dyed piece, a dose of Sherpa, as fur-lined shoes blend nicely with most ensembles, or even a little lumberjack flannel. Remember, elves are mostly forest dwellers, so any other being, mythical or real-life, that loves a romp in nature can serve as appropriate inspiration.  (On that note, feel free to indulge in the delightful trend of babies wearing hoods with animal ears on them: I feel like elves would totally wear such pieces when going to parties with their creature friends.)

But there is one element of the elf-core look that is absolutely non-negotiable, and that is the pointy hood. My son has a number of items with pointy hoods: a gray cable knit hooded cardigan (which has a pom-pom on its point), a full body, striped sweat suit, and a little navy button-up jacket. I plan to invest in more of these staples soon, because if you’re going for elf-core, \, it’s the fastest route there. In fact, you can often phone in the rest of the outfit if this one element is in place, much like how one can wear pajamas and heels and still be fancy enough for a nightclub.

The true icon of elf-core dressing is David the Gnome. Here you might ask yourself: are gnomes and elves related? Like, as species? Answer: only in Tolkien’s mythology. But, that’s neither here nor there. Instead, what truly matters is that both species of otherworldly creature can dress. David the Gnome, for example, has nailed the pointy hat thing. It is at least fifteen centimeters high, which is how tall David is, and fire engine red. It is a real signature statement piece. On top, he wears a big blue tunic bisected by a thick belt, which is not a necessary accessory for a baby, or at least hasn’t been for mine yet. On the bottom, he wears blowsy khaki trousers and shoes that are either repurposed potato sacks or Uggs. Truly the fashion role model of our time.

Still feeling a little confused as to how to nail elf-core? A bit more elf-spo: think Frodo Baggins, think shearling (it’s kind of an autumn-winter specific look), think the verdant hills of Ireland. Sometimes when I see my son in his best elf-core get-up, I think, “If only he had a giant gnarled piece of wood to use as a walking stick. And could, you know, walk.”

If that still doesn’t set your mind racing with ideas, check out my elf-core picks, below:

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Knit hat from Latvia

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Reversible striped CAPE

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Knitted jumper with feet

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Peruvian booties

 

 

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Chunky sweater

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Waffle knit body suit

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Korean mushroom hat

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