The Emperor's New Onesie


The Emperor's New Onesie

Parents and children are notorious for fighting about clothing. In this episode, you tell us some of your unforgettable clothing fights with your parents. (Hint: There is one from my husband involving Michael Jackson’s signature in rhinestones.)

Plus, one toddler takes her clothing fight epic.

Violet in the dreaded Pink Dress

Violet in the dreaded Pink Dress

Listen to this episode to find out how common sensory issues led young Violet to wear a single pink dress for months on end. And, eventually, nothing at all.

This story is also a video!
We were so lucky to get a grant from the Knight Foundation to produce a video of this episode. It’s an animation with illustrations by one of my favorite children’s book (and grownup!) illustrators Jen Corace. Video producer Joe Posner brought Jen’s drawings to life. Thanks to my colleague Rekha Murthy for deciding to give the grant money to this podcast, back when I barely ever produced it.

Anyway. After you listen to the show, watch Jen’s gorgeous interpretation of it below!

These days, Violet wears clothes. Here she is at age five (left) with her mom Joyce, and now at age nine (right).


Think your child might be showing signs of Sensory Processing Disorder?
Joyce recommends checking out the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. And she wishes she’d found the clothing company Soft earlier.

What clothing fights have you had with YOUR kids or parents?
Give us the goods. And be specific! We wanna be able to picture the duds. And if you or your child has SPD, tell us what’s helped you.

Illustration: Jen Corace

21 thoughts on “EPISODE #55: The Emperor’s New Onesie

  1. I went to the place Joyce mentions in this podcast to take anger management classes for parents. It is an amazing place. Talk about feeling like other parents know what you’re going through…! I encourage everybody to seek out help like this in their area if they are having parenting struggles. It’s important to know you’re not alone and others can identify and even help. I can’t wait until my kid is older and I we’re in the money a little bit more and I can give them a fat donation.

  2. Thank you for this episode!! My 2 year old son has been having difficulties with feeding for a long time and he recently began feeding therapy which has helped quite a bit. Thanks to this episode I decided to explore occupational therapy to address some of the more global issues such as crying when we dress him and crying when his clothes get wet or messy. He had his OT assessment today! Thank you!!

  3. In the late ’90s I was in high school. I have always been very petite, and was also a late bloomer. So I definitely felt like a child amongst all the stylish bodysuits and growing breasts! I decided that wearing baggy and androgynous clothes would hide my body and remove me from feeling compared to those I could not compete with. It started out with enormous raver pants and baggy t-shirts and evolved into old men’s slacks, buttondowns and 30-year-old public radio t-shirts from Goodwill.

    My conservative and professional business-owning father decided one night to say more than usual about my clothes and really press me with questions about WHY I insisted on dressing like that. As an emotional teen girl, I answered with tears and shouts — it’s the only time I’ve ever raised my voice at my dad. And the only time he raised his back. My mom was silently watching and became so distraught, she went out to the garage and left in her car. That quieted us right down.

    We proceeded to wait (no cell phones), and wait, and wait. She didn’t come back until the next day. Turns out she drove around for a while, then decided to go get a motel room and sleep for the night while we waited, wondered and worried at home together. It gave us plenty of time to think about things.

  4. My daughter is 6years old. from the time she was born she has always liked the feel of certain fabrics. Like my rayon headscarf that I where to bed. Or more specifically, the tags on clothing. The tag that sticks out of pants and shirts or underwear. When she puts on her PJ’s she puts the bottoms on backwards so that the tag sticks out, and se will rub it between two of her fingers while she’s sitting and especially when she is sleepy. The one texture she likes that has nothing to do with clothing , is she likes to rub a raised mole I have on my elbow. She’ll next to me and find it and just rub it wile were reading or watching TV.
    when I first started listening to the pod cast. I found it funny and just thought “o kids are so funny” but then I begin to feel the moms sadness and I’m glad se has a happy ending to this battle. Thanks for sharing.

  5. About ten years ago I found out that SID/SPD was a thing. It was like a lightning bolt. As soon as I saw a checklist it was obvious that I had it – a pretty mild version comparatively, but plenty enough to cause LOTS of fights.

    I can’t deal with certain textures of fabric, with tight things around my stomach, with things up high on my neck, anything splashing or blowing in my face will, to this day, cause me to just about lose it. As an adult, I barely notice it. I can control what i put on my body – I don’t wear much jewellery because dangly things freak me out – and if a situation is bothering me then in general I can either do something to fix it, or leave. One thing I can’t deal with is noise at a certain pitch. I can’t sleep in a room if there’s a tv plugged in, even if it’s off, and I never went out dancing much, for instance, because I found it so overstimulating that all I could do was just stand with my back to a wall, trying to process it all. Not very fun. My partner is a teacher and specialises is gifted and special needs kids, both of which groups have high instances of sensory issues. Which is GREAT because when I freak out if he touches me too lightly he knows it’s because it feels like he is tickling me inside my skin, not anything personal! :P

    It caused a LOT of arguments when I was a kid. In fact I quit ballet because of a fight we had about putting on stockings that left both my mother and I sobbing. I have a lot of other issues with my mum and this is an example of how it didn’t need to get that bad – she insisted I put on my stockings a particular way (WHY?? Who cares which way your kid puts on her freaking stockings) which left them twisted on my legs and I could. Not. Bear. It. Everywhere they were twisted felt like it had itching powder in them. I would rip them off and then she would shout at me to put them back on again. Clearly this wasn’t a perfect dynamic to begin with but it felt pretty horrible to feel like I was ‘being difficult’ because of something I couldn’t help, something that was in fact very distressing to me.

    I should point out I would have been about 7 at the time – she could have asked me why and I could have explained it. Which is not the case for the mother in your story! I feel heartbroken for her, having to go through that. So stressful. It’s very very common for kids to have one kind of sensory issue or another, which often fade over time and as they gain more control over their environment and their own sensory processing develops. Every time I talk about this at least one person says ‘oh! My kid does that, he can’t stand the seam in his socks and refuses point blank to wear them!’ or ‘oh my god, I did that as a kid!’ Thank you for running this, the more people who know about this the better, for parents and kids.

  6. I really appreciated hearing the story about clothing struggles and SPD. My daughter, age 7, seems to have gotten more and more sensitive to clothing as she has gotten older. Styles she would have worn two years ago are no longer comfortable for her. She is so sensitive. The list of no’s include: ruffles, elastics, bows, anything that pops out or has a texture, material that is anything other than cotton jersey, sleeves, waist bands that are too tight or too loose, feeling too warm, high necks, pockets, shorts under skirts, racer-backs, seams, socks, closed shoes, tights, etc., etc…

    The only thing that does work is a few very simple cotton no-sleeve tank tops, and short skirts that are also very soft and have no ruffles and that feel just right around the waist, and crocs.
    While I accept that this is the acceptable style, it can be very hard to find clothes that are just perfect, and shopping for her can be very frustrating. If anything deviates just slightly from this feel, she rejects the item and will never wear it. Buying on-line can be even more disastrous as at least half of everything gets returned. When she is at home she prefers to be naked. And I should mention, that she refuses to wear any new underwear, and continues to wear undies that are size 3T. What’s familiar and old is what she will wear. I wish she didn’t keep growing bigger, because every season it is the same struggle to find her new clothing that she will wear. It’s not fun.

    I am wondering where to find an OT to work with, and what kinds of things I can do at home to help her with SPD? When I talked with my pediatrician about this, she didn’t seem to think this was something worth going to an OT for, as she is not autistic and doesn’t have any major behavioral problems. Does anyone have any suggestions for things I can do to help her become less sensitive?


    1. Hi Rebecca

      There are definitely things you can do at home that will help, but I think if it were me I would push for an OT referral. Even if you only have one session, and the OT gives you some things to do at home, my experience is it is useful to have someone who knows about this involved, because there is a wide variety in SPD, in what is over and under stimulating, and it can be hard to tease that out. For instance for me, I have the most problems with clothing and touch, but actually the root of this is the proprioceptive sense – when I am moving my body enough, in a wide enough variety of ways, I get less touch-sensitive. This is pretty non-obvious, really! That’s the sort of thing an OT can help with, and then there are ‘sensory diets’ you can do at home, involving seeking out specific movements and textures.

      There’s some information about finding OTs and treatment here http://www.spdfoundation.net/treatment/ and here http://www.spdaustralia.com.au/occupational-therapy-what-is-it/

  7. My oldest son who is now 5 was obsessed with basketball from age 1.5-3 (he still loves it but thankfully has calmed down a bit). Grandma is a basketball coach and naturally loved to pick out little kid basketball uniforms for him. That was all he wanted to wear. At first it was easiest to dress him in these outfits but it slowly got to the point that was all he would wear. We couldn’t get him to wear anything else and when we did he had massive fits. As gradually as only basketball outfits snuck up on us we have gradually worked in other types of clothing as well into his wardrobe. We are just getting to the point that picking out “nice clothes” doesn’t come with a set of groans and whining.

  8. oh boy–when i heard this episode i started, like, flapping my arms in agreement…! SPD is getting more and more attention, but it’s still so misunderstood. As the mother of a 7 year old who was in OT from age 3 – 6, it is a really frustrating problem and it’s so comforting to hear the stories of others. My kid had/has issues with noise, light, clothes, food texture, getting comfortable in bedding, which all leads to social issues. Has some obsessive-compulsive tendencies too which are hereditary (my brother and i have some OC issues) He’s very smart, in the gifted program actually, and loves his school, but he presents as a totally “normal” kid, which makes it more frustrating to have to either explain the reasons why we can’t or don’t join in on lots of play-date activities, or just to bow out or decline invitations that most kids would absolutely jump at the chance to do. I plead with him to go to the zoo, or museum, or (fill in the blank), ad nauseum…. very hard to find the line between pushing his boundaries to expose him to new situations that will make new brain connections, and when to respect his physical and neurological need to not participate…. So hard. Then there’s guilt about feeling it’s so hard when so many others either can’t have a kid or have kids with much worse problems….. endless cycle…. anyway, love the podcast. Thanks for this one.

  9. I have SPD, and although I can’t remember being a very young child, through what my parents have told me, I can relate to a lot of Violet’s struggle. I didn’t walk until I was around 18 months old because I didn’t like the feeling of my feet touching the floor. My parents had to buy me these tennis shoes with extremely thick soles so that I couldn’t feel the floor when I walked. Any time they tried to buy me any other shoes, I would refuse to the point where I had tried on every pair in the store and none of them were comfortable. Although I still have SPD, it’s not something you just grow out of, I have learned to deal. I can’t stand loud noises, but I have noise canceling earmuffs that I wear when it gets too loud. It’s hard to find clothes that are comfortable, but I’ve found that buying the same article of clothing in various colors is a good strategy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted that there’s nothing wrong with me; my brain is just wired a bit differently from most people’s.

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