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Mirror, Mirror: Holiday fashion for little girls: Nice, not naughty

Holiday party fashion dilemma: You want to wrap your little girl in red velvet and bows like a precious she-elf.

Holiday party fashion dilemma: You want to wrap your little girl in red velvet and bows like a precious she-elf.

She wants to don satin spaghetti straps with black lace and sparkles.

In other words, she wants to look like, well, you.

There's no need for icy promises that Santa won't leave a Wii U for her under the Christmas tree.

Instead, said Susan Cooper, owner of teen and tween special-occasion boutique G-Lizzy by Gabrielle in Bala Cynwyd, there is a way to compromise so your little girl is age appropriate but still feels grown up.

Girls as young as 7 or 8 already have strong opinions about how they want to look. And it's important, Cooper says, that your prodigy thinks she's being heard - even if it's your reputation that's on the line.

"Pick your battles with your daughter," Cooper says. "If your daughter says I want something black, tight, and sexy, you might want to steer her toward a metallic look with a more classic shape. Something drop-waist or an A-line skirt."

Wise words.

When I was little, my mother wanted to dress me up in frills and bows. But by the time I was 9, I realized those extras made me look wide. I didn't mind wearing red, but I definitely gravitated toward drop-waist style. The fewer ruffles, the better.

For the most part, my mother listened - except when it came to wearing black (only for funerals) and glitter.

But that was in the 1980s, before celebrity bumps and celebrity toddlers ruled fashion pages and reality television. Thanks to little A-listers Suri Cruise (in heels), Willow Smith (with shaved head and rocker-chic clothing), and Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead (Guess' newest model), girls are seeing peers in older contexts, and dressing the part.

This oversexualization of young girls, experts say, wreaks havoc with self-esteem and behavioral expectations - not to mention that girls wearing strapless dresses or deep-sequined, exposed décolletage look uncomfortable.

"You should never put your daughter in something that she's struggling to wear," Cooper said, "even if she thinks she looks great."

Can they pull off the one-shoulder look?

"Go for one-shouldered dresses that are pretty covered," Cooper said. Her store sells one with a thick strap, basically a tank dress with one shoulder missing.

And while all-in-one dresses are 1-2-3 easy, don't turn up your nose at separates, Cooper said.

Dresses and matching jackets can be separated throughout the season, giving your young'un a new outfit.

A metallic sheath dress can be worn with a furry shrug for a family dinner or holiday party, then later in the week the shrug can be worn with a pair of jeans, T-shirt, and metallic flats for a Christmas concert.

"It's up to moms to listen to what your daughter wants and make gentle suggestions based on what you've heard," Cooper said.

"When it's all said and done, you want your little girl to look in the mirror and say, 'This outfit looks great on me.' "