Books About Clothes That Build Self-Esteem (and More)

Ask a kid about what they’re wearing, and you might hear: “The lighting bolts on my shoes help me run faster,” or “My cape is for flying into outerspace.” Adults may not be quite so creative in constructing a narrative behind their threads, but both young and old can agree on the power of a particular outfit—whether it’s from a superhero get-up or to the perfect pair of jeans. Clothing is transformational. Adding to the bookshelf alongside classics like Red is Best, The Paperbag Princess, and Where The Wild Things Are, the five books below talk about clothing—and so much more.

New Socks by Bob Shea
Author Bob Shea puts himself into a kid’s shoes—or bird’s socks, as it were—with this slim, humorous book about the excitement of sporting something new, however simple or small. Shea’s lively narrator, Leon, is so enthusiastic about his new socks that he calls the president to boast about them. They even make him brave enough to go on the big kid slide (a useful trope for parents and an empowering idea for little minds).
Shelf Improvement: Good for encouraging imaginative play and valuing the little things.

Kidbox-Sukis-KimonoSuki’s Kimono
by Chieri Uegaki
Suki’s grandmother has gifted her some special items, including a blue kimono and red geta (wooden clogs). When Suki wears them, she remembers a bright summer day they enjoyed together at a street festival. Suki’s older sisters, overly concerned with coolness, tell her she can’t wear the traditional Japanese costume to school, or she’ll be mocked. But Suki does so anyway. Her conviction ultimately gains respect from her classmates and her sisters, proving the best fashion statement is to stay true to one’s self.
Shelf Improvement: Explores ideas around self-respect, being proud of your heritage, and embracing difference.

Mr. Frank by Irene Luxbacher
Mr. Frank has been a tailor since the 1940s, and he’s about to retire. After years of expertly creating and repairing every kind of clothing, he has one last outfit to make—and it’s very important. Mr. Frank takes young readers through decades of fashion history, but ultimately his story is about a grandparent’s love, as we learn that the main character’s final task before packing up his sewing supplies is to make the perfect costume for his grandson.
Shelf Improvement: Touches on learning from the past and intergenerational family dynamics.

Edie’s Ensembles by Ashley Spires
Edie and Andrew love dreaming up elaborate outfit ideas together. When Edie’s get-ups start attracting extra attention at school, her ensembles become even more outrageous to match her growing popularity—while Andrew is left behind. In true “don’t let your head get too big” fashion, Edie gets stuck in a doorway and is helped out by her loyal friend. Edie’s Ensembles celebrates the wacky self-expression kids often explore through clothing, while also being a gentle reminder that what is on the inside is equally (if not more) important.
Shelf Improvement: Teaches how to be a good friend and develops creative expression.

Kidbox-Morris-Micklewhite-Tangerine-DressMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
Morris Micklewhite is similar to most kids. He likes pancakes and singing loudly. He likes animals and outer space. He also likes wearing the tangerine frock that lives in the dress-up center at school. His classmates tell him dresses are only for girls and make him feel so bad that he skips a day of school. At home, he invents adventures wild enough that everyone wants in on his games once he’s back. Morris wins over the other kids—all while donning his favorite tangerine dress.
Shelf Improvement: Helps build self-esteem and break gender stereotypes.