We had asked to keep our baby’s sex a secret, but when my midwife kept referring to my belly as “she”, it was as good as done. One year later in 2010, I found myself restocking at local baby department store, my arms full of cotton candy pink tutus, bows, and flowered Onesies. I just needed one last thing before checking out, so I turned to the store attendant to point me toward the ruffled diaper covers. She looked confused and shook her head, “I don’t know what those are.” She couldn’t be serious. The ruffles diaper covers, I repeated, thinking maybe she didn’t hear me. She shook her head again and shrugged. I gave her a loud tchuuuip! because that’s what you do when you’ve heard something ridiculous.
After countless visits to department stores around the city, I’m all tchuip-ed out. Beyond diaper covers, it seems like most of those sweet girl things I wore as a toddler in Haiti are no longer manufactured (except for at a handful of places like Cookies and etsy.com). But in those times, your babygirl was not truly dressed and presentable to visiting relatives and friends unless you were wearing certain items and adorned with certain accessories. I can’t help but feel nostalgic from time to time, especially when I see vintage pictures of us in Haiti, and remember the care and pride my mother took to dress us in those days. So the following list is my homage to that era. My tribute list of throwback must-haves for the Haitian toddlers and babies:
1- Something with cherries.
It doesn’t matter what it is – cherry appliques make it look even sweeter.
2- An extra long gold necklace.
You might even add a Virgin Mary pendant for extra swag.
Gingham shirts are still used in school uniforms today. In the 1970’s, a gingham milkmaid dress was the picture of schoolgirl innocence.
4- Ruffled diaper cover.
‘Cuz visible pampers are kinda obscene.
5- Mini cowbells (grelots in kreyol).
These grelots go on your shoelaces so when toddlers are walking around, you can hear them coming and going.
6- Hair ribbons.
Hair ribbons are a must no matter the occasion, but please, no more than 3. I’m dressed for ballet class in this passport picture, with a combination of #2, #3, and #6.
This goes with #6. Mix with a dab of water for extra suppleness. DuSharme and Dax were my mother’s “go-to” hair products (and — truth be told — Dax still is).
8- Leverback birthstone earrings.
When I see babies wear these now, I know stretched-out earlobes are in their future.
9- Name plate bracelet.
Boys and girls alike would wear these gold ID bracelets to go with #2. Engraving is optional, but silver is solely for Americans.
10- Mary Janes.
I had the black patent leather Mary Janes with the triple ankle straps. (You read that right — triple.) Add white ankle socks with eyelet ruffles for some flair as long as the socks match with #4.
BONUS: Some outfit related to being a sailor.
This one was a birthday party favorite. I still see these outfits sometimes at Jacadi. Back in the day, the boy (or girl) of honor would be decked out in white with navy blue accents, maybe with some seersucker stripes, or with a red kerchief and anchors stitched to your lapels or hem. Sometimes topped off with a sailor hat if your mom was a bit enteresant.
Voila! That is my list of 10+1 must-have throwback items for a Haitian toddler’s closet, from head to toe.
**If you ARE feeling a little retro, I only recommend that you purchase half of what’s on this list for risk of accidental strangling, choking, malformation, teasing/bullying or bursting into flames.**