“It’s a double jacket, Ms. Sarah,” said Ella Sandoval Laird. “It’s a new cool thing I just made up.” It was between the racks of conservative suit jackets and tween-friendly leggings at Target that I spotted her, a petite and precocious third-grader wearing two jackets—one layered long underneath a cropped number with pushed up sleeves—as well as sneakers and patterned jeans. While her mom was holding up some dresses, trying to find an appropriate and Ella-friendly ensemble for an upcoming wedding, Ella herself gravitated toward a tutu, a tuxedo jacket, and some bright, patterned leggings. It was a fair bet she wasn’t going to be pushed into looking like every other pre-pubescent wedding guest. Ella has that thing. With the confidence of a seasoned stylist, the creativity of a white-hot up-and-coming designer, and the wholesome wonder of an ingénue, she’s preternaturally clear on what she likes, why she likes it, and how to deal with those who don’t.
Military jacket by Arizona Jeans, hoodie by H&M, Forever 21 tee, Merona leggings, Adidas Hard Court High Tops, purple glasses from a birthday party goodie bag
Describe your style.
What’s so awesome about it?
I like to dress like rock-and-roll by wearing black and gold and silver and bronze. If I’m happy I put on bright clothes. If I’m sad, I put on dark clothes with some bright stuff. If I’m mad, I put on all dark clothes.
Are there any famous people or people on TV that you think are really cool?
Yes. Me. I have been on TV before. I was on a commercial for the Children’s Museum.
I’d have to agree—you are quite a unique dresser. Like the double jacket—why did you come up with that?
Two reasons: 1) It was a little bit chilly outside, and 2) I wanted something that was, like, really quick and simple—so if it was a Monday and I was going to school, I could put it on real quick. Then vamoose to school.
Back to inspiration—is there anyone you know in real life that you’d like to dress like?
I’d still have to say me. I want to dress like me. Other than me, I’d have to say my dad. Me and him are stylish because he wears these kind of hats (points to the Hello Kitty fedora on her head). I like it when my dad dresses up.
If you were to dress up for something, what would you wear?
A ninja costume. Or I would dress like a zombie rock star.
Describe a zombie rock star for me.
A zombie rock star is pretty much what you think it is. Let me put it like this: it’s a rock star that got turned into a zombie and has freaky hair. The hair is very long and sticking up. I’m thinking a metal chain on one side, and a black vest. And colorful jeans that are ripped up. They’d have colorful Converse—with rainbows all over.
You have a pretty clear idea of your style. Any tips for being an original?
If anyone bosses you around, don’t boss them back. If they say, “I dress better than you, you don’t have anything cool to wear,” just ignore that. Just be yourself and wear what you like.