Whoa, baby, those are pricey duds

Is buying kids designer fashions a waste of money or an early lesson in style? Here are some aww-...
(Washington Post)
Story by Holley Simmons
(The Washington Post)
Thu, May 9, 2013
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As a grown woman, it’s odd to be jealous of a child who doesn’t have all of her teeth yet and probably still wets the bed. Yet I’m envious of the little girl who gets to own the toddler-sized Dolce & Gabbana pants I spotted on Barneys.com last month. Their kaleidoscopic print of oranges, lemons and white citrus blossoms made me do a double-take. So did the $520 price tag.

Parents buying pricey clothes for kids isn’t shocking in our celebrity-obsessed, retail-centric culture. Think US Weekly and their ilk tracking babies from Celine-covered bump to label-loving tween. There’s even a blog (Suricruisefashion.blogspot.com) devoted to the outfits of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ 7-year-old. And there’s no shortage of analysis whenever the Obama daughters step out in J. Crew.

Perhaps spending a lot on their children’s clothes is a way for parents to express their style in a way they couldn’t afford to when young. (Think of the dogged pageant moms on “Toddlers & Tiaras” shelling out thousands for spangled gowns for their kids while they schlump around in old T-shirts.)

Mini regalia lets well-heeled moms and dads display wealth, too. After all, if little Olive or Aiden gets driven to preschool in a Mercedes SUV, a tot-sized Lanvin skirt ($1,185) might not seem ridiculous. And as youngsters get older and more status-conscious, having the “right” brands can help them fit in.

“Parents want the best for their children, and designer clothing is one way to express love,” posits Lesley Johnson, marketing manager of Poshtots.com, an aptly named, Richmond, Va.-based kids’ e-tailer that sells party wear for as much as $575 a frock.

To be sure, kids clothes, like kids themselves, are awfully cute.

“When you’re a first-time mom, there’s an overwhelming joy every time you look at baby clothing,” says Laura Carlson, 38, of Washington, a TV researcher who cops to purchases including a plaid Burberry dress ($145) and a floral Oscar de la Renta number ($150) for her 7-month-old daughter, Ava.

Carlson, like some parents, saves the fanciest outfits for special occasions — a Milly Minis Hanukkah dress, a first-day-of-first-grade Ralph Lauren Kids sweater. The message here might be “I want my kids to look great in the Instagram shots” not “I’m creating a new generation of shopaholic monster.”

Kids grow out of clothes quickly and they’re hard on them, which is why parents often find high-end children’s garments absurd.

“My second-grader spends most of his time skidding on his knees,” says Brook Lancaster, 35, a Falls Church, Va., mother of four. “He doesn’t care what brand he wears.”

Maybe, then, we should teach kids to mix high and low. If your 3-year-old daughter pines for sparkly jewels, let her run wild in the accessories section at Forever 21.

And if you’re intent on creating an under-5 fashionista, check out designer resale stores. The Purple Goose in Alexandria, Va., recently had a pint-sized Burberry jacket (original price $400) marked at $80.

Now that sounds both sensible and stylish.

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