But is this a good thing? Should we care about children's style?
When HuffPost featured photos from Tiny Sartorialist and Children With Swag earlier this month, it became clear from the comments that the answer wasn't so clear-cut. "'Toddler fashion'?? This is one of the signs that our culture is in steep decline," wrote Professor Wagstaff. And there were many who echoed that sentiment. Others argued that children's clothing can be not only adorable but fun for the grown-ups who get to dress up the little ones. As di123 asked, "Does this mean I was just being stupid when I bought my granddaughter (11 mos) over the knee socks for $28 dollars because I thought they were cute?"
As editor in chief of Petit Vogue, a children's fashion blog that features items from the U.S., the U.K., France and more, Ian Wilson believes kids' style actually does matter. Nathan Greenberg, columnist for IE Family and founder of ProActiveDads, disagrees, saying parents should focus their energy on other aspects of life. We asked them to face off on the issue.
What do you think? Vote on whether you believe we should care about children's style. Then read on for both writers' opinions and see if they change your mind.
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We Should Care About Children's Fashion
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Who makes the better argument?
The reasons we should care about children's fashion go way beyond our kids looking exceptional. Way beyond. Children's fashion is about more than aesthetics, and, for parents, it can make a bold statement about what we support, who we support, and what we want for our children.
In these days when farmer's markets and co-ops are more accessible, people are taking the opportunity to more concretely determine where their money goes, and applying that freedom to as many of their purchasing decisions as possible. More and more people are taking their money out of big farming and spending locally with growers and craftsmen in their community.
Children's fashion is going the same route. While you may not have a budding fashionista hawking her label down the block, a lot of fresh new labels are being made by parents, aunts, and uncles -- people with real faces, and real stories that aren't all that different from your own.
A lot of my favorite children's fashion labels were started (and some remain) as one-woman shows. Sometimes these women begin with little to no formal training in garment design and, with their children as inspiration, start sewing and wind up with these fantastic independent collections. From these minds come some of the most unique and adorable clothing you could ask for.
Anyone has the power to open a shop online and sell their wares, and with so many options, we as consumers are just as easily enabled to spend a bit of our hard-earned money with a fellow parent.
You may be wondering what the kids get out of fashion. By investing in a fashionable wardrobe, you are giving them more options and exposing them to new and interesting types of clothing. Consider what you're exposing their developing minds to:
- New types of clasps and closures to practice fine motor skills on
- New shapes, colors, and patterns to learn and enjoy
- A larger variety of materials, each with its own set of sensory stimuli
- Perhaps even styles of dress worn in other cultures and their shapes and motifs
With each passing day, it becomes more and more important to kids to start expressing their individuality. Attaching to a favorite piece of clothing is a common way that kids start to identify that which is part of their identity. When their clothing is simply homogenous, diluted to the point of ubiquity and consumed by as many people as possible, how can they feel like it's truly something that belongs to them?
By providing them with clothing that has more character to it, you're giving them a broader palette with which to stand out from their peers and develop a sense of their own style without having to hunt for the one thing in their closet that clashes with their outfit just to keep things interesting.
One of the things I hear a lot is "Why spend money on something that's just going to get ruined anyway?" Well, does it have to get ruined? Why not use having a special set of clothes as an incentive to foster a greater sense of responsibility? This applies to both parents and kids! Who knows, maybe some of the habits inspired by keeping clothing neat and tidy will spread to other areas of life.
Garment design, fashion, "style" -- whatever name you choose to give it -- is art, and as with other forms of art, it is a form of expression, both on the part of the designer and the people who enjoy it. And through that expression, it's possible to enrich so much -- the people who made the clothing, your own sense of consumer responsibility, and most important, the experience your child has of life and the world around them.
I'll never forget the day I tried to put a plaid shirt with plaid shorts on my son. I thought it was fine, but it seems I was very, very, wrong. Every woman I've ever known thought I had recently suffered a head injury, and even a couple of my guy friends thought I was somewhat visually impaired. Clearly my son's chances at the Supreme Court were diminishing.
Can you guess who didn't care? My son.
I don't believe children's fashion is an important part of life. Of all the things we want our kids to enjoy, looking cool shouldn't be one of them. Parents can be vain and we often see our children as a reflection of ourselves -- from behavior to grades to fashion, the moms and dads at the park are silently judging each other based on their kids. But there is a lesson we should have learned before becoming parents: "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Kids have so much adventure to experience and so many lessons to learn that plaids and polka dots shouldn't even register on the radar. Let them get paint in their hair, sand in their shoes. Let them make mud pies with their best friends. Kids get one shot at childhood. They can't relive it nor can they have a do-over. Imagine the time and money you would save if you stopped caring about your toddler's color combinations and pattern matches. The possibilities are endless and your child will love you for it. Really.
Perhaps no one said it better than Oscar Wilde when he uttered the phrase, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." We actually have shows on television that glamorize adorable toddler girls being dragged from pageant to pageant so they can live out their parents' unfulfilled dreams of stardom and beauty. No toddler should care that much about a tiara unless it adorns the head of her favorite stuffed animal at a living room tea party. Any parent who turns innocent fun into some sort of militant Barbie dress-up competition should be ashamed.
Our children have a few short years to prepare for adulthood and there isn't a college in the world -- not Harvard, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising or Clown College -- that cares what they wore in their youth. No doubt, high school can be a nightmare. Peer pressure, social acceptance, the in-crowd, bullying, hormones, and homework can wreak real havoc on an impressionable mind. The job of parents is to remind their kids of what is truly important and help them occasionally take a step back and look at the big picture. Parents who succeed at that will be appreciated by their kids because they are doing the right thing.
It is essential that we help our kids focus on the most important elements of their lives while giving them enough breathing room to make their own path. Priorities will ebb and flow from one year to the next, but there are still vital aspects of childhood that shouldn't be ignored for the satisfaction of public judgment. My son has worn that plaid-on-plaid outfit a few times and not once was he arrested by the fashion police or sent home from school. I still think he can become chief justice of the Supreme Court. After all, he might like the switch from his dad's plaid-a-palooza to an all-black robe.
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We Should Care About Children's Fashion
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