Thursday, January 01, 2009

Celebrity babes and Mini-me: where did that all begin?

Whilst the recession is causing cautionary buying in most areas of couture, children’s’ designer wear is out performing womenswear in the high street. Most parents through economic necessity may be recycling their clothes, their off spring are sporting the latest fashions as the mini-me phenomenon continues. Well meant parents want junior to look good and reflect what mum and dad would look like, if they could afford it. Much of this is driven by the images of the celebrity babes (that is the infants of the celebrities) which have become the ‘must have’ accessory for the glitterati. To meet the niche market, designer labels are expanding tot offerings with Lacoste poised to introduce a new kids fashion line in the spring; and Jean Paul Gaultier planning to launch a kids' line in the Autumn.

Currently in London there is an exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood entitled 'Top to Toe: Fashion for Kids' which show cases 300 years of fashion for children. Exhibits include clothing from the 1700s to the present day, ranging from an 18th-century "pudding hat" (worn to protect a toddler's head) and 1900s muff and hat made of peacock feathers to a pair of 2007 Ugg boots. The display reveals that while today's kids are in the thrall of celebrity role models, in previous centuries it was the young royals who were the fashion icons. From the 1800s onwards, the royal children were real fashion drivers and the first to be seen and pictured wearing sailor suits. Clothing is an indicator of social status and middle class parents then were as to dress their children, as the royals. Often Victorian children’s fashion mimicked fancy dress with a definite emphasis on the mini me approach to style. Highlights include an 18th-century red and cream candy-striped military suit for a four-year-old boy as well as an array of early Victorian dresses, worn by Nancy boys. Both male dresses and short trousers were the way the prudish Victorian dealt with pubescence in the hope the dreaded penal erection would be avoided. Getting a pair of long trousers then was very much a right of passage. Twentieth century styles for children became more egalitarian as the modern child was treated as a discerning consumer and the fashion vogue has swung from quality garments to designer labels in our throw away consumer society. Top to Toe: Fashion for Kids' is at the V&A Museum of Childhood Bethnal Green, London, runs until April 19 2009. Look out for the book which accompanies the exhibition by Noreen Marshall.

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