by ANGELA MOLLARD
“Hi honey, love your top,” I said, as the little girl I was collecting for a trip to the park, bounded down her front steps and hopped into the back seat next to my daughter.
“Thanks, it’s Fiona Scanlan. And my skirt is from Gap and my shoes are…” She pulls off a tiny silver ballet flat and peers inside. “Seed, yeah they’re from Seed.”
I glance in the rear-vision mirror at my own six-year-old, fully kitted out in a fine selection of hand-me-downs. Second child, you see. Fewer photographs. Fewer new frocks.
I channel the requisite guilt then laugh. After all, we’re off to the park, not the Oscars.
But now comes news that 94 per cent of mothers spend more on their child’s wardrobe than their own with nearly half feeling guilty about spending money on clothes for themselves.
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A third of mothers would spend £100 on one item of clothing for their child, even though they will soon grow out of it. In comparison, they would only spend a measly total of £200 per year on clothes for themselves.
After getting voted the most stylish celebrity child, it was also found that 15 per cent of mothers look to emulate the way Victoria Beckham styles Harper.
The survey of 1,000 women aged between 18 and 55 also found that 47 per cent of mums set aside the time to shop for their child once a week or more in an attempt to make sure their children are following the latest fashion trends.
OK, you could dismiss this as Britain where they’re all a bit bonkers about the Beckhams and it’s so damn cold most of the year that a shopping mall is the only sensible place to hang out.
But it’s the same here at home, where the children’s wear market is booming, while most other clothing sectors struggle to make a buck. According to IBIS World, we spent $1.3 billlion on kid’s clobber last year and the number of children’s clothing lines continues to proliferate.
Now, despite being a proud member of the six per cent club (those who spend more on clothes for themselves than their kids), I don’t give a sparkly hairband if you’re one of those who spend more on their kids. Whatever. (Although, seriously, if you’re in the kids section in Country Road do yourself a favour and drop $50 on a new season canvas bag for yourself instead. The yellow, particularly, is sublime.)
But there are two things about this story that bother me. Firstly, kids are becoming far too aware of what they’re wearing and therefore destined to further the cycle of compulsive consumerism which Unicef, the UN children’s agency, fears is dominating family life.
When I recently heard two seven-year-old boys comparing the merits of Billabong over Element, I wanted to shout: “Go off and play in the mud.”
Likewise, this advert for an $89.95 “tile print frock” for a two-year-old left me pining for the 70s, when Mum would knock up our dungarees on the old Singer.
“This sweet little summer frock has such a fifties vibe that we are simply loving! A lovely navy and white tile print means any accessory will ‘pop’ when teamed up. A structured dress with cross over straps – complete with a retro inspired button feature at the back – fitted bodice, back zipper, belted waist and a full, circular knee length skirt with peplum underneath giving that extra fullness.”
Oh puhleese, what two-year-old accessorises? Where’s the “washes well, camouflages vegemite?” Now THAT, I would buy.
What worries me more is that if all these parents are spending up large on their kids, where’s the delayed gratification? Where’s the lessons learned in waiting, yearning, saving up for something? Where’s the joy in finally getting in your hands that special thing that’s lived for so long in your head.
When I was 13 I desperately wanted a pair of Skin jeans – skinny dark denim, white piping down the side. My best friend Jacinda had them but they were $60 – a fair whack in 1981. Mum refused to buy them for me and instead set me up with a clothing allowance. For three months I saved like mad, finally getting them in time for the school disco. Even now when I hear Blondie’s The Tide is High, I’m in those jeans, dancing with my mates.
Recently, my husband mentioned we should start saving to take the kids to Disneyland. “We could show them New York,” he added (it being the special place he took me for my 30th birthday). Noooooo. I was emphatic. New York is not a city you “do” or “see”. It’s a city you feel and you can’t do that until you’re old enough to have fallen in love.
I worry. I worry that childhood is becoming all “buying” and “doing” rather than just being. As Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, points out: “We are teaching our children, practically from the moment they are born, that the one thing that matters is getting more stuff.” Yet Unicef’s research found the happiest kids were those who spent time outdoors with their families, saved up to buy things and helped out with chores.
No mention at all of a Burberry trench in Size 4.
Here are some celebrity children who are raising the bar in the little-person fashion stakes:
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You can see more great pictures of celebrity parents and their well dressed kids over at our sister site iVillage.com.au here.
Angela Mollard is a Sydney-based journalist who has now combined motherhood with writing for magazines both in Australia and the UK. You can follow her on Twitter here.
How much do you spend on clothes for your kids? If you don’t have kids, how much do you think you’d spend?