To those of us who grew up in that decade of sartorial challenge - the 1970s, where the height of child chic was OshKosh dungarees and hand-me-downs - the very notion that there should be fashion for children, let alone catwalk shows, is anathema. Surely the whole point of being a child is that you don't have to care what you look like?
Not any more. Perhaps it's the influence of celebrities such as Katie Holmes (whose six-years-old daughter Suri Cruise is already a style icon, her looks copied and discussed), or the likes of Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce devoting an entire Pinterest page to styling their new tot Blue Ivy.
Children's fashion is now a 500million Pound (around NZ$900m) industry and that's just in Britain. More pertinently, it is the only expanding sector of the fashion industry worldwide - thus, I suppose, Kids Fashion Week.
The kinds of child-looks making waves on the catwalk were not conducive to tree climbing of mud pies. Armani Junior showed ice-cream shades of taupe and peppermint with a boy's leather jacket at NZ$730, a girl's handbag at $240 and a girl's silk grey dress at $305. Even less likely to be a good bet for glitter fun or finger painting was a red silk scallop dress - for a four-year-old - by Chloe: a snip at around $2200.
Imagine the look on the yummy mummy's face when the dress gets daubed with choccy and ketchup. Even worse is the idea that the poor mite might be so terrified of wrecking such expensive clobber that she'd stick to water - or perhaps not eat a thing.
The rich are different.But the problem with Kids Fashion Week - and indeed the way every high street brand now does junior versions of its adult kit - is the pressure it puts on children to define themselves not by what they are or do but by what they wear and look like from an alarmingly early age. ....
What I worry about is the quotidian creep of children constantly being made aware of their 'look'. It's wrong for sartorial anxiety to be part of childhood at all. Children shouldn't be agonising over whether the Converse or the Uggs are more fitting, what brand their T-shirt is or whether social death will follow an unhappy pairing of top and trouser. We should be teaching our children that it is what is inside that counts, not the outfit."
SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE, 12/05/13. STYLE STARTING YOUNG : ELEANOR MILLS.
Kids' fashion, it's been around for ages, decades, if not longer!
The idea of making children more "aware of their fashion look" to some parents would be a positive thing, as some children show no interest in what they wear, or are locked-in on one article of clothing or colour which is permanently 'on'.
Eleanor Mills' article, however, certainly gets our attention with, "But the problem... is the pressure it puts on children to define themselves not by what they are or do but by what they wear and look like from an alarmingly young age." and again, "What I worry about is the quotidian creep of children constantly being made aware of their 'look'. It's wrong for sartorial anxiety to be part of childhood at all"...
For those of us who need the definitions -
"quotidian" ~ ordinary, everyday occurrence.
"sartorial" ~ tailoring, clothes, style of dress.
The concern Eleanor Mills speaks of is valid, and this is what I want to discuss in this post.
The real issue or 'damage' here is bigger than kids just becoming overly interested in their fashion and how they look. Let's be honest, the experience described above is only one example of "Child-Adults", where children experience life as though they were adults.
Children are taken to participate in the adult world via a variety of means. Here's some examples ~
* VIA the entertainment they watch - TV, movies, DVDs, You tube, computer and screen games...
* VIA the social situations they participate in - attendance at parties, being present at adult social situation both at home and out...
* VIA the conversations that happen while they are present - adult conversations/disagreements, parents discussing topics inappropriate for children with adult friends...
* VIA the hoisting of children years ahead of their age in sport, culturally or academically - children who are 'pushed', 'worked on' and accelerated up the line in these disciplines. (Some children are incredibly gifted however, and absolutely love their sport or studies. To them the fast speed they progress is pure pleasure to them)
* VIA giving children far too much responsibility, or the opposite, too much independence and freedom for their age.
When children are made to be "child-adults", their child mindset is being changed to become like the mindset of an adult.
Kay S. Hymowitz has written a short article, "Ready or Not: What Happens When We Treat Children as Small Adults" http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ready_or_not.htm .
This is what she says ~
“Children today grow up so fast!” How often we hear those words, uttered both in frustrated good humor and in dumbfounded astonishment. Every day the American people hear about kids doing things, both good and bad, that were once thought to be well beyond their scope; flying airplanes, running companies, committing mass murder. Creatures of the information age, today’s children sometimes seem to know more than their parents; in short, they are becoming sophisticated beyond their years. This leads us to wonder: Is childhood becoming extinct?
In Ready or Not, Kay S. Hymowitz offers a startling new interpretation of what makes our children tick and where the moral anomie of today’s children comes from. She reveals how our ideas about childrearing itself have been transformed, perniciously, in response to the theories of various “experts”—educators, psychologists, lawyers, media executives—who have encouraged us to view children as small adults, autonomous actors who know what is best for themselves and who have no need for adult instruction or supervision. Today’s children and teenagers have been encouraged by their parents and teachers to function as individuals to such an extent that they make practically every decision on their own, including what values they will adhere to. The idea of childhood as a time of limited competence, in which adults prepare the young for maturity, has fallen into disrepute; independence has become not the reward of time, but rather something that our children have come to expect and demand and increasingly younger ages.
One of the great ironies of turning our children into small adults is that American society has become less successful at producing truly mature men and women. When sophisticated children to grow up, they often find themselves unable to accept real adult responsibilities. Thus we see more people in their twenties and thirties living like children, unwilling to embark on careers or to start families. Until we recognize that children are different from grownups and need to be nurtured as such, Hymowitz argues, our society will be hollow at its core."
Hymonwitz gives parents things to think about. Are we are accepting the idea thrown around in the world about what children are and what our role as a parent is? This is a topic I have recently written on for my up-coming business to practically help parents.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ let them be KIDS. Give them lots of time to do child-orientated things. Keep material which is a source of adult behaviour patterns, to a minimum. Spend some time thinking about where you can go with what you have read here.