Fashion Victims

You know how it is when you're expecting a baby. You get bombarded with hand-me-downs from well-meaning friends who have been looking to get rid of all those boxes of baby clothes in their attics.

Sorting through the mountains of clothing I was given, which I gratefully accepted both because I love free stuff and because I don't know how to say no, I would every now and then discover a few designer pieces – Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, that kind of thing. Invariably, those pieces appeared nearly unworn (one even still had tags), and I always wondered if it was because no one in their right mind could stand to see a $50 shirt get spit up on, so for heaven's sake don't get that baby shirt anywhere near, you know, a baby.

But it has come to my attention that there are some people (clearly NOT in their right mind) who might think a $50 Ralph Lauren shirt is akin to dressing your poor petunia in rags.

An Associated Press article that ran in Monday's News & Observer starts like this:

Juliet Sandler dresses in the latest $650 dresses and $400 shoes from Parisian fashion house Lanvin. Juliet is 3.

Juliet's parents, my mind immediately added, are insane.

The article said that Juliet's mother spent $10,000 on her daughter's summer wardrobe this year and plans another shopping spree for fall clothes. And there is no shortage of high-end stores happy to part this fool from her money. Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and other designers most of us you have only experienced through ill-gotten knock-off purses have launched children's clothing lines in recent years. Because rich people will buy that stuff. Because rich people are crazy.

The article failed to mention what Juliet's mommy does when Juliet picks up a nice chocolate cupcake at her BFF's birthday party in the Hamptons and smears it all over her leopard-print puffy coat from Lanvin ($1,090). Does she dock the kid's college fund? Tell her there will be no caviar at dinner tonight, missy, and that's final? Nah. She just buys her a new one, I'm sure. And a fetching bag to go with!

But, oh, listen to me. I'm obviously bitter about having to buy my kid's clothes at Target. On sale. After payday. So let's move on to the even-more disturbing part of this article, which is the explanation of why parents buy designer clothes for their kids – other than the aforementioned "rich people are crazy."

According to the article, Juliet's mommy "says she dresses her daughter in the latest fashions because Juliet is a reflection of her."

Um. What?

Is this what we've come to? Our kids are little PR firms for mom and dad? If they don't look good, we don't look good?

The fashion director at Us Weekly (so you know it MUST be true) offers a similar take: "They're a walking billboard of you. They're a reflection of who you are, so if you are someone highly stylized, then you want to make sure your kids are the best-dressed kids out there."

And here I thought my kid was her own person. Sure, maybe I do a little hoping that she'll be a reflection of me and her dad – but in terms of her values and intelligence and, you know, important stuff like that that might actually come in handy for her one day.

I suppose, since I'm the one who buys her clothes, her style is somewhat akin to mine, but never once have I held up a dress and thought, hmmm, does this further the style narrative I'm trying to tell? Does this Hello Kitty T-shirt reflect favorably on me?

My criteria are more along the lines of is it machine washable with absolutely no special attention needed? Is it cheap enough that I won't be overly upset if it gets smeared with blueberry juice the very first time she wears it? Will it go with most of her other clothes so that I don't have to spend precious minutes searching for a specific matching article of clothing?

Nowhere to be found among my criteria is whose name is on the label. The very most important criteria for an article of clothing, after all, are these:

1) Is it reasonably clean?

2) Is it on her?

That's what passes for high fashion in our house.