Q: So, why kids fashion?
Lisa: Well, for me it comes down to social media culture. I know, that’s such a typical “old person”’s response. But I think there’s something to be said for the fact that pretty much every child these days has a smartphone, or access to one. So, they’re all on some form of social media. And what I’m seeing is that the instagram culture, and the selfie phenomenon, have created a more image-obsessed culture, even with kids. They’re judging themselves and their peers in a new way. It’s very competitive, and it involves kids seeking approval from others. So, it’s kind of a committee decision–each clothing choice is graded by likes.
June: I think one other factor is that todays’ kids are so much “older” in some ways than our generation. They’re so much more involved in their parents’ lifestyles, as more and more parents work while they parent. And I think that given all this exposure, more and more kids want to fit in. They can connect with their idols in new ways, thanks to the social media Lisa mentioned. So, rather than one magazine cover on their wall, they have a constant feed of everything their heroes wear. I think that makes kids care a lot more about their own looks.
Q: How are the latest kids clothes different?
Krista: I’m seeing a lot of new stuff! I don’t know about the rest of the panel, but I haven’t really seen any of that older, sort of franchised clothing. What I’m seeing are lots of miniature lines. So, just like we’ve had mini steel toe boots for kids who are into construction, now we’re getting those miniature versions of all the adult clothes.
I’ve noticed something similar, yes. That’s why it’s kind of ironic that we’re calling it kids fashion, when what it really is is adult fashion in miniature, right? And a lot of clothes are more fitted than kids clothes in the past. I think sometimes it can be concerning, because it can be a bit sexualized, but on the other hand, I’ve noticed that a lot of kids look better dressed, just because things aren’t so awkward.
Q: What do we think the benefits could be?
Lisa: Well, I for one think it’s empowering. I think you’re giving kids a lot more options, which let them look more like they want to. I mean, most kids have heroes that are adults, right? But most kids clothing has been aimed at kids looking childish. Bright colors, baggy, that sort of thing. But now they can experiment with different looks, different aesthetics, without waiting until they’re teenagers. So, I think it accelerates all those kind of experimental phases that children normally go through as teenagers.
June: Exactly! And I think it’s a big relief to parents when you’re not having to actively dress your kid. Now, parents and kids can each do their own shopping, and kids are more interested in shopping with their parents, since they’re looking critically at adult fashion as well. And one last thing, I’m sure Lisa can speak to how empowering it is to just be able to make your own choice as a kid.
Q: Does anyone see any potential downsides to the kids fashion boom?
Tamra: I think there’s a risk that we might be reinforcing social categories a bit more tightly. And I also think we should be a little concerned with the class problems here. If some parents can’t afford the fancy “fashion” clothes for their kids, that could lead to some problems on the playground.
June: I think that’s probably true. With that said, I think Lisa’s point speaks to me more, because however much clothes reinforce social groups, I think that the sheer variety of options on the market today also make it easier to break those norms. I mean, look at the Smith kids, Willow and Jaden. They’re completely redefining gender roles, and shaping the national discussion, and they’re half the age Lady Gaga was when she sort of conquered the same dialogue. So, I think that’s one of the most promising signs of that empowerment at work.
Q: Well, that’s all we have time for this week. Thanks, panel! We’ll look forward to checking back in with you next week, when we talk Stroller Etiquette. We’ll be talking about how to manage awkward restaurant situations, negotiate sidewalks and busy shopping centers, and traveling with your child.