Forking out over a grand for a bunch of pink satin and tulle is nothing new in the fashion industry. What’s different about this particular Gaultier dress however is that it is made to measure for 3ft sprites with sticky hands and smiling faces rather than the scowling gazelles in Vogue. Is child couture evidence of the fashion’s desperate, and somewhat misplaced, attempt to make itself more relevant? Or is it rather just symptomatic of the absurdity of a world that knows that somewhere, there is a mother who wishes there was a kid’s section on net-a-porter
If it were possible to trace the development of the idea of child couture back to when it was a mere seedling planted in the mind of Mr Gaultier, the light bulb moment would probably coincide very closely to the birth of Victoria Beckham’s first girl, Harper. Obsession with stardom reaches levels of hysteria when a little miniature celebrity is brought into the world, including an intense desire to know exactly just what colour booties little Harper is wearing to the park today. So too have North West’s first days on earth been charted by the media with a religious assiduity to analysis of her wardrobe, which despite the rather compact nature of children’s clothing, probably already takes up a whole room in the Kardashian residence.
As with most media coverage of the lives of the rich and famous, the effect of the barrage of photos of best dressed children on mothers who aren’t married to David Beckham is obviously going to be detrimental. Having given birth is clearly not enough for society anymore; your offspring’s shoes should most definitely match their parka too. This glamorising of children’s fashion, as with any trend, will filter down to the high street stores, and eventually the idea of perfectly co-ordinated children will be an idea completely assimilated into society’s
consciousness. Just one more superfluous expectation to meet before we leave the house then ladies.
But what effect does child couture have on the little people who’ll be wearing the stuff? Obviously a dress that costs a bomb can’t be a dress to climb trees in. Or finger paint in. Or drop ice cream on. We are all aware of the horror stories that surround couture shows and shoots; the model that feints in the too-tight corset, or the girl who is forced into heels three sizes too small. It is unthinkable to expect children to engage in this ongoing battle with the pain of fashion, and undoubtedly clothes over the £1,000 mark are unlikely to have practicability in mind.
As well as the physical impracticalities and implications of child couture, there is easily an argument to be made for the effect of fashion on young people’s mental states. Should we be impressing under-10s with the idea that what truly matters in society is what you look like today? Or rather, should we be telling them that what truly matters is being a good person, and eating all their vegetables? Because as with any business, comes the necessary evil of advertising, and all its implications for the normalisation of images of perfect looking, perfectly dressed children. Indeed, the very idea of the first ever Global Kid’s Fashion Week in March of this year is unsettling in its encouragement of children wearing make-up, being a certain size and adopting the sexualised strut of fully-grown women. For all its pretensions, it is easy to see parallels between this event and the horrifying business of toddler beauty pageants in America, a trend increasingly found in the UK.
There is a horrible kind of irony in the reality that the hundreds of beads on one little girl’s skirt have been sewn on by another little girl thousands of miles away in sweatshop conditions. The darker side of the clothing manufacturing industry has been persistently at the forefront of the public consciousness recently with the collapse of factory buildings and deaths of workers. However it is undoubtable that the purchasing of the clothes that sustain the practice will continue. Child couture looks set to stay as long as there are parents with enough cash and not enough morals (or any kind of understanding of the exponential rate of the growth of children) to buy it.