Label-Conscious Toddlers: Are Kids Becoming More Aware Of Designer Labels?


I was getting my baby dressed one morning while my 3-year-old son, Miles, watched. After choosing a blue terrycloth Polo outfit, he leaned in for a better look. “Mama, let me see that little man on the horse there. Is that Maddie’s?”

Maddie is a girl in his preschool class.She is always impeccably dressed, usually in Lilly Pulitzer or, yes, Ralph Lauren. She’s the only 3-year-old I’ve ever seen wearing head-to-toe white linen. Most of her clothes are monogrammed, and she always wears matching hair bows the size of dessert plates.

What surprised me about Miles’ comment was the fact that, a) He was aware of clothing labels and, b) He associated them with a particular classmate. Already!

Now, when I was in junior high, I coveted Benetton and Esprit clothing. I was so obsessed with these labels that I forced my mom to take me on regular pilgrimages to the Esprit outlet in San Francisco whenever we went there to visit relatives. But I was 12, not three!

Although I dress my boys in T-shirts from Target, sale racks and the occasional pieces from Baby Gap or Gymboree, as a busy mom every now and then – say, when we’re dressing up for a school event or invited to a party at a wealthy friend’s house – I hear the siren song of designer labels.

So, how should I respond when my kids notice and comment on clothing labels? And when they’re older, should I indulge them with shopping trips to Hollister or Abercrombie or whatever they consider high-fashion at the time?

Abigail Green is a mother of two kids, and she blogs for several parenting sites. A writing instructor in Maryland, her work has appeared in numerous publications including American Baby, Bride’s, and Health magazine.

Photo credit: chatina


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2 Responses to "Label-Conscious Toddlers: Are Kids Becoming More Aware Of Designer Labels?"

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  1. Joane

    June 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I am so glad you are having this discussion. Kids are so observant of details! But here is the solution from my 3 kids who love fashion but not labels. Emphasize the joy of getting dressed via color, shape and feel of your clothes each day no matter where they come from. Stop even mentioning labels in your head and just respond to what you like and can afford. Your child will get into the fun of picking his stuff based on his style preference not brand and feel like a designer himself! Most kids will at some point find a favorite outfit, like a favorite book, that becomes an annoying but fond memory in your lives when it finally passes.

    This was played out in my family during the 80(kids’ pricey sports labels) and 90’s(the aforementioned Abercrombie phenom). To make matters more complicated I was working in the fashion industry-small design private label firm for clothing and housewares and on a budget to pay for education. Now I teach fashion drawing to young designers and they come to college with some pretty good knowledge of brands but poor knowledge of fabric, color and construction…all the things that keep the brand alive if it’s good.

    One more thing I think should be in the discussion as I am a bit of an advocate for eco-fashion these days: Even if you think you are choosing a no-name designer from Target or a small clothing maker on Etsy, you are still choosing to wear clothing designed by someone! Brand power hides the fact that stables of ever -changing fashion designers are behind Lily Pulitzer and RL helping them keep their long standing brand going while building a resume and learning production cycles. In this day and time, which kind of “designer”would you really rather tell your son about? Ralph Lauren’s staff and factories or someone just like you making new designs in her home shop? It is kind of like the joy of touring the farm and showing him that apples come from trees not plastic bags.

    Please don’t get me wrong, as I have mixed sources of clothing in my closet too. It is just that we need to educate…why not start over with the little ones because Seth Godin is right: “Small is the new big.” and your son provided us with a big moment here. Thanks!

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