Kidding Aroound Variety will spring into children's clothes

March 28, 1991|By Catherine Cook | Catherine Cook,Sun Fashion Editor

One minute they're wrapped up in the romantic adventures of Snow White. The next minute they've flicked the channel and started rapping to the music of Vanilla Ice.

With such diverse influences, it's no surprise that the kids of today's television generation have such wide-ranging taste in clothes.

The same little girl who dons a sweet floral print one day might choose slick Lycra bike shorts and a psychedelic print shirt the next. The prep school boy by day becomes a cool dude at night in neon T-shirt and baggy print pants.

Clothing manufacturers are responding this spring with collections that take in all possible trends.

"There's a little something out there for everyone -- from the conservative to the wild and funky," says Kathryn DeVincentis, owner of the Pied Piper children's store in Roland Park.

In dresses alone, she sees at least four major directions: flowers, nautical, country and Pucci, in silhouettes ranging from '60s baby doll and trapeze shapes to the traditional dropped basque waists.

At the Benetton children's stores, 012, you'll see not only lady-like florals and preppy-looking classics with a European twist, but also hip mod-squad interpretations of the '60s and rustic denims and chambrays.

The main trends for spring:

Flower power

Floral motifs are so prevalent that they're even turning up in boys wear, mostly in Hawaiian or stylized '60s daisy florals, and often just as the trim on a denim or chambray shirt.

For little girls the blooms range from the sweet to the abstract. In traditional dress styles, the tiny floral print is losing ground to upholstery-type florals.

"The prints are bolder than they've been before, in chintz prints like cabbage roses, and the colors more interesting -- instead of a traditional light green or blue, it's a mossy green and robin's egg blue," says Holly Todd, owner of Peas and Carrots in Easton.

Floral prints are also turning up in less traditional silhouettes, such as the pants style that JC Penney refers to as "Party Pants" and Peas and Carrots call "Long-alls." These are a roomy style imported from Europe -- dressy one-pice rompers worn by toddlers to teen-agers and a new option for Easter Sunday best.

All mixed up

The many printed fabrics seen returning to the adult market, after a decade devoted to solid fabrics, also can be found in children's wear. And the same whimsical mixing of patterns seen on the runways is on the playgrounds.

At Benetton, a variety of tiny floral prints is pieced together for apatchwork effect in spring dresses. A boy's blue chambray shirt gets one pocket and cuffs in a floral print, and one pocket in a stripe.

The most noticeable print explosion is in boys' pants. The favorites are oversized knit pants in the wildest, most colorful prints possible.

Feel the Burn

Children, who have no cause to worry about sagging middles and thighs, are nonetheless embracing the spandex and Lycra fashions of the exercise world as enthusiastically as adults.

You can find bike shorts and nylon warm-up suits in sizes as small as infant at Body & Sole Kids. Oversized T-shirts and leggings are the favorite uniform of many young shoppers here.

Like the adults, many of the girls like to add long jackets over their leggings or bike shorts, sometimes substituting a classic walking short for more conservative moments.

Chiffon is one of the newest variations for spring, says owner Renee Bernstein. "There might be sheer sleeves on a suit, or sometimes a sheer skirt is attached to the bike pants. It could be striped pants with a purple and red floral chiffon skirt on top.

"We have baby doll tops in chiffon down to toddler size. They're often worn with a camisole under and leggings to give the look of a unitard under."

While girls favor the Lycra tight bottoms, Ms. Bernstein says boys' tastes are divided between the sleek bike shorts and the loose comfortable knit shorts.

Color play

Bold use of colors has become increasingly popular in wardrobes of all ages, but it's in the boys market that the change is most noticeable this season.

"Boys are finally accepting color this season in a way they didn't before," says Roz Goolst, owner of the Kid Connection. "It's becoming just as important for boys as it is for girls. They like the look of a boxy T-shirt with sleeves rolled up and the cuffs a contrasting color. It's a boxy shirt, not the loose fitting sloppy shirt hanging low that they used to wear so much."

While fuchsias, limes and orange are now commonplace among toddlers and older kids, many modern mothers like the look of black for their infants, usually in a print such as a black-and-white stripe or floral.

"They like a very sophisticated look today," says Ms. Goolst. "They don't want their kids to look cute and babyish." To that end, she stocks anoraks and capris in sizes as small as a toddler size 2.

Country chic

Just as Chanel and Donna Karan are putting a high fashion spin on that old favorite, denim, the young set are giving denim a new lease on life by embracing loose-cut jeans and sloppy denim overalls.

"Oversized bottoms are very important this spring," says Christel Henke, spokeswoman for the OshKosh B'Gosh company. The newest denim items for girls, she says, are trimmed in floral prints.

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