Let youngsters have a say in their wardrobes

DRESS FOR EXCELLENCE

April 08, 1992|By Lois Fenton

Q: As I look back at photographs of myself as a child, I see some pictures with me in outfits that I'm embarrassed to let anyone else see (Little Lord Fauntleroy suits). My parents had good clothing taste, and I think I do, but I'm worried that 20 years from now my sons might think the same thing. Where should I look to know what's fashionable for kids' clothes (that don't cost more than mine)?

A: Just as you would do with adult clothes, you should look at magazines and at other kids for clues about what you want them to wear. Some people worry that their children will feel restricted by rules that might inhibit their creativity. When my sons were small, they were allowed to choose their own clothes for school and play (not for dress-up!) so long as they adhered to my one rule: No stripes with stripes. Today, even that one restriction might be relaxed.

It is possible to find clothes that are fashionable and would be considered acceptable to both parent and child at such stores as The Limited, Benetton, and Gap Kids that might not break the family's piggy bank.

Take the kids with you; let them pick out their outfits. They have their own ideas. These companies are brilliant marketing agents. They take into consideration that kids are kids; they can be funky, spunky or more conservative. Happily, the day of the name designers' influence has faded or at least is on the wane -- with the exception of sneakers.

With the advent of sweat suits, which come in all price ranges, you can mix and match an unbelievable variety of inventive solids, stripes, and prints.

Q. I've noticed the term "color-block" used for women's clothes that look like Mondrian paintings with big colored squares separated by black lines. Is this a new style and will I see it in men's clothes, perhaps in ties?

A: Anything can happen in ties; it's hard to say. Color-blocking is a new style that is very much in vogue these days for women. In the crossover to men's clothes, it's used for sweaters and sport shirts as a weekend look. It is not for business.

Under the umbrella term "color-blocking" are several variations, some of which only vaguely resemble the original concept of Piet Mondrian (a 20th century Dutch painter who used geometric shapes in primary colors). The first wave of interpretations included the authentic black lines between the squares, but most versions now resemble a patchwork of solid colors -- sort of like using different-colored scraps of fabric.

As if on cue, the style has exploded on the women's fashion scene. What makes it color-blocking is not that the colors come in squares or blocks, but that the colors may not coordinate with anything else. In fact, they often clash.

Color-blocking for men pops up primarily for the haber--ery-wise young (from kids to baby-boomer dads). Sweaters may have a body in one color, the collar in a second shade, and cuffs in yet a third, with some changes occurring right along a sleeve seam.

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