Fashionable separates the latest trend for kids' market

April 29, 1992|By Rod Stafford Hagwood | Rod Stafford Hagwood,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Kids these days are image-conscious. Maybe it's from watching MTV. Maybe it's because their parents are fashion-conscious. Whatever the reason, frilly, appliqued dresses and suits with short pants just don't cut it with them. Nowadays, young ones want miniskirts, chambray shorts, denim jackets and chinos.

They want separates.

And it's up to you, Mom and Dad, to give them what they want.

Think about it: They're too young to fend for themselves in the department store, their sense of color is, well, underdeveloped, and a silhouette to them is a hand shadow.

You are not all alone, however, in the struggle to keep your children stylish. Retailers of kids' clothing are offering help. Following the lead of stores such as The Gap, major outlets such as Sears, Target and JCPenney and even smaller children's wear boutiques are pushing separates.

"I'd say separates are driving the market -- certainly little girls' sportswear sales," said Mary Jean Houde, media manager for Sears stores. "One can choose an item, look for something that will mix or match, then put together a wardrobe to accomplish the prevailing 'look.' It can be sporty, dressy, preppy or suitable for any occasion."

That wasn't always the way. About three or four seasons ago, children's wear was a total-look-from-head-to-toe biz. If little Johnny liked the dinosaur-print shirt, he had to have the dinosaur-print pants that went with it. Nothing else matched or even looked right. If Susie had her eye on that chartreuse-and-fuchsia romper, then the matching fuchsia-and-chartreuse T-shirt was a must-have. Other T-shirts just didn't complete "the look."

No more.

GapKids helped revolutionize children's clothing when its doors opened in 1987. The stores, strategically placed in malls next to Gap stores for grown-ups, offer jeans, jumpers, pocket T-shirts, hooded sweat shirts, crew-neck shirts and pants in coordinating colors and patterns. They can be put together for a contemporary, classic look. Soon babies will be able to dress like their parents and older siblings: babyGap stations are popping up in GapKids across the country.

Mix-and-match clothing is a big hit with parents because it endures. That's good news because little clothing often costs big bucks.

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