Kids' styles attracting smaller women, too

As children's clothes mature, petites like their fit -- and look

May 30, 2004|By Jenee Osterheldt | Jenee Osterheldt,KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

Children's fashion is growing up. It's getting a lot more stylish with young designers like Hilary Duff, the Olsen twins and hip-hop brands like Roc-A-Wear and Baby Phat.

Petite women and teenagers have noticed and are wearing them, too.

The gap between what kids are wearing and what moms are wearing is getting smaller, says Gina Kelly, fashion director at Seventeen magazine.

When you look at the newer styles, like a miniskirt paired with a blazer, it mixes up the old and the young, and it looks really good, she says.

Stores like the Gap, Old Navy, Limited and Target carry the same cargo pants, skirts, sassy T's and princess-cut jackets in the kids section that they also have in their adult sections.

Although there isn't a huge difference in the styles, there is quite a difference in prices, making it easier and more appealing for grown-ups to buy their clothes in the kids section.

"I see smaller women peeking in and shopping in the children's section at the Gap and other stores," Kelly says. "It's not a big difference in the styles, especially at stores like the Gap, where the women's section doesn't carry super-sexy cuts. You can see a lot of the stuff from the Gap like stripes, khakis and jeans at Gap Kids. And if you can save a few bucks and it can still fit, why not? No one will know the difference."

In addition to saving money, shopping in the kids section can be a matter of size selection.

When you talk about mass brands, there's a certain amount of vanity sizing, Kelly says.

So a size 2 might really be a size 4, and a 0 may fit a size 2. That "vanity sizing" pushes the smallest women out of the adult section and into the kids section.

Lara Thomas remembers looking for a button-up shirt, but they were always too big in the adult sizes. At Gap Kids, she found the perfect fit.

"I've always been on the small side," says Thomas, a high school senior from Overland Park, Kan., who wears between a size 0 and size 2, depending on the store. In kids, she wears a 12 or 14.

"I never really quit shopping in the kids section. I always look in the kids section to find something. It doesn't matter to me if it is a kid's shirt, as long as it fits well and looks good."

And the lower price is the icing on the cake.

"I think it's a well-kept secret among the people who shop in the kids section, because it is so much cheaper. I think people are starting to notice that the prices are more accommodating and the styles don't have to be sewn with bows, pinks and all the frills you associate with kids clothing."

Limited Too, a 'tween fashion chain, is popular with the 18-and-over crowd because the clothes are consistent with what's current in women's fashion.

In addition to clothes, the stores carry shoes, purses and swimwear.

"You'll see women shopping in the store, and clearly they are looking for sizes closer to their own than that of their daughters," says Robert Atkinson, spokesman for Limited Too and Too Inc.

A few kids' lines with grown-up style:

Gap Kids

Old Navy

Limited Too


Target, Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx

Foot Locker, Foot Action, Champs and most sneaker stores

Most department stores


When it comes to converting women's shoe sizes to boy sneakers sizes, usually go 1 1/2 to two sizes down. For example, a women's 8 could be a boys 6 or 6 1/2 depending on how narrow the cut is.

In many cases, if you wear a small or extra small in women's shirts, you could wear a 12-14 (medium / large) in kids. If you wear a women's medium, you might wear a 14 or 16 (large / extra large).

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