Molly Whitehead-Jones on 'twinning' with her toddler
“So what do you reckon?” I asked.
“It’s nice,” my mum replied, eying Elliot’s latest outfit. “Only… Don’t you think he looks a bit like Michael Portillo?”
Yeah, thanks mother. Obviously, I didn’t actually choose the pink trousers my son was wearing in homage to a train-loving ex-politician; I chose them because I know that pink’s one of the biggest colour trends this season. And I sure do like my kid to look trendy.
I reckon I probably spend more time and effort (if not quite as much money) on picking outfits for Elliot than I do on dressing myself. As we packed up for Majorca a few months ago, his carefully-curated holiday wardrobe took up more space in the suitcase than his Dad’s. I select endless retro-looking band t-shirts for him when, let’s face it, his musical references don’t yet stretch much beyond Wind the Bobbin Up. And I welcome a bit of rain because it means we can justifiably don our matching yellow macs.
It’s pretty apparent I’m not alone in wanting to foist my own fashion sense on my unsuspecting child. In a recent survey, 71% of the British parents quizzed admitted that they liked to ensure their kids clothes reflected the latest trends. Where once most were happy to universally dress their kids in basic, supermarket staples grabbed during the ‘big shop’, now more and more mums are instead trawling the internet for offbeat brands – or even browsing the racks at Selfridges (alright, moneybags…) – in search of stylish threads.
I definitely think parents are more concerned with how they dress their children these days
"I definitely think parents are more concerned with how they dress their children these days,” says fashion stylist Emma Carr. “After all, they are an extension of you, and how you dress them says something about your own personal style.”
“It feels like there’s a much stronger emotional connection to the way we dress our children now compared with a few years ago,” echoes Kate Heaton, Co-founder and Head of Buying at Our Kid. “Social media has massively influenced buying habits and there’s now a huge level of awareness surrounding certain brands thanks to the likes of Instagram. It’s created an incredible desire for kids’ fashion.”
One of the key crazes that’s shot up in popularity thanks to its Instagramability is ‘twinning’, where you and your kiddo wear matchy-matchy styles (or even the exact same outfit if you’re really committed).
“Twinning shows how sophisticated kids fashion has become,” continues Kate. “So many of our customers covet the statement pieces from our brands and ask if we do larger sizes. The savvy labels have tapped into this demand and we’re been lucky to work with the likes of Mere Soeur, The Bright Company and Scamp & Dude who offer gorgeous twinning opportunities.”
And, these days, girls are less likely to be ‘pretty in pink’ and more ‘marvellous in monochrome’ as there’s also been a significant surge in parents looking for unisex styles. But this particular development is symptomatic of far more than changing fashions; it reflects the increased resistance to traditional gender barriers we’re seeing within society as a whole. In fact, there’s even a campaign called Let Clothes Be Clothes “calling on retailers in the UK to support choice and end the use of gender stereotypes in the design and marketing of children's clothes”. It seems like even high street stores are cottoning on to this sea change, with shops like John Lewis introducing ‘unisex’ sections.
Twinning shows how sophisticated kids fashion has become
“I think we’re becoming less bothered with gender and more interested in expressing our kids’ own personalities and buying into great style,” says Kate. “We find that when our customers are buying clothing as a gift they steer clear of stereotypical gender colours. When I had my son five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of dressing him in black but that’s totally changed now.”
There’s also a distinct secondary benefit to this particular trend...
“Buying unisex styles is a convenient way to recycle and reuse clothes from one little one to another, extending the lifespan of that garment,” points out Lucy Estherby, Owner of Acorn & Pip. “More value is starting to be placed on selecting items that are unisex that withstand the test of time.”
But this isn’t the only kids’ fashion trend that’s not just about looking good, and rather about combining style and sustainability; ‘Fast fashion’ is falling out of favour as parents look to invest in items that’ll last longer than one season.
And in their search for clothes that combine longevity with uniqueness, they’re also increasingly turning to vintage finds.
“A few years ago there were only a select few shops around that sold kids vintage clothing,” says Chloe Moor, owner of E&E Kids Vintage, “but since we started E&E we’ve seen a number of similar shops popping up. I think more parents are looking for that something a bit different or special which is why they turn to vintage styles Buying vintage is also good for the environment and reduces our carbon footprint; breathing new life into an old item is so satisfying and also lets us think back to our own childhoods.”
“There had been an incredible shift towards fast, disposable fashion within the recent past,” adds Lucy. “But trying to keep pace with this throwaway culture increased waste and pollution. Now, there’s a new type of consumer who sees each item as an investment. My customers know that the outfits that they are buying are made responsibly and designed to last.”
So it seems we’re definitely prepared to spend a bit more on clothing our kids than previous generations. But as long as we don’t become precious about muddy puddles and lost buttons in an effort to keep our investments looking pristine – as long as comfort and practicality remain top of the list most (if not quite all) of the time and you’re not forcing them to wear anything they hate – what’s wrong with wanting to dress your little ‘un beautifully?
So my toddler will continue to be the one whose outfit’s as bright as the soft play ball pit, rocking a Hawaiian shirt at the family barbecue during summer and cosying up in a Mod-style parka come winter (any passing resemblance to former MPs remains purely coincidental).
Follow @moll_jones on Twitter