Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Playing to the adult agenda

Hang on a minute. I must hoik up my purple wrinkled stockings, adjust my old lady girdle smelling of wee, and pull on my battered felt hat (but only if it's the one where the moths breed), before I publicly decry the horror that is the Global Kids Fashion Show.

It is a thoroughly bad idea. A catwalk for kids is not made good by tacking on a charitable arm and a few august institutions. It looks like they are put there to disguise the tawdry intentions of the rest and give the whole show a gloss of sanctimonious worthiness. If you want to give to charity, then do it. Don't dirty the act. If you want to support youth projects, do so. Don't besmirch the cause.

But a catwalk fashion show backed by big bucks? If anything's playing to an adult agenda, it's this. I can't think what benefits can be brought to the cultural consciousness of your average seven year old by a fashion catwalk show.

Seriously, help me out here, because I can see only the end-of-financial-year balance sheets of luxury brands, the permanent consumption required by the international rag trade, satisfaction for label-obsessed mamas, a chance to foist on kids associated and unnecessary cosmetic products, more provocative advertising opportunities in an industry that already sexualises children, and a hook for the upcoming teenage market. They can now safely arrive at young adulthood with brand recognition, consumer loyalties, and 'facebook fashion likes' conveniently in place. Your identity, neatly defined by your consumer preferences: Let's start them young!

My general objection to the whole show starts from my simple observation. Children are more than capable of dressing themselves so you put your fingers over your eyes and demand they walk ten paces ahead of you. I don't need Jean Paul Gaultier dressing up the junior Grit like a sailor-hooker-renaissance-tart-inspired by Mondrian, thank you very much. Squirrel can do that for herself in clothing three sizes too small and with holes in the backside. Why is she now to suffer an additional layer of social judgement because the holes, well, they obviously aren't Tom Ford's?

Then there is the whole dressing up business of adults foisting their design ideas to their own kids. This, quite frankly, is creepy. Yes, I admit to forcing Squirrel into what I would call 'appropriate clothing' for the funeral and the Christmas carol service, but beyond that, no thanks. I'm not feeling any need to lay out clothing for her, or construct her choices in particular colour-coordinating ways, simply so I can feel good when I clap eyes on her wobbling down the stairs in a morning.

And the muck. If I want to see kids turned out, it is to dig holes in the soil, clamber up the quarry face, play hide and seek with mama in the ditch, go plonging in puddles, then work out the best climbing tree in the district. I want kid labels which allow the models to bring their own mud, sandblasting, bloodied knees, and rips down the left leg.

With all the stupidity of spending serious money on a kid's wardrobe! Frankly, I want not to do that. I would rather chuck a load of cash in the direction of your local charity bookshop. And if I've been brain-addled enough to have paid the equivalent of a weekly wage on Squirrel's trousers, I'm going to feel as if that's an investment I need to protect. At least for the next three weeks or until she grows out of it. What a pointless investment to make.

But there's another hidden dynamic. It's the maintenance. High class clothes need high class maintenance. They need ironing, folding, de-creasing, hanging, dry cleaning, sequin ajusting, de-wrinkling, laying flat, smoothing, petting, stroking. There must be this whole domestic fetishing thing for the tag hag. Oh dear. I am not the target market for kid's fashion, am I? I last ironed something in 2007. Clothing I possess which demands ceremony is on a hiding to nothing. And shall I confess I even get a particular thrill in treating things badly? Scrumple up that crepe MaxMara dress, then shove it in the wardrobe where it can be violated by the charity scum TopShop teeshirt?

Worst of all, absolutely worst and unforgivable - wrapped up in this pseudo language of encouraging kids to find their own style - is the crime that catwalk kid fashion commits.

We are removing that lovely thing in childhood - a child's lack of self awareness; their ability to project themselves without mediating themselves, without needing to see themselves always as others see them, without needing to be aware of what they wear, which in turn requires them to exert conscious control over how they walk, sit, move, and stand. Ask any woman. Self-conscious, body-conscious fashion clothing does exactly this: it inhibits, restrains, places requirements of movement upon the wearer and tells the body how to behave.

Look at what we do. We gave up jailing kids, then slapping them to discipline and punish to make them conform to an adult world view.  Now we're finding new ways to the same end. It's just that this trend comes with the label Gaultier Junior.


emma said...

Amen sistah. Nodding along to every sentence.

Deb said...


I refuse to buy new clothes for my kids. Refuse. I just cannot add freaking out because they got a spot on their brand new shirt to the list of things I already freak out about. And if you have the sort of kids who don't ever get spots on their clothes, well, I pity them.

It's a lot easier not to care when everything only costs a dollar or two. Besides, I can find clothes that are MUCH MUCH nicer at the thrift shop for my daughter, brand name, nearly brand new clothes with no spots and that I would never spend perfectly good book money on. Taking advantage of some other mother's foolishness, that's what I'm talking about.