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Telegraph / Life - Entertain

School’s out, but is your child safe to dress themselves?

This week Vogue posted a story online entitled Have We Reached Peak Crop Top?
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This week Vogue posted a story online entitled Have We Reached Peak Crop Top? Well, I’m not sure how the rest of the nation feels but we certainly have in my house. Since my daughter broke up for the summer holidays and has been released from the not very heavy constraints of her striped blue cotton summer uniform dress, all she has wanted to wear is a luminous pink and black Lycra cropped vest my mother bought for her earlier this year (thanks, mum) and the patterned Gap sportswear leggings she got for Christmas.  

I wish this was inspired by the athletics World Championships because if I thought she was channelling the work ethic or the physical condition of a Katarina Johnson-Thompson or Dina Asher-Smith, I’d be thrilled. But there doesn’t appear to be much athleticism occurring while she’s clad in this gear. It’s more about posturing about in front of the mirror and “looking cool”.

 Ombre crop top, £12, River Island; Ombre leggings, £16, River Island

But as ath-leisure is the way things have gone in the adult way of getting dressed of late, it should be no surprise that kids are at it too. Marks and Spencer report that since it launched a “girls’ fashion sports range” in Spring 2016 it has become something of a runaway success. As head of childrenswear Tara Ryan tells it, the demand is coming straight from the kids themselves. “Absolutely it’s from them because it’s both cool and comfortable. They love wearing jersey as it’s super-comfortable and they can move around easily.” Which is lovely, of course but my skinny 8-year-old in crop top just isn’t a look that’s working for me.

Until now I’ve got off lightly. I know some parents have a hard time with offspring who refuse to wear jumpers or will absolutely not negotiate with buttons; girls who’ll only wear pink or never wear pink, boys who refuse to get out of pyjamas or consider shirts. But as long as she’s “cosy” or “not itchy” my daughter’s not been too fussy and has allowed me to style her in the slightly old-fashioned way I wanted to dress as a kid.

Accessories from £12 La Coqueta; Clothing from £40, La Coqueta

Admittedly, I was weird. I wanted to dress like a character from The Secret Garden, The Water Babies, Anne of Green Gables anything by E Nesbit in pie-crust shirts, dark velvet pinafores, sticky-out white cotton underskirts. In a parallel life I was the wealthy orphan from a Victorian children’s noveI. I dreamt of taffeta and satin-covered buttons. Modern dressing was neither formal nor complicated enough in my opinion. I was a mother’s dream. And while I’m now reasonable enough to understand that bloomers and corsetry are not practical for the average 8-year-old, I do still harken to a storybook aesthetic. So do I put my most governessy foot down or let my daughter run wild in skin-tight Lycra?

As long as she’s “cosy” or “not itchy” my daughter’s not been too fussy and has allowed me to style her in the slightly old-fashioned way I wanted to dress as a kid.

Celia Munoz, the half-Spanish, half-French, founder of the kidswear label La Coqueta (worn by Princess Charlotte) and a mother of five children under 9, takes the traditional southern European stand of ‘the mother decides.’ “In continental Europe children have less of a say about what they want to wear,” she says. “When I opened my shop [in Hampstead, London] it was a surprise that here the children are the ones who choose what they want to wear. In Spain and France your mummy tells you. With my own children I let my kids choose what they want to wear - but they come to my shop!”

Her five children are always dressed in La Coqueta - except for on the family’s Fantastic Fun Fridays when for one night only they are allowed to wear t-shirts and leggings. Her husband likes the formal look, too. “When two of the girls wore tracksuits he made them go running with him,” she says. “So now they know that if they want to wear sportswear they have to go for a run!”

Printed leggings, £16, M&S; Printed crop top, £11, M&S

Eva Karayiannis, mother of three and the founder of Caramel, another stylish kids’ brand that is inspired by vintage clothes, has a more relaxed attitude. “I often think about who I’m designing for and those shapes and colours and prints I choose are definitely for the parents rather than the kids,” she admits. She has three children and her youngest, a boy who is almost 8, is refusing to wear anything but his Chelsea football kit. “I don’t care - it’s discovering their style, it’s part of their freedom and how they want to express themselves. Eight is when it starts, it’s this pre-teenage moment where kids are beginning to pay attention to their image. I’m fine with that but it’s why I sell fewer clothes for the 8-to-10-year-olds. They’ve started imposing their own will!”  

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