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December 26, 2009

Mini Fashion Icons: Have We Lost Our Minds?

Here's my latest article for Models and Moguls. I chose not to show many photos of the kids as they aren't old enough to consent and I find it creepy that there are so many available to browse in the first place. I don't think fashion is an excuse to ogle other people's children.

Suri Suri Cruise is one of the most photographed celebrities at the moment and is considered a fashion icon. She is three years old. The toddler daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes even boasts a signature style – she loves to wear kitten heels, which have become a point of controversy considering a child who is barely out of diapers should probably not have to worry about getting a podiatrist on Mommy’s speed dial. Holmes defends her decision to allow her daughter to wear the shoes, telling US Weekly, "They are actually ballroom dancing shoes for kids. I found them and she loves them." Alright, then. If it’s for ballroom dancing the heels make perfect sense. How else would she execute a respectable progressive sidestep while performing the tango?

Baby Cruise is reported to have a designer wardrobe worth $3 million, although, while her fancy clobber is surely worth its weight in gold binkies, one might suspect that figure has been slightly exaggerated. And boy, do we hope so. Almost exclusively appearing in adorable dresses in her relentlessly documented outings - why her parents allow this is a bit of a mind bender, though I suspect in father Tom’s eyes it’s the greatest distraction/PR tactic a volatile celebrity desperately clinging to relevance could dream of - Suri style has become a fascination for mothers around the world who want their daughters to create the same kind of frenzied raucous when they walk down the street picking their noses. So don’t be surprised if when your neighbourhood daycare lets out you're presented with a parade of slightly elevated kiddy fashionistas prancing to their Land Rovers. Logical thinking would tell us, however, that if you’re small enough to need a car seat, you’re not old enough to hip-wiggle when you walk.

And there are lists. Because we, the public, loves lists. Who’s the “most”, the “best”, who’s on top, who didn’t make it on. And celeb children under the age of eight are no exception. In fact, they are hot these days. So much so that they are being ranked according to who has the better style, by adults who should have better things to do. And so far, Suri is the undisputed princess of the fashionable tots and that’s how her parents seem to like it. There are also blogs galore dedicated to celeb baby bumps and kids. Come on guys, get a life. It's not cute, it's creepy. And so are you.

Once up, the only place to go is down, and the angel-faced brunette has competition. It seems Jessica Alba, who is notorious for Medusa-facing the paparazzi’s cameras when she is snapped getting a coffee or walking to her car, has just recently curbed the venom-spewing in favour of playing with her daughter in full view of the lenses. Two year-old Honor (look out Suri, she’s got the youth advantage) is getting double-page spreads in glossy weeklies detailing where the pieces in her outfit are from. But are we fascinated? Someone wants us to be.

Then we have Shiloh Pitt-Jolie. Many say the three year-old is the most generously DNA-endowed celebrity child we’ve seen yet. But mom takes the tomboy approach and kits out her girls mostly in loose pants in dark colours, usually black. Aside from matching white leather Valentino handbags – one for mom, one for older adopted daughter Zahara, as papped two years ago – Jolie hasn’t given the public what it wants as far as her children are concerned – gorgeous faces matched by equally gorgeous clothes and plenty of photo ops. And therefore Shiloh barely makes the Most Stylish Child lists but has to be there because, well, she’s Shiloh Pitt-Jolie.

Victoria_david_beckham_venice_film_festival_7 Let’s not forget the boys. The Beckham clan – Cruz, Brooklyn and Romeo – are dressed by their mother Victoria Beckham, now a successful fashion designer, who wears tight pencil skirts and five inch stilettos for a transatlantic flight and loves for you to know it. Naturally she is concerned with showing the same commitment in how her boys are presented – have you seen some of the getups she’s convinced husband David to wear?  Imagine if Posh had even one girl? One could easily predict the fierce rivalry that would emerge with her friends, the Cruises. Tom and Victoria battling it out like two divas for who’s precious angel gets the most column inches. Now that I’d love to see, but it’s children we’re talking about here – and I don’t mean the parents.

And then we have Kingston Rossdale, another lucky kid in the gorgeous parents club. Gwen Stefani is one of the most stylish celebrities, period. And little Kingston with his big brown eyes and mischievous smile looks just like his dad, Bush front man Gavin (though what he’s up to these days beyond cheering on Roger Federer at Grand Slam events is a mystery to me). His wardrobe, like the Beckham boys’, is impeccable yet still suggests he’s not afraid to get into things as only a boy would. It seems Gwen calmed down with the over-the-top designer flaunting she was known for when Kingston was an infant –she was regularly seen toting him around in a Gucci logo-print Baby Bjorn-like carrier. I’d feel better knowing Daddy took issue with that; there was just something not quite right about a baby who poops his pants while clad in Italian designer accessories.

So what’s this all about? Surely parents with the means and the profile are going to want their enchanted offspring to represent in a way that’s befitting of their pedigree. And any stylish parent, including us civilians, knows that it’s fun to dress your kid up all smart and indulge in the fabulous fashion available for tots these days, both bank-breaking and cheap. But the regular parading of them in front of the paparazzi’s cameras – the paps go where they are wanted, more so than most realize – and the arranging of covers and features in the weekly glossies, reflects more on the attention mongering and ego-feeding tendencies of these parents  than their taste in ruffle dresses and mini handbags. If that assertion seems harsh, take Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. The very few photos of their son Jack and daughter Lily Rose – who are, as you can imagine, sublimely gorgeous with the cheekbones of their parents, the most finely chiselled couple around – are privacy-invading ambush snaps. Depp and Paradis are extremely careful in guarding access to their children and have never offered up a photo op.

Imagine, gorgeous celeb kids who are allowed to be kids, with parents who not only resist the urge to flaunt them but are fiercely opposed to the idea. Novel concept, eh?


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That photo of Suri is so creepy. Having worked with childrens shoes for a significant period of time I can't even begin to tell you the damage she is doing to her feet.


re: suri "why her parents allow this is a bit of a mind bender"
one of the reasons (if not the only reason) is because katie holmes has a high-end baby clothing line called holmes & yang. suri has to be on top of the baby fashion food-chain if mommy wants to be a success.

Besides the whole "crippled by the time she's 12" issue with Suri Cruise, my problem with this sort of exposure is that the kids have no lives of their own. It is if they were created to become 'brand extensions' of their parents and their 'success' as a child becomes connected with their 'success' as someone who can command the attention of the media. Not loved simply because they exist; not loved simply for being a child. As a matter of fact, they cease being children at all - as can be seen by what has happened to Suri Cruise. What ever happened to parents saying to their kids, "No, you can't dress like that - that is for adults." "No, your feet need flat shoes now because you are still growing." and my old favorite, "No, because I said so." I don't care if they are 'ball room dancing shoes' - even kids who take lessons and work very hard at it do not wear those shoes 24/7 - they change into those shoes when they get to the studio or competition area. But for these folks, gaining the attention of the media is Job One. Let's look at the children who became stars in their own right on tv or film - how many of them became sensible, normal adults? these kids do not have a chance.t

Thanks for the great comments.

Kelsi - the fact that the shoes are even made in the first place is depressing, but more so is the fact that there is even a market. If someone gave me the shoes for my 4 year-old, I couldn't bear the shame of having her wear them in public - I'd feel like a terrible mum - and fear not only for the long-term effects on her feet and her growth but the short-term - she could fall and break her leg!

Heather - I didn't realize her line included children's clothing. Interesting, because the photos I come across - by chance - never mention that she's wearing anything from the line. Nor is the line itself mentioned very often, I'd completely forgotten about it since the launch, actually! But it's always about self-promotion, whatever that endeavor may be, isn't it? Katie Holmes baffles me as a woman and a mother and I can't help but think that this is not how she would want it if she wasn't married to Tom Cruise and immersed in Scientology.

Toby - I agree. There's no chance. If they do become healthy and happy adults, I believe it will be after a lot of emotional hardships and a severing from the life they've been forced into, and a lot of hard work. But for that to be possible you need some kind of healthy foundation, and I can't see how one is being created for her. You can see in the photos that she is aware of the camera and comfortable with it. How is that anywhere near normal? And what happens when one day the cameras aren't there and no one cares about her anymore? It's so awful to watch a child's life be destroyed and not be able to do anything about it.

Denise ♥

And the point is...? Rich people shouldn't dress their kids fashionable because...? The only people I hate more than rich parents dressing their kids up like fashion icons are rich snotty parents (read the Jolie-Pitts, for example) who dress their kids like cr@p despite being able to afford more just to "play poor".
It's crystal clear that Suri has a mind of her own, and is amazingly brilliant and aware for her age. And no, I'm no scientologist, as a matter of fact I can't stand both Katie and Tom. But Suri rocks.

i don't really care if Suri wears little kitten heels. I'm sure she kicks them off as we do when we get home. How is it any different than all the little girls wearing Disney princess heels? Suri wants to look like Mommy and I think that's adorable. I only have a boy and he wants to wear comfy pants and shirts with robots and monsters. So what? I think he'd look cute in crewcuts, but even at 3.5 he doesn't want to wear that stuff. so if people think the Jolie_Pitt kids are dressed in cr@p, I only need to recall the Olsen twins and the fashion icons they have become. kids go through clothes too fast to worry about it.

R - I don't think I have to reiterate my point. It's patently obvious what I'm saying, if you're willing to see it. However, I would like to say once again that a three year-old girl having fans is creepy. But you're right, the Pitts should have their heads examined for dressing their children differently than what you would like to see. How dare they.

A - This isn't about fashion!

The thing that I think is sickest about the Suri photo above?

It's raining. She's soaked. (And cold? as evidenced by how she's holding the Elmo - or maybe she's guarding it from the paps?) And she's wearing thin leggings, a soaked duffle-down coat, NO SOCKS, and OPEN-TOED heels. Isn't this outfit missing some parental common-sense?

If I had a little girl (I have a boy) - ONE SECOND I would say "take those ridiculous shoes off - it's freezing cold - and you're going to get athlete's foot prancing around in them." If it's cold enough to wear a thick coat on top - it's cold enough to wear thick socks and rainboots. When she's 18 she can make decisions to show off skin and get soaked all she wants. A 3-yr old wearing cute dresses and kitten heels at a party? Playing in Mommy's closet? For a special occasion? For - say - ballroom dancing? Um, sure. Once in awhile. But every time she steps out the door? No. Parental common sense really needs to trump all in this case - and choose what is best for her (physically AND socially [perhaps by not making her into an icon just yet?]).

Very well-written and thought-provoking article!:-)


Ha ha...I'm just in the midst of writing my first ever post giving the thumb's up to a kid's fashion.

That's funny, Wendy! Because whenever I write one of my more 'serious' posts I think of you and anticipate the flipside of my reaction! You're the yin to my yang!

Great article. I had no idea kids as style icons were becoming so popular. I'm appalled by this as well and don't even have kids (yet). It's one thing dressing your kid up in cute clothes and another to dress it up for the paparazzi. It's no secret that up to a certain age, dressing your kid is somewhat egocentric... you want your child to look adorable and their outfits are a reflection of you as a mother. In these cases it's less about marketing your kids though. This reminds me of the whole 'beauty pageant for kids' thing, which seems more in the interest of the parent.

Some of these comments are surprising me. Honestly Rosanna, what's up with the Jolie-Pitt bashing? It makes more sense to dress your kids like cr@p if they're going to be playing in the dirt. Money isn't the issue. I see rich babies in Paris dressed in H&M all the time, while their mothers are toting around Birkins. It's not a money issue, it's about common sense. I hate Crocs, but I'm certain it's what I'll get my kids as opposed to Mini Marc Jacobs shoes. I'm guessing Jolie-Pitt would rather invest their money in their children's welfare and education rather than something as superficial as clothing. And for Alexandra who commented on the kitten heels... if I'm not mistaken it's Katie who bought them for her daughter. It's not like Suri pointed them out and screamed until she finally got them.

P.S. Had to laugh about your Gavin Rossdale comment. I recently saw him in an episode of Criminal Minds, so I'm guessing he's now resorted to picking up bit parts in TV series ;-)

Hope you had a lovely Christmas!

As a fashion lover, but mother first I too find this very disturbing. Children with fans, wearing heels, style icons? Weird...great article Denise.

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