Toddler Fashion: Cute or Crass?

What's with the sudden obsession with dressing kids to the nines?

Project Runway starts again tonight, and I'm excited. As a kid I wanted to be a fashion designer, and even after 11 (somewhat uneven) seasons I love seeing the creativity the contestants whip up in seemingly no time at all. (And, of course, I'm not alone in my abiding love for Tim Gunn, whose role is increased to runway presence this season.)

My kids and I watch cooking reality shows (Chopped, Master Chef) together all the time, but despite my best efforts they remain uninterested in PR. "Mom, we're boys, we don't care about fashion."

True and not true. They're perfectly happy in baggy gym shorts and basic T's, but when it comes to accessories, they are quite picky. Which is why I spend more money on fedora hats, Nike Elite socks, LeBron X sneakers and skater-boy watches than I do on the clothes that go on their bodies. My younger son is also shaping his hair with gel every morning.

I'm good with these nascent steps toward style because they're coming directly from my kids, who at 11 and 13 are developing their sense of who they are. It's the source of a piece we're working on for our August issue, called "Good Kids. Bad Outfits." And it has me wondering about the growing trend of little fashion plates now popping up all over social media.

The junior fashionista craze began, of course, with Suri Cruise (now 7, below, looking like Kate Middleton's Mini-Me) and other celebrity offspring turning up in paparazzi shots red-carpet ready. Mason Kardashian And the Royal Baby, due any day now, will no doubt take things to a new level.

For little boys, following in the footsteps of Mason Kardashian, the ne plus ultra of fashion is 5-year-old Alonso Mateo. Known for his model-cool air of confidence and “selfie” photos, he's gotten the attention of more than 29,000 Instagram followers. His mother, freelance stylist Luisa Fernanda Espinosa, posts pictures of her son dressed in impeccably tailored pants, Dior and Gucci button-downs, and even little Ray Bans.  Ugo Mozie, celebrity stylist who has worked with Chris Brown and Beyoncé tweeted about the tiny fashion icon last year. The Cut even did a feature on Alonso in June.

Alonso is not alone. Rather than whipping out crumbled pictures stuck in their wallets, parents are taking to social media to show the world exactly what their kids are wearing.

So is toddler fashion cute or crass? And whose style does it really show – your child's or your own. It's not cheap to keep youngsters awash in designer duds. What happens when high-end togs get torn or dirty? And any parent who's had to wrangle a toddler into a tie or party dress knows that good clothes are not always comfortable to wear.

Critics argue that children are too young to care about what they are wearing and that parents are forcing them to do something they do not want to do. The Pinterest board My Imaginary Well Dressed Toddler Daughter pokes fun at toddler high fashion, posting pictures of young "Quinoa" modeling the latest looks, accompanied by pointedly sardonic captions.

In response, moms to these wannabe fashion icons are quick to defend their actions. “I’ll say, that’s a summer tee and we’re in winter,” Espinosa told The Cut, “I’ll help him coordinate outfits so that they make sense, but mostly it's him.”

So, toddler fashion: Cute or crass? Weigh in below in the comments.

Categories: MK Memo