Designer Clothes Help Parents Turn Their Toddlers Into Real-Life American Girl Dolls

As our economy slowly emerges from its torpor, affluent citizens are starting to become less abashed about spending exorbitant sums of money on anything from diamond-studded rollerblades, to cows fed with gold-plated blades of grass, to designer outfits for their toddlers. Marquee fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta and Gucci are turning their attention to the affluent toddler demographic, which is really just a way of saying that designers are targeting parents who want to dress their children up like little American Girl dolls and send them out into the world, exclaiming, "It's my very own miniature status symbol!"

According to CBS News, sales for luxury children's clothes still make up only a fraction (about 3 percent) of the $34 billion fashion industry, though that fraction is growing as economic conditions improve and the more affluent come out of their caves, sniffing around for places to spend lots of money. The research firm NPD Group reports that children's wear sales rose a total of 4 percent between May 2011 and May 2012, with the upscale children's clothing component rising nearly 7 percent. All of this, meanwhile, is happening amidst a 3 percent rise in the overall clothing market.

Designers are mostly targeting households with a total income of $350,000 or higher, appealing to parents who want their young children, in lieu of practicing math, perhaps, to sharpen their fashion sense because a kid falls behind real fast in the asshole arms race if he or she doesn't know at least twenty major designers by puberty. New York-based fashion consultant Robert Burke explains the trend in terms of the "mini-me phenomenon," adding that, for parents splurging on expensive clothes for themselves, "It [buying something for their kids] feels good. It's like one for me and one for you."

That kind of consumer palliative, however, can get to be pretty expensive, with boys shirts from Dolce & Gabbana running in the $190 range, and girls dresses starting at about $500. Stifle your gasps — I mean, you don't want your kid to look like some kind of poor, do you? Shuffling around the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a, gulp, J. Crew ensemble, smelling vaguely of syrup. And not maple syrup either, but corn syrup, like that Log Cabin of lies. Disgusting.

Anyway, parents spending serious coin on their kids' wardrobes (one New York mother planned on spending in excess of $10,000 on her 3-year-old daughter's fall wardrobe), don't care if their kids grow out of clothes in like three days or if they're instilling some nefarious streak of superficiality that will blossom (fester) in their kids until they're 22 and decide to rebel by doing Americorps for like, a month — these parents just want their kids to look good and receive positive reinforcement about looking good. "I really believe," says one fashion-forward mother about her 3-year-old's self-esteem, "when she dresses like this, she feels better about herself." That's probably true, considering that every time the 3-year-old girl gets stuffed into a Burberry jacket, her mother beams at her and says something she doesn't even realize is screwing with her daughter's value system, something like, "Mommy loves you when you dress pretty." Sad face.

Rich toddlers draw fashion designers' eyes [CBS News]