Meet 7-year-old Aubrey Conlon of Skokie, Illinois. She's a little kid who likes clothes. Or, as the New York Times would have it, she is living evidence that some children have an innate grasp of fashion and its workings. A deeper, purer love of clothes than any mere adult. Perhaps even the possessor of "a style gene." (That was first theorized by Pinker, right?)

"I like dresses," she said while combing through the racks at The Children's Place on a recent Saturday, "but I don't want the long ones. I like flowers. They look feminine, and I like clothes that are different designs, like a dress that's half one design and half another."

As if to stress her point, she darted into a fitting room with an exuberantly colorful mixed-floral print jumper, then stepped out briefly to accessorize, pulling off a shelf a pair of pink flip-flips with a perfectly keyed-in pansy design.

Aubrey, who has never leafed through a fashion magazine, much less seen a runway show, was, as it happens, right on trend, her picks echoing many of the looks paraded on designers' spring runways. She would seem to possess what some people call a style gene, an innate sense of cool that guides her preferences as surely as the most sophisticated GPS.

This argument — that some children are the inchoate instruments of trends that they could not articulate and have never consciously witnessed, and that children therefore possess some unadulterated, natural, astral-plane understanding of fashion — would make sense if Aubrey had drawn the pattern for the apparently very on-trend dress herself. It would make sense if Aubrey had had the dress made from fabric whose print she also designed. And if Aubrey had done all this without her parents. But I'm going to go ahead and make the wild assumption that the reason Aubrey's dress "echo[es] many of the looks paraded on designers' spring runways" is because that dress was purchased in a store that sells clothing designed by grown-ups who work in fashion. By design teams tasked with ensuring that even children's apparel brands keep their seasonal offerings trendy and fresh-looking. Whether Aubrey reads a fashion magazine or not is immaterial — because those apparel companies subscribe to stacks of them. They have whole meetings about them.

Please. Aubrey may have strong opinions about what she likes to wear — plenty of kids do! — but she is, like all children, a consumer who can only exercise her agency via adult parental proxy, in a marketplace that is designed and run by adults. Adults whose job it is to pay attention to trend forecasting reports and Pantone's colors of the season-after-next.

Sorry, Aubrey. Just like Andy Sachs, you only thought you picked the cerulean sweater because you "liked" it.


Photo via BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Children Show Their Style Gene [On The Runway]