Sunday 23 October 2016

Shopping for kids? It's child's play

Buying children's clothes can be a challenge, so we met with the style experts behind some of Ireland's most fashionable women to ask them how it's done.

Published 15/11/2015 | 02:30

Ingrid Hoey with Freya (11) and Milla (8). Photo: Naomi Gaffey
Ingrid Hoey with Freya (11) and Milla (8). Photo: Naomi Gaffey
Sinead Keenan with Emma-Rose (5). Photo: Naomi Gaffey
Grace Moore with daughter one-year-old Izzy Rae Monaghan. Photo: Naomi Gaffey.
Jan Brierton with Willow (6) and Theo (3). Photo: Naomi Gaffey

It's the time of year when we're pretty much encouraged to shop until we drop - out of necessity in the colder months, and a sense of frivolity and occasion coming up to Christmas. But while it's often exciting to buy sparkly dresses, big coats and fabulous boots for ourselves, it can be a lot trickier to shop for the small members of the family.

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Buying clothes for kids can be an arduous task - shopping alone means risking a tantrum or turned-up nose when you get home, while taking them with you can be chaos, even on a good day. Plus there's the eternal dilemma - should you splurge on high-quality, durable fabrics, or is there any point when they're growing all the time?

It's tempting to think that fashion pros have it all figured out when it comes to styling kids and dealing with sartorial dilemmas (Frozen costumes 24/7, anyone?). So, we asked Ireland's top stylists how they dress their children, foster their individuality - and to advise busy parents on how best to shop for little ones.

Grace Moore

Grace (28) is a freelance editorial and personal stylist, and counts Saoirse Ronan and Hozier among her loyal clientele. She's mum to one-year-old Izzy Rae Monaghan, and is expecting her second child next March.

"I've been so lucky with people being so kind and generous to Izzy since she was born; I haven't had to buy loads. But if I'm buying, I love the clothes from Penneys, River Island and Marks & Spencer. Zara Kids is probably my favourite.

"Unless it's an occasion that Izzy needs something specific for, I tend to impulse buy! I never really impose a budget, but I do find it hard to justify spending a lot on baby clothes because she is growing so quickly. She only gets a couple of wears out of an outfit at this stage. But if something was absolutely amazing, and it was a special occasion, I would spend more than the average on it.

"I tend to dress Izzy like a 'mini me'. I just can't help it. I think how she dresses is a reflection on me, and as I'm a stylist, there's certainly an added pressure - but I try not to let it get to me. As soon as she was born, people would say, 'Oh, she'll be so stylish', and she is in her own way! But she's a baby, not an accessory, so I make sure she's always comfortable, first and foremost.

"Because she's so small, her style depends on my mood. Sometimes I dress her up all pretty and girly in little dresses, and other times, she'll be in leggings and a cosy top. She does love a stripe like her mammy though! She's too young to be throwing tantrums in shops, but I have an inkling she'll be a natural and love it like I do.

"My advice for other parents from a professional point of view is to dress them for their age. It's cute to have them look like you, but within reason. I think some kids are old before their time and dress too much like adults.

"I'm sure like all little girls, she'll want to dress like someone famous, be it a cartoon character or a princess. Once it's not North West's celebrity mum Kim Kardashian, I think we'll be okay!"

Ingrid Hoey

Well known for styling some of Ireland's most fashionable faces, including Amy Huberman, Kathryn Thomas and Bressie, Ingrid (38) works on red carpet looks, TV projects and glamorous shoots. She's mum to 11-year-old Freya and Milla (8).

"When the girls were younger, I used to buy them so many clothes and shoes! But these days, I would be a bit more careful. They are in school and after school activities so it's really only the weekend they need stylish pieces, so I've stopped with the impulse buying and just buy when they need something.

"My go-to shops for the girls are H&M, Marks & Spencer and Zara. I love M&S for their quirky footwear and hats for the girls, and Zara and H&M both have really cute kids clothes at affordable prices. The girls grow out of clothes and shoes so quickly I can't justify spending on designer labels for them, so it's high street all the way.

"They definitely have their own signature style. Milla is a dress or skirt lady; she hates jeans with a passion, and never wears them. She also loves a bit of sparkle. Freya is very much a denim girl, but still loves dressing up for an occasion. They are both obsessed with hats and scarves, and have quite a collection. I think because of my profession, they are very fashion-conscious because they are constantly exposed to it. They both have a really good eye and have a huge interest in the industry. Milla has taken to designing clothes which she keeps drawings of in a little notepad!

"I think you have to let your children feel comfortable and confident in their clothes. I wouldn't make them wear anything they didn't like. They are both very clued in to what they like and dislike and I believe you have to respect and encourage that.

"They love when I'm going somewhere and I'm getting ready, they both sit in the room with me and help with shoes, bag and jewellery selection. Freya in particular loves this process and her choice is normally what I go with. It's normally a quick turnaround for me, I'm ready in 20 minutes!

"Freya and Milla both love looking at fashion on my Instagram, but they don't really have a mini style icon. In their eyes, Taylor Swift can do no wrong and that's okay with me! I hope in the future I can gently steer them away from bum-skimming dresses and orange fake tan!"

Sinead Keenan

Mum to five-year-old Emma Rose, Sinead (41) started her fashion career as a visual merchandiser in Brown Thomas. With more than 20 years' experience, she now works as a stylist on magazine editorials and designer fashion shows.

"My go-to stores when shopping for Emma Rose are COS and Zara. I also love the simple luxury brand The Little White Company. When they are really young, they grow out of clothes so fast and everything pretty much gets covered in dirt, ketchup and paint, so it's heartbreaking when you've invested in an item of clothing to see it in the bin!

"But I'm definitely an impulse buyer. If I see something when I'm out and about at work that I know will look great on her, I have to pick it up! Every so often, I do a specific big shop to update her clothes as she's grown out of everything!

"Like any parent, I like my child to look nice so choose I things that I love and think suit her. I think, instinctively, mums in general tend to dress their child to their own taste. Maybe as a stylist, I have more of an awareness of what's available in stores, but I certainly don't dress her in the 'latest trends'. I'm not a fan of kids dressed as mini-adults.

"Emma Rose knows what she likes (which is anything that twirls or has sparkle!) but she's still only five so I still choose what she wears. She does have a signature style though, which has developed naturally just by what looks good on her. I think it's girly but with a tomboy edge - pretty dresses and skirts teamed with sweaters and trainers, plus lots of stripes and denim.

"My pet peeve is that she will not wear anything on her waist, be it leggings, tights, skirts. They all get pushed down low on her hips. I think it's a comfort thing for her, but it drives me crazy as everything looks too long or untidy. Luckily, I'm still at the 'mammy is fantastic' phase, so I don't think anything I wear upsets or embarrasses her!

"I think in the future, I'm due a bit of karma when it comes to Emma Rose and fashion, as I broke my poor mother's heart when I went through a rebellious phase as a goth as a teenager. Part of me wants that rite of passage for her, to experiment with her own style, because I'd hate to see her conform or feel under pressure to look a certain way. But on the other hand, I'm like any mother who'd love her to take my style advice forever and ever!

"I think comfort, quality, durability and affordability are the most important things when shopping for kids. The fast turnover of their clothes and the rigorous strain they go through mean these factors really come in to play. I always stock up on basics like jeans, leggings and long-sleeve white T-shirts to use as a base for Emma Rose's clothes."

Jan Brierton

Jan (40) styles everything from fashion shows and campaigns to editorials, but her background is rooted in retail. She has two children, Willow (6), and Theo (3).

"When I was a child, there was a seasonal shopping trip to get a new 'rig out' every year, and I've carried on the tradition. At the beginning of every season, the kids get kitted out.

"My favourite brand is Leigh Tucker's Willow at Dunne's Stores for both Willow and Theo. Willow loves flowers and she is always chuffed that her name is on all the labels of her clothes. She thinks all little girls' names are on their labels!

"For a lot of little girls, the clothes available are like mini version of adult trends, and often just not appropriate, in my opinion. Last season, there was a sea of denim cut-offs, and belly tops with racy slogans. I favour pretty simple cotton dresses, and skirts, floral prints and soft cardigans, which is why Leigh's collection works for us.

"Theo is a typical boy and loves bugs, skulls and dinosaurs, combat trousers and trainers. Boys' clothes tend to be the same: T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and combats... but that's for a reason; boys 'wear' their clothes harder than girls.

"I don't apply a budget when shopping for them. I never look at the prices, but look at the overall look. I do try and consider what they already have, and encourage them to choose pieces that can be mixed and matched with their existing clothes.

"When they were babies I had so much fun 'styling' them, having their outfits complementing mine on special days out. As they get bigger, there is less time to plan outfits, and more objections!

"I can already see they're their own little people, with their own ideas on what they want to wear. From the age of two, Willow had fairly strong opinions on what she would and wouldn't wear. There's no point in shopping for her without her, I've come home from town once or twice with items, only to get the thumbs down.

"I have a beautiful paisley silk long dress, and I put it on one day about a year and half ago. I felt really good in it until I came downstairs - Theo cowered behind his daddy's legs and said, "I'm afraid mammy. I'm afraid of your dress!" So I guess they don't think my fashion sense is the be all and end all.

"I encourage their personal sense of style, because I think it adds to a strong sense of self. I wore some pretty crazy stuff as a teenager and really used clothes to express myself, so I'm actually looking forward to seeing them develop their own sense of style at various stages.

"My advice for other parents? Go early and make a list!"

Photography by Naomi Gaffey

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