OH, YOU KID Youth fashion comes of age with adult look

Imagine your darling daughter all dressed up for Easter or Passover in a Chanel-like suit complete with a short-cropped jacket, flirty pleated skirt and quilted chain-link bag.

Or picture your little boy as dapper as they come in an Armani-influenced, double-breasted suit and a silk tie just like dad's.


This holiday season you don't have to imagine. Dress fashion for girls and boys this spring is strongly influenced by the adult world of high fashion.

For little girls, this often means sophisticated suits, pants ensembles, and dresses and jackets instead of frou-frou and frilly dresses.


"The pretty floral Easter dresses are always a pretty big part of the season, but what we are seeing this year is another alternative to that look. There are lots of navy-and-white suits or dresses with the most adorable little jackets," said Chris Gentry, a fashion director for Bloomingdale's stores.

The biggest influence in girls' wear is the Chanel look. Linda Levitt, owner of the Children's Boutique in Philadelphia's Center City, said Chanel-like suits and purses were "flying" out of the store.

But these suits don't all carry the big Chanel price tag. The look can be found at all price levels, in specialty boutiques as well as big department stores.

Many of the suits feature ornamental details such as gold or faux jeweled buttons. Some are studded with pearls and rhinestones, and trimmed in fancy satin or piping.

The jackets are often short, although there are some nifty long blazers. Few are solid colors; most feature two tones, such as black and white or navy and white. Pants and gauchos are an alternative to skirts.

Also new this year for Easter are sophisticat ed prints such as houndstooth, polka dots, checks and plaids. After many seasons of floral Easter dresses, this is a welcome change.

"It looks fresh and spring-like," said Ms. Gentry.

Also fresh are the fabrics: silk, chiffon, georgette, crepe de Chine, rayon and Lycra blends. "We even have chiffon vests with little chiffon pleated skirts that can be worn with a baseball cap for one look or a sailor hat for a nautical look," said Ms. Levitt.


Fittingly, accessories also are grown up. The Chanel-like quilted bag with chain-link strap, selling for about $15, is the perfect complement to the suit. Hats also are very high fashion, featuring colored bands or flowers.

As for the little fellow, forget the traditional navy-blue blazers and khaki pants.

Designers from Pierre Cardin to Nicole Miller have come up with little-man versions of their menswear looks. Pierre Cardin has introduced double-breasted suits with that European fit. Other labels, such as Christian Dior, make little boys' shirts identical to their men's shirts.

"Whatever is in Daddy's wardrobe is now in boys' wear," said Robin Freedman, children's retailer.

Ms. Freedman said her store was stocked for the Easter and Passover holidays with Italian cut designer suits meant to be worn with little Italian loafers. As in menswear, the popular colors for boys' suits are earth tones, olives, browns and grays.

The ties are really snazzy. Nicole Miller's colorful ties with sports or music themes are popular.


Of course, there are alternatives. Judy Clapper-Palestini, a public relations and fashion director for Macy's stores, said boys' coordinates were very popular.

"We are seeing a lot of interest in ensembles with coordinating sweaters, shirts and pants. Half are buying shorts, and the other half are buying long pants," she said.