Kidswear for adults: How to pick and wear them

Armani, Marni and Sonia Rykiel. All high-end fashion labels that could easily be found in a stylish woman's closet.

But for petite women, you might find Armani Junior, Marni Kids and Rykiel Enfant hanging in their wardrobes instead.

Shopping in the kids section is not a new phenomenon for slim-figured Asian women. But in Singapore, now more than ever, there is a greater variety of designer kidswear labels that petite women can turn to for new fashion inspiration.

In addition to an increase in the number of designer kidswear brands, several of them carry larger sizes that fit 14- or 16-year-olds, which correspond to a women's XS or S. Shoes can go up to a generous size 38 sometimes.

The designs are far from childish and instead tend to offer a more youthful take on the luxe brand's main lines. Pricing is a benefit too, with most items costing less than equivalents in the adult range, making designer labels a bit more accessible to these petite shoppers.

For example, a quilted jacket at Burberry Childrenswear costs $495, while a similar women's jacket starts from $900.

Multi-label retailer Club 21's sister business Kids 21, which started out in 1997 with around 30 kidswear brands, now carries more than 110 brands in three store locations. It added 33 new brands last year and this year alone.

Takashimaya department store, which also has several designer kidswear brands on its fourth floor, expanded the space offering such labels by 20 per cent after its renovation last year, and added new lines including Young Versace.

Last December, Burberry set up its first stand-alone childrenswear store at Paragon's kid-centric fifth floor. It previously had a corner at Takashimaya department store.

MORE FUN, BUT CHECK THE FIT

For shoppers such as oil broker and jewellery designer Tricia Ng, 32, finding adult-appropriate clothing at high-end children's stores came as a happy by-product of shopping for her two boys, now aged eight and 12 years old.

She has bought items such as shirts and jeans from Armani Junior for her sons before and along the way, picked up a few tops for herself from Dolce & Gabbana Junior at Kids 21.

"Kidswear can be a little more fun in design," says the slim XS-sized Ms Ng, who says a piece for a 16-year-old can sometimes be too big for her. She sticks mainly to tops though, as dresses and bottoms can be too narrow at the hip.

Corporate communications professional Karina Tham, 25, agrees that designer kidswear has a special appeal for the petite.

She has picked up a jacket and top from Stella McCartney Kids online previously. The 152cm-tall, XS-sized Ms Tham usually fits into clothing that is meant for 12- or 14-year-olds.

"Design-wise, the kids line is derivative of Stella McCartney's main line, which I really like, at almost half the price point," she says. She has also picked up shoes for her tiny size 331/2 feet in the kids' sections of brands such as Repetto.

BAGS AND ACCESSORIES TOO

For petite women, designer kidswear, in addition to fitting better and costing less, offers covetable designs. For example, Italian-French singer and former First Lady Carla Bruni was spotted on stage in a Stella McCartney for Gap Kids military jacket in 2011.

In general, a size that fits 14- or 16-year-olds can fit women sized XS to M, depending on the brand and cut of the item. Labels under Kids 21 that offer sizes that fit up to 16-year-olds include more sporty brands such as Diesel, Armani Junior and Paul Smith Junior, though it is worth taking a second look at other brands on a case-by-case basis.

It is important to note though, that adults are not allowed to try on certain items at kidswear stores because the items might get stretched out of shape by an overzealous customer.

If size is an issue, look to accessories. Brands such as Gucci offer bags and accessories under its Gucci Kids line that are surprisingly sophisticated. It features variations of its famous GG logo and print in more compact sizes and with brighter-coloured accents. It is also relatively easier on the wallet.

A small leather bag in the children's line retails for $900, while a similarly sized leather crossbody in the adults range goes for about $1,400.

The Gucci Kids range is available at the Paragon flagship store.

Petite-sized women are pleased at the prospect of more such shopping options.

Social worker Pamela Goh, 26, shops at childrenswear lines such as Zara Kids sometimes for jeans and shorts.

"I generally don't buy expensive, high-end designer brands, but now that I know they have kidswear sections, I might go and have a look at least."

This article was published on April 4 in Urban, The Straits Times.

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