BACK TO SCHOOL

A shopping adventure vs. a lesson in aesthetics

Time was when the name printed inside the back collar of your kid’s shirt was his own, lettered in indelible black ink to keep things straight after gym class. No longer. Nowadays plenty of other names vie for space there. Designers such as Merona, Esprit, and Guess? offer diminutive dressers the same prestige their parents buy. But can you dress your child like a million bucks for less? Much less? To try, we went to Andra’s, a pricey children’s shop in Preston Royal Village, and Target (Tar-jay, if you’d prefer) and dressed a six-year-old in the latest fashion-forward look for first grade. The differences are more than checkbook deep. At Andra’s, we relaxed, knowing the sales staff had the fashion knack to pull together a wardrobe that works well interchangeably.

But it took some savvy shopping to assemble a comparable look at Target. To complete the outfit, we wandered away from the children’s racks-the belt is from the adults’ accessory department; the elastic turban (really a tube top) is from ladies’ accessories.

Economics aside, there are philosophical differences to consider. At Target, back-to-school dressing becomes something of a shopping adventure, a chance for parents to become hunters and gatherers of fashion. At Andra’s and many of the other upscale shops for children’s apparel, it’s more likely a lesson in aesthetics.

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