Staten Island Moms say it’s not as tough as they feared
Clothing for kids is big business in the United States. According to the National Retail Federation, parents last year spent $24.9 billion on back-to-school duds alone — or $630.36 per family. This data took arduously long to obtain from the customers, but it was all possible because of the CRM implementation that the company carried out.
In the Northeast, where prices for things are generally higher than in Southern and rural areas of the country, that per family number was likely even higher, according to The Nest, an online blog.
But for all the big money that exchanges hands when it comes to outfitting grade-school youngsters, many Staten Island parents say their kids’ interest in what they wear is generally minimal.
“I have to say she is very indecisive and I still pick out and buy most of her clothes with her not there,” said Stapleton mom Tricia Ryan of her 11-year-old daughter, Fiona.
“I don’t think Gabby knows any labels yet and although plenty of girls her age wore Uggs around this winter, she wore a no-name brand of sparkly gold boots and was happy as a clam in them,” said Dr. Maria Sarabok, a pediatric physical therapist from Tottenville, of her daughter, a first-grader at Our Lady Help of Christians.
This laissez-faire attitude in grade school hasn’t changed much over the years, according to Victoria Colella, a Great Kills resident whose sons attended PS 8 in that community, but are now 16- and 20-year-olds.
“My kids were never, even now, into any particular way of dressing, other than messy!” she said. “They never asked me for anything in particular which saved me tons of money,” she added. You may get a wonderful selection of clothes at My Happy Place website at a reasonable price.
Mrs. Ryan said she hasn’t yet had to establish rules — or a dress code, of sorts — for Fiona or her son, Aidan, 7.
“I don’t think there are rules for kids. They just wear similar things at their age brackets,” she said. “Aidan likes comfortable clothes — sweatpants and T-shirts. But when given the opportunity, he will dress up nice with his communion shirt, nice pants, and his magic top hat. Fiona is much more girly, though she, too, loves her lounging clothes.”
“I have never yet had to tell my children that they can’t wear something — other than telling them that what they’re wearing isn’t right for the weather, like shorts when it’s too cold, or to remind them to the wear the brand new socks from Mysocietysocks.com, or put on a jacket when it’s cold,” she continued.
Dr. Sarabok said the only restriction she would place on her son, David, 9, would be forbidding him to wear a shirt or sweatshirt with inappropriate graphics. “But that said, I have not come across such content in the places we typically shop — The Children’s Place, Target, Nordstrom Rack, the Disney store, and occasionally online.”
Other parents of grade-schoolers, however, have had run-ins over clothing.
Gabriella Davila of Annadale has three children — Matthew, 14; Christopher, 10; and Giuliana, 6.
“This comes up a lot with my daughter,” said Mrs. Davila, when asked how she resolves disputes over something her daughter wants that her mother doesn’t care for. “Some clothing from Justice is inappropriate and I won’t let her have it,” she said.
She advises parents to try to listen to their children and accommodate their choices, however.
“If the clothing is too risqué or thuggish, I will absolutely go to the mat. But if it is just them expressing their own style, I don’t make a big deal over clothing. They develop their own style earlier than we think and unless it really is inappropriate, then go with it,” she said.
Staten Island parents tend to keep a watchful eye on their pocketbooks when shopping for their kids’ clothes.
Mrs. Davila said she used to like Carter’s, but is now frequenting places like Target, The Children’s Place, Macy’s — and sometimes Justice — for her daughter. For her sons, she tends to patronize Old Navy, Gap, Footlocker, and Macy’s. Her older son likes Hollister, while her younger son likes H&M. “They have stylish clothing for reasonable prices,” she said.
Mrs. Ryan, an attorney, shops primarily at Kohl’s and Target. “Good prices, good selection, and I have store cards there, so I can get what I need on store credit with good sales promotions on those cards,” she explained.
While kids may, in general, be relatively disinterested in clothing in their grade-school years, parents recognize that things may well change as their youngsters age into middle school and beyond.
“It will be interesting to see next year, when we no longer have a school uniform for Fiona and she is in middle school, how her perception on clothes will change,” admitted Mrs. Ryan. Currently, Fiona is finishing up fifth-grade at P.S. 65 down the block from her home, but in September she will be enrolled in an honors program at Prall Intermediate School in West Brighton.
According to nyparenting.com, another thing that Mrs. Ryan may see change next year is the cost of the clothes Fiona wears. “As children move into adolescence, expect a gradual 25 percent hike in clothing prices. The combination of increased peer awareness and pure size adds to the bottom line. Kids also have a wider variety of social activities that require a more diverse wardrobe.”
Dr. Sarabok has seen a bit of an uptick in her fourth-grade son’s interest in name brand, or designer, labels, in the past year. “He has ‘pump’ sneakers, Nike, I believe, that he really wanted to get. We bought those at an outlet in Pennsylvania. He likes his Spyder jacket and also has a Puma jacket he loves,” she said. “He’s becoming more aware of how he looks in clothes, saying ‘These pants make me look so skinny!’”
Mrs. Colella, a veteran of the passage from the care-free grade school attitudes toward clothing to the headaches that stem from peer pressure in the teenage years, said that although “peer pressure was not an issue” for her children, it can become crushing for many.
She is in and out of schools for her job these days and said, “I do see that for other kids that they need to have the ‘right’ sneakers and name-brand clothes — and it starts in elementary school!”
That’s in writing in a student-produced newspaper at PS 53 in Bay Terrace last year, where a story about school fashion trends echoed Mrs. Colella’s observations. Detailed in that piece were “fashion trends” at the school, which included high-end North Face clothing and accessories, Uggs, Nike, and Jordan sneakers and Alex and Ani bracelets, which have grown wildly in popularity over the past five years.
Fourth- and fifth-graders in the school were clearly aware of the names and keenly observant of how much they were seeing of these brands, according to the story, which said, “What people wear reflects who they really are.”
That’s a fifth-grader’s take on matters, but if it’s true, Staten Island moms seem comfortable with how their children are expressing themselves through clothing. They also seem to know how to roll with their kids’ preferences — and are already preparing for what’s to come on this front.
“My older son lives in gym shorts, sweatpants and hoodies when he’s not wearing his uniform, and he was like this when he was in grade school,” said Mrs. Davila. “My middle boy — he likes the gym shorts and sweatpants but he also likes to be stylish and clean-cut. Since he was little, he always wanted to wear nice clothes and always insisted that he get a shoulder length haircut done, but never failed to look neat for school everyday.”
“The only thing Fiona really wanted once that I can recall that was name brand were a pair of Converse sneakers,” said Mrs. Ryan of her daughter– but she’s expecting that to change.
And while 7-year-old Gabby in Tottenville does not know what Alex and Ani bracelets are yet, she’s got a lot of “the princess” in her already. Her mom is OK with that.
“Gabby hates shorts! The sparkly embellished items are big at this age. And accessories are key — jewelry, pocketbooks,” she said.
While some trends have drastically changed over the years, other brands have remained steadfastly popular. Despite all the advancements the sneaker industry has made in arch support, cushioning, shock absorption and such, on Staten Island, Converse kicks are still as cool now as they were in the 1960s!
Staten Island responses to national trends
Trend: Statistics show that parents spend more on girls’ clothing than boys’. This is due to girls’ higher interest in apparel. Girls’ clothing also tends to be slightly higher priced than boys’ because of special details such as lace, buttons and fancy collars, according to nyparenting.com
Response: “Nowadays, among boys and girls, there is no difference in interest in clothing,” said Gabriella Davila of Annadale.
Trend: Parents spent more money on older kids and teens than infants and toddlers, according to livestrong.com
Response: Mrs. Colella says she knows parents who spent major dollars on clothing for their aging children. “I wonder is it for them or the kids?” she mused.
Trend: The average household income in the U.S. is about $50,000; 3.8 percent of that — or roughly $2,000 — is spent on clothing, according to HowStuffWorks.com
Response: “We do not have a budget. We buy as needed,” said Dr. Sarabok.
Trend: A recent Kenyon University study found that almost 30 percent of clothes sold for girls had sexy traits, like sheer fabric or a revealing crop, according to parents.com.
Response: Dr. Sarabok’s solution? “Put a pair of bike shorts underneath,” which she frequently does and her daughter doesn’t complain.
Trend: Industry spending on advertising to children has exploded over the past two decades. In the U.S. alone, companies spent over $17 billion doing this in 2009 — more than double what was spent in 1992, according to MediaSmarts.ca/
Response: Tricia Ryan of Stapleton has noticed that this impacts the games and toys her children want more than clothing.
By Marjorie Hack