Fierson’s, my children’s store in Bronxville, is well-known for carrying upscale American and European lines. Many customers frequent the boutique or websites (particularly Designersbestforkids.com) to buy the assortment of high end European clothing from designer brands like Catimini ,Monnalisa and Lili Gaufrette found both in the store and on the websites. Consequently, I have a veritable obligation each year (TWICE a year actually) to head overseas to buy what I deem to be the best of the European lines for the coming season.
That time is now here. Traveling to the sticky, smog-ridden Po Valley and Spain’s steaming Andalusian skies in the heat of July, is neither particularly fun nor glamorous. And yet, I consistently do it. Why?
The short answer: It is the style. It is always, always– irretrievably and irrevocably — about the style. About the clothes.
There are, in the modern age of an increasingly shrinking global world, STILL significant differences in European vs. American style.
It is these differences that, for me, provide the continued allure of the European aesthetic.
- Items are not overly long.
I like, no, LOVE, the look of short skirts, short shorts, and short dresses on short people. Everything is in balance. The stars are aligned.
Frankly, I have never been able to quite understand why little boys parade around in shorts that are so long they can barely walk. In addition to looking downright stupid, the look seems to create a physical hazard in terms of walking?! At an age when many tots are just learning to walk…why complicate things by having these little ones fight voluminous fabric at the knees?
Bathing suits and shorts should be above the knee. In Europe, they invariably are.
Dresses and skirts on little girls similarly don’t overwhelm little bodies when kept short. Both shift dresses and dresses with full, gathered waists simply look better when in proportion to the petite frames of little girls. Leave the long dresses to the sister wives in Utah. Children should be in short, sweet skirts.
2. European clothes tend to fit.
Despite the precarious financial condition of many European countries, they have not yet fallen into the singularly American tactic of trying to economize by”buying for the future”. Let’s be clear: Trying to get two or three seasons out of one outfit NEVER really works. The problem is that, until the child grows into the item, there is a significant chunk of time during which the article is just way too big and looks it. There’s really no way of camouflaging oversized, droopy duds. So, is a purchase worth it, if it will be ill-fitting for the entire first season in which it is worn?
When parents try to get two or three years out of one article of clothing, their children end up, for a significant part of that period, looking like refugees from Herzegovina. Is that what we are going after? Make sure clothes fit. Check the shoulders, under the arms, the back and waist before letting your little one go out on the town.
3. They don’t over-stylize.
I see it all the time. There is a tendency in the States to try to be uber-hip, uber-cool, uber-fashionable. Consequently, both editorial and runway looks scream “trying too hard”. Trying too hard to be outrageous, trying too hard to get noticed, trying too hard to scramble to the top of the fashion heap.
The Europeans are a bit more laid back and thus, infinitely more successful in achieving stylish looks that retain some semblance of understatement. The looks are STILL hip, STILL stylized but, ultimately, more chic.
Simonetta, one of my favorite Italian lines, knows how to create layers that never look too overdone, too haphazard. As shown below, their typical looks can be super-layered and very stylish, but always, at their core, share a common thread: refinement reigns supreme.
4. Europeans don’t try to transform their children into animals and/or assorted caricatures.
Our counterparts abroad have earned my undying gratitude for their reluctance to turn their children into stuffed animals and fairy creatures. Children in France and Spain are NOT being morphed into bumble bees and fuzzy bears. In Italy, mothers wrap their just-bathed babies in luxurious, embroidered towels, NOT towels with an assortment of ears, dragon tails and flower petals. Metamorphosis is for caterpillars, not kids.
Try as I might, I cannot find evidence of European children walking around with angel wings, tutus, and furry ears. They are who they are…cute, adorable babies. Parents on the other side of the Atlantic seem to know instinctively that THAT is enough. There is no compulsion to try to up the “cute” factor.
European children actually wear clothes, not costumes.