AUTHOR: HYNUM

HED:Wild prints are a roaring success for chic kids

By Rick Hynum

Daily Journal

The producers of those "Brady Bunch" movies thought they had a hilarious gimmick: a nerdy family stuck in the '70s, enamored of bell bottoms and go-go boots, traipsing through the '90s in a psychedelic fog.

But the joke's on them. Because, this spring, the Marcia Brady look is "in." It's so "in," it's far out. Today's groovy grade schoolers dig daisies, smiley-faces, chain belts and skinny striped tops.

They're not kidding, either. They really, really like it.

Like adult fashions, kids' styles "have gone back to the '60s and '70s and the 'Brady Bunch' (and) 'That Girl' look," said Sharon Hudson, co-owner of Old Friends Clothing Store in Tupelo.

"We're seeing lots of gingham check fabrics, flower power, daisy prints on everything, a lot of pique fabrics ... The manufacturers are trying to address that untapped market where kids are too old for the babyfied look but too young for the adult look," Hudson added.

Don't flip your wig, Daddy-oh. The styles have been adapted and updated for the MTV generation.

"It's kind of a wild look, but it's tamed down," Hudson said. "It's a mixture of the Brady Bunch look and traditional styles."

Daisy rings and go-go boots

The big difference is the colors. They're brighter. Many megawatts brighter.

"We're seeing lots of bright, citrus colors lime-greens and oranges and yellows," Hudson said.

The loud colors dominate girls' fashion from head to toe, including funky sunglasses, bright-colored tights and leggings and go-go boots.

Zip-front tops make the grade, too. For an oh-so-hip ensemble, try a striped lycra T-shirt with a denim skirt and low-slung belt. For that bohemian touch, strap on a pair of sandals decorated with floral patterns or cut chunky and bold.

Now it's time to accessorize.

"Jewelry and accessories are really dominant," Hudson said. "Daisy rings in bright colors, smiley-faced rings, anything with ladybugs, and lavender, bright-blue and bright-yellow nail polish they're all really big."

How about a plastic flower power purse, too? Then put on a Monkees' album and imagine that it's a "Pleasant Valley Sunday."

Moms and dads may cringe, but preening preteens are going for a more trendy, sophisticated look, said Tommy White, owner of The Lollishop. "You see a little bit older look sooner in children's styles, like somewhere around the third, fourth or fifth grade. If they've got a big sister, they try to dress like her."

But what ever happened to soft pastels? What about those cutesy, frilly dresses and adorable hats?

They're still popular with the little bitty crowd, said Robyn Gibson, owner of The Robyn's Nest.

Baby fashions "have pretty much stayed the same," Gibson said. "Everybody likes their little girls to look like little girls, with frilly dresses, petticoats and little hats that go with them."

Bugs and monsters

What about boys' fashion? For starters, think bugs. Think monsters and aliens. Think sports.

In other words, boys will be boys, always and forever. It's no surprise that sports clothes, especially soccer, tennis and golf styles, are expected to sell well this spring.

Big and baggy is even better. Oversized T-shirts and zip-front polos worn with knee-length baggy shorts remain the height of urban chic.

More interestingly, t-shirt themes "take off on what little boys are interested in fish and bugs and worms," White said.

Hudson said she has sold "a lot of bug prints and alien-looking things ... Boys are just wanting a cool t-shirt and a pair of jeans or khaki shorts. The only time they're into shopping is when Mom makes them buy something for church."

Church is a different story, of course. "Boys' fashion is pretty much like men's," Hudson said. "For us, it doesn't change that much, except for some new prints. Khaki and navy is basic and so are polo shirts."

White agreed. "Boys are a little more relaxed. We don't sell as many matched suits as we used to. We do sell more of the dressier knit shirts and pants, some blue blazers, lots of sweater vests and things like that."

Psychedelia and flower power aside, the key factor in both girls' and boys' fashion is still comfort. Kids today are more active than ever, and their clothing has to accommodate their lifestyle.

And, last but not least, it has to fit Mom and Dad's budget.

"Most kids want something that's easy and comfortable to wear," White said. "Parents want something that's usually 100-percent cotton, washable and durable. Parents are always going to be more value-conscious."

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