Fashion Statements: the young and the cautious | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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Fashion Statements: the young and the cautious

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We met Daniel Duffy wobbling through the Morrie Mages ("Mr. Sporting Goods") Playground near the Waveland greens. His wash-and-wear toddler togs squealed "playtime!" But caseworkers from the Department of Children and Fashion Services demanded further explanation. Was the look age-appropriate? Or was it merely playing dress up? They opened a file.

Young Duffy chooses an outfit to match Duffy pere, button for button. While today's fashion-conscious youth is no longer required to report for day care stuffed into a replica of his father's business suit--as was the serious young man of a century ago--he now chooses to cavort in dad's leisure suit. Baby Duffy's tennies, jeans, and polo shirt--each borrowed from the grown-up vocabulary for down time--are scaled small, colored bright, and retrofitted with patches at elbow and knee.

Up top, Duffy sports a blue and white cap. The soft knit fit is reminiscent of the "child's pudding" or "bumper," the round padded cap that, according to Fairchild's Encyclopedia of Fashion, serves as infant shock absorber. It fits neatly into Katherine Whitehorn's millinery morphology as sketched out in The Hat Book: "Hats divide generally into three categories: offensive hats, defensive hats, and shrapnel." Given the rigors of the urban jungle gym, Duffy opts for defensive dress.

The baby basics--caution bright, booboo-buffered, and dadlocked--accessorized with gritty plastic spoon (accoutrement of that padded playpen the sandbox) secure a Fashion Statement dredged from the handbook of childhood dictates: "safety first."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Cynthia Howe.

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