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Models, Designers Find It's a Small World

November 21, 1986|PADDY CALISTRO | Calistro is a free-lance writer.

It was show time at Santa Monica's Fred Segal. But the models were running amok. Falling on their padded bottoms. Tears streaming down their little faces. Calling for their mommies.

Never mind that the oldest mannequin was 5 years old and the youngest was 5 months. Adjust those shoulder pads. Pouf those peplums. The show, as they say, must go on.

And it did. A dozen kids strutted their stuff, wearing Kidd Boxer, Baby Boxer and Wee Boxers, clothes for little boys and girls designed by Los Angeles' Diane Rivers.

Jersey for Fall

Because jersey dresses are in this fall, Rivers showed 2-year-old Lauren Freeman in a button-front, one-piece jersey dress, complete with wide shoulders (padded, of course) and half-dollar-size buttons (large enough for little fingers to button). And because cowpoke gear is also of the moment, Samantha Clark, 3, wore a Western dress in bleached denim with red cowgirl boots, embossed leather belt and half-gallon hat.

When it comes to dressier looks, the peplum has made its way to little girls' hips. The look dominated the Fred Segal baby show: There were peplums on skirts, on dresses and even on diaper covers for the tiniest trendies. Five-month-old Lauren Steinberg covered up her Huggies with a mattress-ticking version of the peplum and matched it with a floppy Miss Muffet bonnet. Designer Rivers, a former stand-up comic, says: "Any kid, any age, needs a peplum this year."

The pint-size fashion parade didn't overlook little guys. No way, mom.

Consider Brandon Goodman, 1 1/2, and his big brother Daniel, 2 1/2, wearing bleached denim suits and red flannel print shirts. Little Goodman opted for a cropped waiter's jacket, big Goodman for the more sophisticated duster length that just covered the tops of his rolled cuffs. Those oversize cuffs are an efficient size for collecting grainy samples from his favorite sandbox.

Jordan Weiss and Jason Gurdnick wore twill recess suits, casual enough for a romp in the yard, yet dressed up enough for a trip to Aunt Martha's.

Weiss, 2, sported hot turquoise pull-on pants rolled high enough to reveal his black-and-white houndstooth sneakers. Gurdnick, 1 1/2, in paint-box yellow, teamed a red flannel shirt with the work shirt and pull-on pants.

Entrepreneurial Mothers

The Baby Boxer, Kidd Boxer and Wee Boxer collections are the brain children of Rivers and her partner, Jaye Bernstein, two mothers turned entrepreneurs.

In less than two years, the company has grown to a volume of $2 million, Bernstein says. With prices ranging from $14 to $65, Boxers are sold in upscale children's departments of specialty stores, such as I. Magnin, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bullock's, in addition to boutiques like Fred Segal Baby in Santa Monica.

"Some parents are willing to spend a fortune on kids' clothes," Bernstein explains. "These days parents want the children to be an extension of themselves. Time magazine called kids 'the BMW of the '80s.' It's a whole status game. Parents want their kids in the best schools, the best gyms, the best clothes. We don't condone it, but we see it. We want our clothes to be fun fashion, and we want the kids to have fun wearing them."

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