FASHION: CHILD'S PLAY

ASK ANY parents of young children what their kids like to wear best, and odds are they'll say that their little girls want fairy-princess frocks and tiaras, while their little boys are only happy wearing a pair of tatty-but-comfy sweatpants with holes in both knees. The harrassed or weak-minded among them (in other words, the majority) will admit that they long ago decided it was easier not to do battle every morning at getting-dressed time. As a result, when they go out, they have eccentric- looking small people in tow - rather than model children togged out in crisp, mini-adult outfits.

But there are situations, like a hard day's playing at the beach, when a frilly net tutu really isn't appropriate, and Something Sensible(ish) Has To Be Worn. Luckily, thanks to the increasing choice of comfortable, practical and stylish kids' clothes about, there's some chance that even the most determined child can be persuaded into a witty T-shirt, bright shorts or a cheerful kagoul.

Still, it can't be denied that dressing up will always be more fun than just plain dressing. So while the kids opt for head-to-toe Spiderman, I'll dream of going to work as Cruella de Vil - just once.

Capt: This page: purple spot shirt, pounds 43, and purple check shorts, pounds 35, both by Paul Smith, 40-44 Floral St, WC2 (enq: 0171 379 7133); navy sandals, pounds 19.99, by Kangaroo, from good shoe shops nationwide (enq: 0161 861 7501)

Facing page: "Spiderman" top and mask, (part of pyjama set), pounds 25, from Hamleys, 188-196 Regent Street, W1 (enq: 0171 734 3161)

This page: white T- shirt with bulldog print, pounds 14.50, by Roobarb and Custard (mail order: 0171 835 0010); silky blue `J'-label trousers (part of tracksuit), pounds 8, from Sainsbury Savacentres nationwide (enq: 01189 368000); navy sandals, as before

Facing page: her combat shorts, pounds 16, from Gap Kids, 315 Oxford St, W1 and branches nationwide (enq: 0800 427789); red T-shirt with purple dragon print, pounds 4.99, from Hennes, Oxford Circus, London W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 0171 493 4004); blue Sainsbury's `J'-label tracksuit top, part of suit, as before; sandals, as before. His combat shorts, pounds 16, blue/green striped T-shirt, pounds 12, and orange kagoul, pounds 28, all from Gap Kids, as before; navy sandals, as before

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