FASHION / Small change

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The Independent Culture
My baby was supposed to be in these glamorous pictures by sadly, on the morning of the shoot, he woke up with a gummy eye which did not look very attractive - so he missed his chance of stardom and stayed at home instead.

That's the trouble with trying to dress babies up: they often sabotage your best efforts. On goes that nice new outfit from Auntie Ruth - and suddenly, without any warning, mummy's little darling has covered it in sick or some other substance too hideous to mention here. The other problem with dressing babies in expensive clothes is that the little monsters grow so fast - expanding daily before your very eyes - that they need new outfits every week, practically.

But none of these considerations appears to deter proud parents from spending a fortune on baby clothes - particularly for their first babies. You can see these parents in BabyGap, cooing and gurgling and drooling over the sweet little denim jeans and baby chinos - which at pounds 14 apiece are not exactly cheap per square inch of fabric. Luckily for the retailers, new parents are so befuddled with lack of sleep that they become completely irrational about everything, including money.

There is, however, one way in which the baby shops lose out: recycling. For if little Natasha has outgrown her desirable Paul Smith T-shirt after only wearing it once, then baby India can wear it too, and a few weeks later it can be handed on to her friend Tancred. My first child was given a beautiful lavender-coloured babygro from Agnes B, which must have cost my kind friend a colossal amount of money. (Apparently they are pounds 37 each now, and selling like hot cakes.) Four and a half years later, it has been worn by lots of children, and washed countless times, and it is still by far the nicest thing my new baby wears.

He is, in fact, entirely dressed in hand-me-downs - apart from two new vests and a pair of green denim dungarees which my sister bought for him from BabyGap. As a result, even the most experienced sartorial judge would find it hard to place him: at the top of the range is the aforementioned Agnes B outfit, and a couple of little Viyella numbers which look like they've walked straight out of a chi-chi Sloane Street shop into a Knightsbridge nursery. Then there are the middle-ranking middle-class BabyGap clothes, and some sensible but attractive Marks & Spencer stuff. Finally, there's all the basic unremarkable babygros from Woolies, Asda and Mothercare. And actually, those are what he likes wearing best of all (I can tell, because he doesn't wriggle and cry when I put them on): they are soft and faded and comfortably cosy, with easy poppers instead of elegant wooden buttons, and no scratchy seams inside. Which goes to show that babies, unlike their parents, don't really care about looking fashionable. By the time they are three or four years old, however, they'll probably be demanding expensive trainers and American baseball caps and Levi jeans - so you might as well forget the designer baby clothes and start saving.

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