Mummy, I want to be a fashionista

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It's ruinously expensive and not for playgrounds. Lanvin's line for little girls is princess wear, says Rebecca Gonsalves

Thank heaven for little girls, for if it were not for them the much-loved Parisian label Lanvin would not exist.

In 1908, Jeanne Lanvin founded her eponymous couture house for daughter Marguerite. In the words of Louise de Vilmorin, Lanvin "sewed to dazzle her daughter, and in doing so dazzled the world".

And it is true, for mothers enchanted by their daughters' outfits soon demanded the same treatment and thus Lanvin young ladies and women's collections were born. This season the brand comes full circle, as it launches Lanvin Petite, 25 pieces for young girls aged four to 10. Its stratospheric price takes it far out of the reach of the average parent looking for a nice party dress. This is practically couture for children...

At the helm of the label is Alber Elbaz, the Moroccan-born designer with impeccable credentials, not least the spectacular turnaround of Lanvin since he arrived there in 2001. Dresses are the stand-out pieces of every Lanvin collection, so it makes sense that in clothing little girls the emphasis is firmly upon on party-wear.Using voluminous skirts, ruffles and frills – all signatures of the house's aesthetic – the confections mimic "mummy's wardrobe" for little girls who love to play dress-up – with garments costing a fortune. And make no mistake, these pieces are for the self-confessed "girlie girl" – there is little scope for tree climbing.

Of course, price dictates that Lanvin Petite is only for the few – heiresses, perhaps, with parents who are won over by the romantic design and quality craftmanship – though such details are sure to be lost on those still knee-high to a grasshopper. Dresses are crafted from luxurious fabrics such as washed organza embroidered with crystals, grosgrain andsatin ribbons. Tulle is draped or pleated to ensure plenty of volume when twirling across the dance floor.

As well as dresses, skirts and separates, the collection includes necklaces of beads, tulle and rhinestones, designed in the same spirit as the dresses they complement. Slippers crowned with tulle pom-poms will satisfy the longings of future prima-ballerinas.

In addition, four limited-edition dolls will be sold – dressed in Lanvin Petite, of course. The hand-embroidered and stitched figures are made by women in Swaziland diagnosed with HIV and are supported by the NGO Dessine l'Espoir. This project affords the women the opportunity to create a better way of life for themselves and their families.

The special-occasion dressing of the Lanvin Petite collection is not, thanks to its prices, for everyone. But for those who want to ensure that their sartorial style is inherited by their children there are plenty of labels from which to choose. Eco-mothers who want to avoid sackcloth and ashes for their little ones could turn to Stella McCartney, whose Kids range is celebrating its first birthday. Continuing the ethical values of the designer's main line, Kids was born out of the success of a collaboration with the American behemoth, Gap. Designed for children from newborns to 12-year-olds and of both sexes, McCartney's collection is fun-oriented, celebrating the spirit and energy of little ones with great humour. Boys will love the "bandit" printed hoodie, which can be zipped down over the eyes, enabling great games of make-believe. Knitwear comes in a variety of bright colours and textures, while denim, that modern style staple , comes in vivid hues and is quilted on occasion.

As in previous collections, "mini-me" pieces adapted from McCartney's main line, such as a camel coat, have been scaled down for children.

Accessories aren't an afterthought here either. Instead they encapsulate the humour of the range – mousy baby mittens are decorated with ears, face and whiskers while the panels of a see-through umbrella are each painted with a different funny face

Those looking to the high street to clothe their young charges would do well to turn to Gap. It has announced that in March next year Diane von Furstenberg will be designing for its Kids range. Details of the project are still under wraps but a phalanx of little ladies in the designer's signature wrap-dresses is a possibility, though it is likely that instead inspiration will come from her bold use of print and colour.

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