Lit­tle Miss Fash­ion wants those high-heeled shoes

Though not so pop­u­lar among par­ents, young girls adore a pair of heels

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

Apair of sparkly, peek­a­boo shoes with heels 5cm high are favourites of six-year-old He­lena Bell ever since she got them for a wed­ding.

“She’s worn them to the point where the jew­els have fallen off,” says He­lena’s mother, Dana Bell, of Wood­land Hills, Cal­i­for­nia. “It’s not my pref­er­ence, but I’ve stopped fight­ing it.”

The heels are not al­lowed at school, but the first-grader slips on her white trea­sures first thing when she gets home and wears them to church ev­ery Sun­day. “I think if it’s within rea­son, it’s okay,” her mom says.

As im­ages of three-and-ahalf-year-old Suri Cruise, out and about in bling-cov­ered heels, hit US mag­a­zines and the in­ter­net re­cently, re­ac­tions to the grown-up look for not-so-old kids ranged from cries of in­ap­pro­pri­ate to de­fence of a lit­tle girl’s right to be girlie. Suri’s mom, Katie Holmes, told Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood that she con­sid­ered the kit­ten heels sup­port­ive be­cause they were made specif­i­cally for kids learn­ing ball­room danc­ing.

Sa­man­tha Fein, of San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, says her six-year-old daugh­ter has at­tracted some dou­ble-edged re­marks such as, “My, look at your big girl shoes,” when she has worn her knee-high boots with a 5cm chunky heel or her brown wedges with only slightly less height.

Fein notes that her child wears takkies 90 per­cent of the time and heels on spe­cial oc­ca­sions, like birth­day par­ties.

“It’s not like I’m send­ing her to the park in them,” she says. “I think there’s a time and a place for ev­ery­thing.”

The San Fran­cisco Bay area is rel­a­tively fash­ion for­ward, so it is not un­usual to see girls so young wear­ing heels. Fein says they have helped her daugh­ter learn to walk like a lady.

“They’re def­i­nitely not sug­ges­tive at all. Sug­ges­tive to me is in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

The phe­nom­e­non falls in line with other trends in cloth­ing, books, mu­sic and movies, once re­served for older audiences, trick­ling down the age lad­der.

As Christina Ver­cel­letto, se­nior ed­i­tor of Par­ent­ing mag­a­zine, has been putting to­gether the spring fash­ion edi­tion, she has no­ticed shoes for girls as young as five and six sport­ing heels.

“I am see­ing th­ese heeled shoes, shoes that would be con­sid­ered a lit­tle too grown-up typ­i­cally for a girl that age,” she says. “I think it’s def­i­nitely a trend for five-or six-year-olds.”

In years past, Ver­cel­letto says, heels usu­ally stopped at sizes for eight-or nine-yearolds. She un­suc­cess­fully tried to nab a pair of stacked heel boots that ar­rived in a bag of hand-me-downs for her own sixyear-old, but was not quick enough. Now, Ver­cel­letto tries to keep them out of sight in the back of a cup­board.

“I do feel that it’s rush­ing it a lit­tle to put a girl three years old in shoes like that,” said Ver­cel­letto, among those who fear the phys­i­cal perils.

Un­like other trends, heels pose phys­i­cal risks that in­clude a tight­en­ing of the heel cord and changes in the growth plate.

Matthew Dair­man, a Vir­ginia foot and an­kle sur­geon and a spokesman for the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Foot and An­kle Sur­geons, urges par­ents to limit wear to once or twice a week for four hours at a stretch – if at all. An­other im­por­tant fac­tor, he says, is dif­fi­culty in keep­ing chil­dren from run­ning, which could make those in heels more sus­cep­ti­ble to an­kle sprains or bro­ken bones.

“You put a kid in a heel and some­one touches them and says tag, they’re it – they’re off,” Dair­man says. “Mod­er­a­tion is key.”

Michael Pen­rod, a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for chil­dren’s footwear with a show­room at the Dal­las Mar­ket Cen­tre, a whole­sale mer­chan­dise mar­ket­place, says adult styles be­gan sur­fac­ing in chil­dren’s footwear a decade ago. While man­u­fac­tur­ers do of­fer heels in sizes small enough to pos­si­bly fit a three-year-old, stores are more likely to carry sizes meant from age five and up.

High-heeled shoes for young girls get mixed re­ac­tions from buy­ers, with more in­ter­est from the coasts and the big­ger depart­ment stores.

“In the South, there’s still a very tra­di­tional store owner that prefers the younger looking sil­hou­ettes,” he says.

Jen­nifer Thomas, one of the own­ers of two Chicago-area chil­dren’s shoe bou­tiques called Piggy Toes, says she does not carry heels for young girls.

“I just don’t think they’re age-ap­pro­pri­ate,” says Thomas, who has a 10-year-old daugh­ter she does not want to see in them. “As far as the cus­tomers go, girls for sure love them. Mom usu­ally doesn’t want them.”

Dr James Brodsky, a Dal­las or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon and past pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Or­thopaedic Foot and An­kle So­ci­ety, says healthy shoes for chil­dren are sim­i­lar to healthy shoes for adults – not too high a heel, plenty of width in the toe box, soft nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als to con­form to the shape of the foot, and good sup­port.

Dair­man does see some value in girls around 12 or so learn­ing to wear heels, when their bones have de­vel­oped. And while he does not think younger girls wear­ing heels is wide­spread, “as kids seem to be age­ing quicker, it’s some­thing that should be ad­dressed”.

Lisa Spiegel, a coun­sel­lor and di­rec­tor of Soho Par­ent­ing, a New York City par­ent­ing re­source cen­tre, says worry about chil­dren age­ing too fast is of­ten on the minds of par­ents. She says she hasn’t no­ticed a preva­lence of young girls wear­ing heels, but does know par­ents con­tend­ing with young girls want­ing to wear make-up or dress in too-skimpy clothes.

“We re­ally, re­ally try to help fam­i­lies hold on to their bet­ter in­stincts that kids should be chil­dren and not lit­tle adults,” she says. – Sapa-AP

IF THE SHOE FITS: Katie Holmes’s daugh­ter Suri sports a pair of high heels.

BEST FOOT FOR­WARD: Suri’s lit­tle big girl shoes.

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