Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yes, Heidi Lieske, there is a better way to do this

The only wedding I went to as a small child was my Uncle Jack’s. I think this would have been in 1953, so I would have been three-and-a-half or so. All I recall from the wedding was that the bride’s gown was “ice blue”, which was apparently considered pretty leading edge by 1953 blue collar Chicago standards.

Anyway, most of what I know about the wedding is from the picture of the Wolf clan that was taken at the reception. The nephews and nieces – there were five of us at the time – were sitting on the floor in front of the grownups (including the bride, by then my Aunt Donna) decked out in outfits purchased for the occasion – no doubt at Wieboldt’s, which Grandma pronounced “Vee-bolts” – by my grandmother Wolf.

Grandma went in for matching.

The girls – my sister Kathleen, my cousin Ellen and I – wore identical nylon striped dresses with white colors and black velvet bows. The only difference being that Kath’s dress – as she had dark brown hair – was pink and white, and those worn by Ellen and me – the blondies - were turquoise and white. (At least I think Ellen and I had turquoise. It almost goes without saying that the photo is b&w.)

The boys – my cousin Tim and my brother Tom – had blue and white cotton shorts and shirt sets with, I think, some sort of nautical motif. (I just checked and I don’t have a copy of this family photo.)

I don’t imagine that Grandma paid more than $3 or $4 for any of those outfits. After all, we’re not talking Marshall Field here:

Wieboldt's was known for their good values, unpretentious merchandise, and multilingual sales staff, the stores were especially popular among ethnic, working-class shoppers who could not afford or did not like to shop at the big downtown department stores. (Source: Wikipedia)

So, fast forwarding to 2013, we’re talking about $25 – $35 per kid.

A little on the light side, perhaps. At least by today’s standards. (And the relative affluence of those grown up Wolf grandkids.) But how much do you want to shell out for a party dress for a three-and-a-half year old?

I’m thinking that you can probably get something reasonably cute, and a few steps up from Children’s Place, for $60 – $70.

A lot, but not a crazy lot. And, of course, it’s something that can get handed down or off once the party’s over.

But some folks don’t want reasonably cute, reasonably serviceable, reasonably priced.Grey suit

They’d rather do their kids up in designer duds, but withpinco pallinoout having to fork over $398 for a Grey Ludlow Suit and Bowtie. Or $572 for I Pinco Pallino for your little girl. Why not, when you can rent the outfit for less than a hundred bucks?

That’s the idea behind Borrow Mini Couture, the brainchild of former P&G marketing manager Heidi Lieske, whose:

…business idea came while shelling out more than $300 for a wedding-suitable outfit -- for her 1-year-old son.

"There has got to be a better way to do this," she thought. (Source: Huffington Post.)

Well, Heidi, there is a better way to do it, and that’s by not spending $300 for a wedding outfit for a 1-year-old, when you can get something pretty darned cute for about one-fifth that amount.

$300 for a “wedding-suitable” outfit for a 1-year old?

I guess if that’s where your head is, and you feel that your accessory child must be decked out in Hugo Boss or Stella McCartney or Versace, it makes more sense to rent than to by.

But does a 1-year old need to be slobbering over a $300 outfit to begin with?

Oddly, the site also offers casual items for rent, like this Hugo Boss sweater, BBC_LL_0916_Iventory_0373_O_F_web-108x128which will give your kiddy a “polished yet casual look.”

Seriously, folks, don’t most kids have something like this that granny got on sale at Macy’s or Gap Kids?

Lieske and her husband – he was formerly a “private-wealth associate” with Credit Suisse – are all in. They’re both working full time at Borrowed, and they’ve borrowed big time to make their dream a reality:

Lieske -- whose inventory includes thousands of dresses -- said she's plowed about $650,000 in savings, home-equity loan money and investments from family and friends into the company.

I understand the appeal for adults to rent party clothes. Every guy doesn’t own a tux. And if you’re invited to a fancier occasion only once every decade or so, I can definitely see renting a designer dress online. I actually think it would be kind of fun. But that’s for adults.

I find something completely unseemly about this approach to decorating your kids.

Interesting, although there are a number of grownup apparel rental sites, Lieske believes that Borrowed offers “the only online high-fashion rentals for children.”

Others, however, have tried.

"I'm not sure they're hitting on the value aspects the way that moms really think about it," said [Caletha] Crawford, a founder of the Children's Apparel Consulting Group. "For a lot of the prices that you could rent a dress, you could buy something that would be also pretty. Now, it wouldn't necessarily be the same name brand, but it would be very pretty."

My thought, exactly.

But there may be enough parents out there who want their kids to strut their stuff as mini-David Beckham’s and Posh Spices.

One of the dresses for hire  - a $715 Fendi number available for $99 – is described as something that “will leave you breathless.”

Well, so does the idea of renting a $715 dress for a kindergartner.

I’m sure the Heidi Lieske had fun shopping for thousands of dresses and Hugo Boss “polished yet casual” outfits.

Somehow, I think that her friends and family may find themselves paid off in inventory.

A doff of the designer chapeau to my sister Trish, whose daughter had plenty of cute party dresses when she was little – and not one of them cost $715.

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