NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When Asia Monet Ray walks a red carpet, she does so styled from head to toe.
A shrug sweater. Faux fur.
Monet Ray is always on trend.
That a celebrity should be highly styled is not unusual. What's unusual is the age of this particular celebrity: Monet Ray, who appears on the television show Raising Asia, is just 9. But she represents a growing trend in the industry, says celebrity stylist Ali Levine of Fox's Hollywood Today Live.
Personal stylists used to be primarily the domain of adult celebrities. But more and more child stars are hiring these same in-demand professionals to build their image and brand, putting as much thought and attention into outfits as adults.
The clothes these young celebrities strut spreads in popularity among children across America who are influenced by the actors they watch on television.
"People are asking 'What she is wearing?' 'Why did you put her in that peplum?' It's all about projecting their personality," says Levine, who has also styled the likes of 9-year-old Livvy Stubenrauch from the movie Frozen and 16-year-old Peyton List from the Disney series Jessie. "Kid stars are all the rage right now. You see them all over the red carpet. And these kids are becoming a big part of that influencing factor. They are almost a new [fashion] network to check out."
Levine says she used to have just one child actor among her clientele. But these days styling young stars keeps her busy on a full-time basis — which may help explain why the children's clothing industry is doing so well of late, even in luxury clothing.
A report from IBIS World, Couture Kids, says the children's clothing industry has pulled itself out of the recessionary woes brought on by the financial meltdown, collapse in consumer confidence and decline in per capita disposable income.
The industry is on track to make $10.9 billion in revenue this year (up from $9.4 billion in 2008), and over the next five years revenue is expected to continue to increase 2.6% annually, to $12.4 billion.
Such sales figures are being helped along by an increase in per capita disposable income, the report says.
High-end children's retailers across the country have noticed the uptick and the growing popularity of children (or at least their parents) wanting completely styled outfits.
ChildrenChic launched in April to address a increasing demand among parents wanting entire outfits curated for their children — shoes, dress, even a bow for the hair.
"We see this concept of the head-to-toe look being requested more and more from our customers. They are willing to buy the whole look," says Isabel Mendoza, one of the founders of the site. "Parents want to make sure the look that they buy for their children is completely ready for going to the party, or the play date. Our customers are spending a lot of money making sure every outfit is perfect ... They even buy three or four pairs of shoes to go with a dress, they don't buy just one shoe for the dress."
To complete the perfect outfit parents spend anywhere from $150 to $400 on a single outfit on the ChildrenChic site, Mendoza says.
Among the items in big demand this year are velvet Mary Janes — but not just any Mary Janes. This year the must-have is bright colors — burgundy, purple, aubergine — to ensure a child's outfit pops appropriately.
Other trends among children's clothing include pairing simple print dresses with bright, solid colored tights, Mendoza says.
Purple and blue plaids also popular patterns, she says.
Another sign of the increase in spending on children's clothing, says Dawn Price, owner of the D.C.-area children's stores Dawn Price Baby, is parents splurging on fancy coats that they give to their children to wear every day.
"This year is unbelievable. Women and parents are choosing that nice dress coat as their child's coat for the season," Price says. "We had one coat, which we categorized as a holiday coat, that has completely sold out already and we're scrambling to get more in stock. People are really treating themselves this season."
The coat Price refers to is a very formal and beautifully designed ivory triple rosette coat by Widgeon that sells for about $99.
She says a similarly formal coat by Mayoral is also in high demand this year. The coat, with a Peter Pan collar and fitted A-line shape, illustrates what she sees as a trend among parents of dressing their children less like children and more like stylish adults.
"They're dressing their kids as a mini-me," she says. "You see the market wanting a better look. It's a sophisticated look they want for their kids."
When it comes to having the inside track on trends among the nation's ultra-hip children, Stacie Fitzgerald, of East Coast Starz, is also one to watch and listen to closely.
Fitzgerald is the organizing force behind a twice-annual runway competition for girls age 2 to 16 and has been styling kids in the modeling industry for 25 years, including for participation in New York's Fashion Week.
Most recently she styled children on the Bravo television show Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Would you like to know what the Real Housewives children were wearing? Fringe dresses reminiscent of Tina Turner's heyday, Fitzgerald says. The dresses, made by Les Tout Petits, cost about $140 and are a hot commodity among young girls right now.
"They're really fun and funky," says Fitzgerald of the dresses.
Also trending are patterned Les Tout Petits leggings decorated with such things as emojjis or the famous Burberry pattern, she says. The leggings cost about $60 each.
"They're funky, happening and popular," Fitzgerald says.
Another hot must-have: girls tutu dresses by Tutu Du Monde, which can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 each.
"There stuff is beautiful, fancy and fun," says Fitzgerald of the ballet-inspired dresses often decorated in sequins or feathers.
One last craze among young girls right now — at least for young girls lucky enough to be styled by Fitzgerald — are couture dresses by Nancy Vuu. The California clothing designer participated recently in a fashion event with Fitzgerald for which children modeled Vuu's dresses.
The dresses — ball gowns, actually, with full hoop skirts — resemble something you might see worn by the children of European royalty during the 1700s or 1800s and cost about $1,700 each.
"I had parents lining up out the door just to get a peek at the dresses," Fitzgerald says. "They look like something Queen Elizabeth would wear."
Where would a young American girl wear such a fabulous frock?
There is always somewhere a fabulously stylish child can wear an elegant gown.
"I would say for photos shoots, a special party, bar mitzvahs, sweet 16 parties," Fitzgerald says. "They are completely runway-worthy."
— By Mia Taylor for MainStreet