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January 18, 2013

Oak Ridge toddler wearing all four food groups

A smear of spaghetti sauce infused with garlic and containing a hint of slight eggplant zest in the background has been a favorite of three-year-old Mia Barrett ever since she wore it to a dinner party. The crimson-tinted accessory is the latest in fashion for the elusive upscale toddler demographic.

"She's worn it to the point that the button mushrooms have been licked off her face by the dog," said Mia's mother, Marcia Barrett of Oak Ridge. "I don't see the appeal myself, but my parents weren't all that crazy about my fashion choices either. You have to pick your battles."

The sauce is part of a glitzy wardrobe that includes a whole grain spaghetti scarf and matching earrings, a dusting of an aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a knitted basil almond chicken hat.

"Fashion is a part of living," said Mia Barrett. "Fashion is a luxury and it's human nature for me to want to look my best. It makes me feel good about myself and it helps me define who I am."

The tiny fashionista is not alone in her style of dress. The colorful and nutritious outfits are the latest trend in the lucrative toddler fashion market, which has been a boon in recent years.

"As organic food, farmer's markets and farm-to-table dining become more popular, so do these types of fashion choices," said industry expert Sasha Vercelletto. "It wasn't long ago that I was seeing toddlers wearing goldfish crackers and French fries. But these kids are becoming more sophisticated."

Critics say the trend promotes elitism.

"I wore canned tomato soup and Hamburger Helper and I turned out fine," said parent of two Catherine Yates. "We're creating a culture of haves and have nots."

But for kids like Mia, today's fashion choices will shape her entire life.

"I can't tell you why I need a new layer of brand name sweet potatoes to match the milk I somehow managed to get in my ears," she said. "I just know that I need it. This is who I am. This is what makes me beautiful."

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