TIP SHEET

FASHION Designer Togs For Tykes

Syria Lam spent $300 for a wine-red, velvet Simonetta suit for her 3-year-old son to wear to a wedding. She considered it a good investment. "He was potty-trained," says the Hong Kong mom of three, "so I didn't worry about accidents."

Never mind that he only wore it a few times. Increasingly, the best customers of designer labels are the parents of those in (or just out of) diapers. Indeed, the children's market is one of the few clothing sectors left with room for big growth. Over the past five years, sales of kids' attire have risen 30 percent in the U.K. alone, up to nearly 5 billion pounds, according to a 2004 report by Mintel International, a London-based market-research company. The report cites luxury labels as the driving force. "Even though people are having fewer children, they are spoiling the ones they have," says Mintel's Jenny Catlin.

High-end designers are keen to cash in. In the past year Dolce & Gabbana added a babies' line to its kids' collection, and Roberto Cavalli started one for junior boys; Giorgio Armani--who dropped his U.S. children's line in 1995--decided to bring it back. Versace Young and Moschino added newborn and baby clothes to their youth collections. "Mothers spend more for themselves than their children," says Linda Watt, a mother of three who recently bought Our Kids Boutique in London. "You feel proud when a stranger says, 'Don't they have lovely clothes!' " Another London children's boutique, Peppermint, expects to sell out of its D&G sheepskin jacket with rabbit trim, starting at size 2T. Price: $1,600.

New York schoolgirls Isabella and Sophia Barco, 6 and 3, have labels in their closet that many grown women would kill for: an Hermes red quilted jacket, a black Gucci dress and red Mary Janes by Moschino. "Most are for special occasions, like dinner at their grandparents'," says mom Samantha. Isabella's everyday favorite is a frogs-and-lily-pad dress by Moschino. "It is more age-appropriate," says Samantha. "How many 6-year-olds do you see in a little black dress?"

Rather than reinvent the wheel for tykes, most designers simply reproduce kids' versions of their adult lines, creating what many call "Mini-Me's." In Hong Kong and Shanghai, Abebi, which used to carry women's handbags, sections off a corner of the children's boutique to sell matching women's shoes. Lam, who shops there three times a week, spending $100 to $300 each trip, sometimes walks away with more than shoes. "I am slim, so I can get lucky and find pants and dresses for myself in size 14 or 16," says the 1.63-meter-tall woman.

If TIP SHEET's kids were worth it, we'd buy them: Simonetta's yellow-cardigan-and-plaid-skirt ensemble; a motorcycle jacket from Roberto Cavalli; Moschino Layette's precious pink quilted skirt and jacket with hearts and question marks. Too bad our progeny spills chocolate ice cream on everything.

ART Broadway

Spring is busting out all over, and Broadway wants you to come inside and sit in the dark for a couple of hours. Here are our nominees for the Great White Way's hot-test shows.

ASSASSINS by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman: opens April 22 at Studio 54. Originally scheduled for 2001, this musical about presidential assassinations was too hot for a post-9/11 New York.

CAROLINE, OR CHANGE by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori: opens May 2 at the Walter Kerr. A musical set in 1963 that examines the friendships between an African- American maid and her employers.

JUMPERS by Tom Stoppard: opens April 25 at the Brooks Atkinson. This classic features a corpse in a closet, rousing philosophical debates and a naked lady on a swing.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry: opens April 26 at the Royale. Come for P. Diddy's Broadway debut, but stay for three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald.

SIGHT UNSEEN by Donald Margulies: opens May 25 at the Biltmore. This tale of lost love told backward finally gets a

Broadway bow.

JEWELRY Bold Baubles

We never thought we'd say this, but diamonds are out. In Asia this season, semiprecious stones are in. "People like big rings but they don't want to spend so much," says Hong Kong jewelry designer Sandra D'Auriol. Bye-bye, girl's best friend; hello citrine, amethyst and aquamarine.

SPIRITS THE REAL STINGER

Sorry, guys. Eating the worm doesn't make you cool. But it shows you're savvy enough to sample tequila's older brother, mescal. The best, like Del Maguey ($65- $210), are wormless and taste smoky. Only recently has the quality stuff been widely exported. But beware Scorpion ($44-$63), which lives up to its name.

TRAVEL Gold-Medal Guides

With the Olympics set to drop into their ancient birthplace this August, publishers have issued a flood of new or Olympified guides to the Greek capital. If you're planning on attending, make sure to pack copies of "TimeOut Athens" and the "Lonely Planet: Best of Athens," which deliver hip-but-not-too-hip tips on the usual diversions, plus comprehensive listings of events, stadium charts and ways of snagging last-minute tickets to prized events. Lonely Planet also includes handy foldout maps to help you navigate the Olympic maze. Looking for some history and culture in between javelin tosses? Browse Fodor's new "Athens: The Collected Traveler." It's a beguiling roundup of some of the best travel writing on the city, including a paean to Grecian olive oil and quirky insights into Athenian manners. Richard Stoneman's "A Traveller's History of Athens" offers a lively journey into the past, as does George Sarrinikolaou's forthcoming "Facing Athens: Encounters With the Modern City." Both show how today's smoggy metropolis sprouted from the golden city of yore-and offer some welcome perspective on the Olympics themselves.

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