Bling Children: The Rise Of Barbie Babies


Fancy a bit of mum and daughter bonding time? Well forget the park or the zoo, because apparently getting your nails done before you can walk and pre-school fake tanning sessions are now where it’s at.

It seems some mums are so keen for their little darlings to stand out from the crowd that they’ll happily deck them out in dresses huger than they are and swamp them in frills.

And don’t forget the Victorian-style bonnets, pompom knee socks, heavy gold jewellery and diamante dummies.

According to compelling new TV documentary ‘Blinging Up Baby’, due to air on Monday, the nation’s obsession with turning little girls into pampered princesses with designer wardrobes to match has gone nuclear, with the UK childrenswear market now worth a whopping £5 billion per year.

(Blinging Up Baby)

And that means toddlers who can apply their own lip gloss, out pout supermodels and think nothing of heading out in the same customised trainers and tracksuits as their mum.

So little wonder then that the number of primary school children who want fake tan applied is also massively on the rise.

After 25 years in the business there isn’t much that dressmaker Marie Fullerton, based in Birkenhead, hasn’t seen – or been asked to coat in Swarovski crystals. Her team have even blinged up a potty.

(Blinging Up Baby)

Marie, whose customers travel hundreds of miles just to meet her, believes the current desire for huge dresses harks back to the Victorian era, but with the modern twist of applying as many crystals as possible to each frothy creation.

And the mums featured on Blinging Up Baby certainly agree.

Single mum Sophie May Dixon, 22, from Canvey Island, Essex, believes that ‘the bigger the dress, the better’, and has spent thousands of pounds on kitting out her two daughters' wardrobes.

She describes Princess Bliss Tiana May, four, and one-year-old Precious Bell Ruby Rosina, as ‘her little Essex Barbie babies’ and mini celebrities in their own right.

(Blinging Up Baby)

Princess, or ‘Prin’ as Sophie calls her, has been wearing fake hairpieces since she was two, having her nails done regularly since she was nine months and likes to have her fake tan applied in exactly the same shade as Mummy.

‘I’d walk around in a black bin bag if I had to if I couldn’t afford their clothes,’ she explains.

(Blinging Up Baby)

Beautician and mum-of-two Sammy Bushell, 26, from Doncaster, admits to shelling our roughly 70  per cent of her salary on her 18-month-old daughter Halliemai’s wardrobe, which she organises by season and colour so she can lay her hands on the perfect coordinated accessory within seconds.

"I think of Halliemai as my little living doll," she admits frankly. "I think every woman with a daughter does. When I was young I loved dressing up my dolls and now I do the same with Halliemai – except she’s much more exciting because she never stops growing and is always entertaining me.

"I’m always changing her clothes. I have a vision of how I want her to look and it’s all about making memories, putting her in big dresses while I can while she’s not old enough to really wear jeans and leggings.

"Yes she can get quite agitated while I’m trying to fit her arms through all those layers of fabric, but once she’s in  a dress she’s okay. I like her to always look unique and there’s no reason why a really over the top, statement piece has to be saved for a special occasion – I get her dressed up just to go to the supermarket."

(Blinging Up Baby)

Keeping fashion-conscious tot Halliemai beautifully kitted out is a continuous expense for Sammy, who trawls online children’s boutiques for unusual outfits, sometimes having to pay the hugely costly dresses off weekly, a little at a time.

"I don’t dress myself in rubbish so it’s nothing but the best for Halliemai," she says. "I buy things annually – right now I’m shopping for her autumn/winter wardrobe, and there are matching accessories to go with each look.

"I love smocking detail on dresses and very full skirts and I’d put more petticoats under everything if they needed filling out. Halliemai has a headband for each outfit, numerous blinged up dress shoes, socks with crystals and pom poms, traditional bonnets and little pants."

Sammy has also been customising items for Halliemai since before she was born.

"We found out we were having a girl at four months at a private scan and I immediately went home and started work on a diamante dummy for her," she recalls.

"I’m so busy now that I generally get other people to do it for me but I have just completed a glitzy parasol for her. I don’t like rhinestones, it has to be Swarovski crystal, after all you’re paying for the sparkle."

(Blinging Up Baby)

"Hallie now has her nails painted all the time and I wouldn’t put a young age limit on fake tan or make up either. Children are individuals and can make up their own minds – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them wearing a bit of blusher or pressed powder."

Sammy has even started dressing Halliemai and her four-year-old brother Harry up in matching attire which she loves – her little boy now owns a lemon pinstripe short suit amongst other fancy creations.

"Harry’s nearly at the age when he’ll start to be uncooperative, so I’m doing it while I can,’ she says. "I have had some negative reaction to how I dress my children with people saying it’s simply too OTT, but my friends and family knew it would be frills all the way if I had a girl.

"I hope when Hallie looks back at pictures of this she thinks she looked nice. Of course I don’t want to push her into anything but I’d be really sad if she turns out not to be interested in girlie stuff!

Blinging Up Baby airs Monday July 28, 9pm on Channel 5.