Obscenely Pricey Back-to-School Clothes

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This back-to-school season, parents everywhere are looking for great deals on clothes for their kids, like a $95 cashmere blend sweater vest.

That’s the apparent premise of The RL Gang, a “shoppable children’s storybook” from Ralph Lauren (Stock Quote: RL) currently advertised at the top of the New York Times website. Narrated by actor and jazz musician Harry Connick, Jr., the six-minute video follows the adventures of a group of improbably-dressed school children with names like Jasper, Willow and Hudson. Want that $195 pea coat Hudson is wearing? You can browse the full contents of Hudson’s wardrobe — all available at RalphLauren.com, of course.

Now, let’s ignore for the moment the creepiness factor of using a self-styled “children’s book” to sell luxury clothing to kindergartners. Let’s ignore the ridiculous choice of names. Let’s even ignore the paper-thin plot (a group of children are transported to a magical land, where they… water a tree and eat some apples). No, the real issue is this: Who sends their kids to school in clothes this expensive? (We reached out to Ralph Lauren to see if they could enlighten us, but didn't hear back.)

Gone, apparently, are the days of OshKosh B’gosh overalls and Bugle Boy jeans. Now it’s all about $195 Meacham wool-blend jackets and $150 v-neck sweaters. Unless recess and messy lunches are no longer happening in schools, this doesn’t seem like a sound investment — how are mom and pop going to react when little Oliver comes home with grass and mud stains all over his $145 plain front Woodsman pants? And that’s without considering the bully factor: If the other kids aren’t already throwing rocks at your little prepster, putting a $40 silk bow tie on him will pretty much seal the deal.

But take heart, parents, because it’s not too late to keep your child out of the RL Gang. Here are a few alternatives.

Girl’s Outerwear

Ralph Lauren: Ruffled Herringbone Blazer ($365)
Alternative: Sash blazer ($39.50 at Gap)

Girl’s Dress

Ralph Lauren: Fair Isle Dress ($185)
Alternative: Bonnie Jean Girls Plaid Emma Dress ($29.99 at JC Penney)

Boy’s Pants

Ralph Lauren: Plain Front Woodsman Pants ($145)
Alternative: IZOD Boy’s Flat Front Pants ($15 at JC Penney)

Boy’s Dress Shoes

Ralph Lauren: Barton Suede Oxford ($78.00)
Alternative: George Boy’s Dennis Dress Shoes ($12 at Wal-Mart)

Boy’s Bow Tie

Ralph Lauren: English Repp Stripes Bow Tie ($39.50)
Alternative: Don’t send your child to school in a bow tie.

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