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What is in a name tag? Quite a lot, it turns out. In its preparations for the arrival of the royal baby in July, Tatler magazine has opened up a new social fault line, and depending on where you are standing you might fall in.

According to a lengthy profile of the woman it calls "The Mother of the Year", Carole Middleton is to be admired for all kinds of reasons, some of which are to do with how much money she has made despite her previous life as a cabin attendant, how well she dresses, how she gets on brilliantly with her daughters, how thin she is and how she used to sew her children's name labels into their clothes.

"She did what?! Is she mad?" scoff any number of mothers and fathers sitting near me. It seems that the one item in the list that really gets people's backs up is the name labels (best say "name tape" if you are talking to Tatler). According to the "mother with a daughter in the same house as Kate at Marlborough" whom Tatler writer Celia Denison spoke to: "It was unthinkable that they would end up resorting to marker pen on labels like the rest of us."

Does a particular kind of name label really matter so much? From the reaction to my own admission that I hand-sewed labels into my daughter's uniform when she started school last September, they do. Sewing in labels is for mugs, apparently. The middle-class tool of choice is an iron or a pen or someone else to do the job. Most parents in my small sample of around 20 seem to buy iron-in labels, even though they are liable to peel off. One says they use a laundry marker pen and everything else is bullshit, like feeling that if they don't make cupcakes they are not a good mother. Another uses a Bic. This very specificity shows that, one way or another, people do care.

In addition, there is a militant group of anti-labellers. One friend writes: "We bought iron-on labels for our oldest, but rapidly stopped bothering marking their clothes because when we ran out we would just go to the cloakroom at their school, the floor of which is permanently covered in clothes, and select two or three of the cleaner, less ragged jumpers and shirts and restock that way. Obviously if they have a label in we wouldn't take them, but a lot of parents don't seem to bother, and operate on the same principle we do." Another believes that labelling is nothing more than a pathetic aping of boarding school rules: the very act alludes to a fantastical school laundry.

I don't know if I will sew in labels again this year. I should probably start around now, if so. But I did quite like leaving a ragged row of stitches in each item. They weren't "pristine" or "beautifully sewn in" but the act of sewing felt a little like tucking a coded message up someone's sleeve, a small imprint of love under a collar, a pat on the back. And the completeness of the project - every shirt, skirt, glove neatly stacked - seemed proof of everyone's readiness for starting school.

As children at a comprehensive school in the 1980s, our labels were sewn in, and there is clearly nostalgia woven into all of this. Indeed, there are stories of children who have their name labels handed down, having been painstakingly unstitched from their parents' clothes by a grandparent and restitched into theirs. That is like a double stitch of love.

As for Marlborough College, where Middleton so impressed the other parents, "All school garments need to be labelled, " says a spokesperson. But she won't say how. What do you think?


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Labeling kids clothes and items for preschool?

2008-08-20 21:00:27 by lovemysesameseed

Should I write dds name on stuff being sent to preschool? I know this may seem basic but it's new to us. There will only be 12 kids in her class so it won't be a bunch of kids and they haven't told us to label but I'm wondering what others do and if there are any tricks to it or should I just use a sharpie.

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