Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are in Paris for Fashion Week, a trip which seems to be primarily about two things: Kim’s breasts being, just, all over the place, and designers gifting the new parents with some of the most expensive outfits to ever end up on the business end of a diaper blowout. Predictably, Kardashian took to the Instagramz to share her baby’s new couture bounty, and even more predictably, the internet has seen been all aghast at the completely shocking, brand new knowledge that rich people spend lots of money on really dumb shit.
Unlike many Internetines, I’m not hating on Kim and Kanye for accepting this stuff for their kid. Whatever, that’s how it goes–you have a baby, people are going to give you things. You graciously accept, judge their questionable taste, and re-gift accordingly. In this regard, famous people are no different from the rest of us, even if their friends are Riccardo Tisci and Alexander Wang.
And let’s not forget why these designers give celebs over-the-top gifts–especially baby gifts–in the first place: because when the recipient is a Kardashian, you can be damn sure your “act of friendly generosity” will be promptly photographed and posted all over the place. This is even more likely to happen with baby gifts; posting photos on social media of obscenely expensive freebies for yourself makes you look like an elitist asshole trading the self-congratulatory wares of elitism with your other elitist asshole friends. But we don’t vilify celebs – or anyone – quite as harshly when they do the exact same shit in miniature, which is utterly illogical considering we only put our kids in expensive clothes for the same ego-boosting, status-proving reasons we wear them ourselves. But because babies are cute, and we like dressing them up and relishing in their cuteness, and this is one of the only universal common grounds we can share with celebrities, fuck it, let’s not split hairs if they happen to be fawning over a baby in a $400 onesie.
The whole situation capitalizes on fame worshipers’ compulsion to find a connection or similarity with the celeb object of their admiration, and the ability to breed is the most basic way to do that. Exploiting your role as a parent is Emotionally Engaging Your Fanbase 101. The subtext of all of these photos is “Look! I have a baby too! I love my baby, and you love your baby – we’re soooo similar, you and I! Except I’m infinitely better than you! Don’t you wish you could have these designer baby outfits so you could be as good as me, and then I would like you, and we could be friends, and you would probably end up rich and famous too? OMG, quick! Buy this baby dress for a better life!”
The aspiration among real world dwellers to elevate themselves relative to a famous person they admire, combined with the instant, immense reach of social media, means for designers, one free gift to a celeb could equal thousands of sales to wannabes who will readily max out their credit cards to buy those coveted, tiny square inches of fabric that I can only imagine must be made from the diamond ass hairs of a rare talking butterfly, all so people will know that they and their babies, like Kim and her baby, are fancy as fuck.
When something like, say, a leather Balenciaga dress for a three-month-old sparks a new round of buzz about the obscenity of celebrity wealth and their distance from the plight of all of us down here wallowing in reality, the discussions tend to focus on examining the gap between the super-rich with the average citizens of the Western world, which granted, is painfully glaring. But in conversations about wealth, luxury, and what counts as reasonable or ostentatious spending, we tend to get too focused on just the disparity between what’s accessible us, the Merely Middle Class, and the fashion show front rowers. While focusing on how our relative poorness in the shadow of Kardashian-West levels of wealth lets us have some fun sticker shock with their kid’s designer clothes, we don’t tend to take the issue even further down the economic ladder. Sure, maybe a pair of python shoes that a famous infant will fit into for a week costs as much as your rent, but hey, your Target slip-ons might cover the cost of someone else’s living expenses.
But whatever – right now, this is about Kim and Kanye’s insane Fashion Week gift parade. Let’s compare the retails prices of the Lanvin outfits they received with what those dollar amounts could do in more greatly underprivileged parts of the world:
Baby tee – $395
8 months worth of income for average Malawian
Ruffle skirt – $1,185
Could feed 135 impoverished people in developing countries for a week
Pink dress- $1,432
Could support family of 3 at US poverty level for one month
Black ruffle dress – $1,250
Could buy a 1,400 sq. ft. home in Detroit
The pair also received sartorial swag for their newborn from Celine, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Maison Martin Margiela, but naturally, those outfits were all custom made for the wee baby Interkardinal Kardashian, so we don’t know what they would retail for. Suffice to say, “not available for plebeian purchase” equates to “could buy a fuck ton of maize porridge”.
These comparisons aren’t meant to rich-shame Kim and Kanye (I could do such a better job of that!), nor are they intended to make even us First World Poor people guilty; guilt isn’t the goal here, perspective is. If we’re going to feel self-righteously outraged about how people like Kim Kardashian frivolously spend amounts of money that would be significant to me or you, let’s not neglect to keep in mind that we could just as thoughtlessly choose to fill up the gas tank in our car, easily spending more than the entire monthly budget of a truly impoverished family. Opulence is relative, but hopefully, gratitude is consistent.