Pity Margaret B. Carlson {"Clothes Make the Kid," Outlook, Oct. 4}, who is wealthy enough to buy $100 sweaters for a 12-year-old and is forced to do so because "having a child makes you do things you never thought possible" and also because, well, everybody else does it.

Come on, Carlson, who is the 12-year-old, you or your daughter?

Eileen Schoenfelder

Now I've read everything! I've seen Ronald Reagan blamed for many things, but now he's being blamed for the excessive amount of money spent on children's clothing and accessories. I've been a Reagan supporter for years, and my three children all used the same high chair, handed down from an older cousin, whose family got it at a yard sale (the chair, not the cousin).

Carlson's problem is summed up in the last paragraph of the article, where she says: "So until the day when we adopt a mutual nonaggression pact -- I won't let my kid do it if you won't let your kid do it -- I head back to White Flint." It's Carlson's inability to set boundaries for her children without worrying about what others may think that leads to spending too much. When dealing with her children's demands, perhaps she needs to follow the words of another Reagan: "Just say no!"

Edward H. Christ

The two recent articles on children and clothes, one in Outlook and one several weeks ago in Metro, have made me very sad and a bit nauseated. I am an upper-income mother of three children, one in a very good private college, one in the local public high school and one in the local public grammar school. Where do you find the kids you write about? Who is silly enough to dress a child exclusively at Bloomies? What kind of self-image are these air-headed parents developing in their children?

The first lesson a parent needs to learn is how to say "No" and mean it -- over television, over excessive spending, over curfews and over the myriad of other parent-child confrontations. A child needs to be proud of himself as a person -- for having ideals and talents, for working hard and accomplishing something. Clothes can be lots of fun, and sure we have a few designer labels in the house, but they are special treats and don't always turn out to be favorites.

One of my proudest moments occurred last summer. My 15-year-old daughter was getting ready to go to soccer camp. At the last minute we realized that the only clean single-bed sheets in the house were a pair of Raggedy Anns. I asked whether we should dash out to buy a pair of new sheets -- or did she have enough self-confidence to use the baby Raggedys and make a joke out of it? She hesitated a minute and then, with a big grin, stuffed the sheets into her duffle bag. This kind of self-assurance cannot be bought at the mall. Mary Finger