FASHION : Father Knows Best : Girls are no longer raiding mom's closet. The hot new trend is to borrow dad's outfits.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All right, you mothers.

I know what you've been hiding. And I know where you've been hiding it.

There's that blouse of yours, the one you bought for a special night out, that's concealed in a sweater drawer.

There's that pair of pants--the ones that fit you perfectly--hidden behind one of your husband's suits.

There are those exquisitely broken-in boots, the ones that cost you a small fortune, stuffed behind a box in your closet.

You crept around like a thief in your own home because you thought she would never look in any of those places.

Your daughter, fruit of your loins, made a practice of pinching your favorite items, wearing them herself, then leaving them in heaps on the floor.

But you can stop stashing things now. Your daughter isn't interested in your things anymore.

It's dad's stuff she's after.

"My mom's clothes don't really fit me the way I like. My dad's just fit me better," said Jessica Gibson, an 11-year-old Oxnard junior high school student who has joined the increasing number of girls now setting their sights on their fathers' side of the closet.

Never mind, Jessica said, that her dad stands over six feet tall and she is still aspiring to reach five feet.

Her father's wardrobe, she says, is just more appealing.

"I like his shirts a lot and sometimes I'll wear one of his ties with them. And I really love the way his sweaters look, too," she added. "My mom wears stuff off her shoulders, and so they just fall off me."

Merilee Gunn of Oxnard says her 11-year-old daughter, Jenna, also has acquired a taste for masculine couture.

"She doesn't touch my stuff now," Gunn said. "It started about eight months ago when she asked to borrow one sweater because she was cold, and then it kind of got out of hand. Now she loves all his sweaters and some of his shirts, too.

"Last week she even asked to borrow one of his T-shirts, but he wouldn't let her," Gunn said. "I guess he didn't have any left."

From the look of things, the trend isn't limited to what the girls can find at home either.

Several parents said their daughters' Christmas lists included requests for men's clothing.

Fathers said they had the novel experience of shopping with their daughters for a lumberjack shirt or sweat shirt that the two of them could "share."

And salesgirls in men's clothing departments said they ended up counseling parents on which brand names were the most popular for young girls.

"I think the whole thing is kind of funny," said one sales associate in the men's department at The Broadway in Ventura. "I've had mothers ask if they could return something if their daughters didn't like it. Twice I saw fathers come in with their daughters and argue over the best color for something."

So how are fathers taking the raid on their wardrobes? Responses, it seems, are mixed.

Gunn says her husband allows it, but only if their daughter puts the clothes back where she found them.

Then there are guys such as Doc Gibson, Jessica's dad. Gibson, who works at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Oxnard, said he sees it as a kind of bonding ritual.

"When she was a small child," he said, "I was overseas a lot because of my job. She used to wear one of my shirts as pajamas because it had my smell on it. I guess it reminded her of me."

Now that his daughter has rekindled the habit, he said, it just makes him feel closer to her.

"It always kind of made me sad to think she wore my things because I was gone and she missed me. But now I'm not gone. Now I think it's kind of like, 'Hmmm. I wonder what it feels like to wear his clothes?' I like it."

The question, of course, is whether Gibson will whistle the same tune if he finds his clothes on the floor or notices--just as he is ready to walk out the door--that the just-back-from-the-cleaners shirt he was planning to wear is mysteriously gone.

If he does, I have a hint.

Try hiding your stuff behind your wife's clothes. Your daughter, quite clearly, would never think to look there.

* THE PREMISE

Ventura County is teeming with the fashionable and not so fashionable. There are trend-makers and trend-breakers. There are those with style-personal and off the rack-and those making fashion statements better left unsaid. Twice a month, we'll be taking a look at fashion in Ventura County-trends, styles and ideas-and asking you what you think. If you have a fashion problem, sighting or suggestion; if you know a fashion success or a fashion victim, let us know. We want to hear from you.

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