To dress for Easter is to dress for family photos.

Parents understand this. When buying new spring duds for children, they ask themselves - in addition to "How easily can this be cleaned?" - the question, "How will the outfit look with what everybody else is wearing on Easter Sunday?"Children's fashions come in two basic themes this spring: nautical and bright. And mothers who want to dress exactly like their daughters, or to carry out a color theme for the whole family, have plenty of options.

At Laura Ashley, mother-daughter designs come in nautical styles as well as the brighter florals. Store manager Debbie Slater says Laura Ashley is expanding its children's line this spring. Skirt lengths vary for big and little girls from below the calf to well above the knee.

Sandra Kresser, who owns Somebody's Mother, says she often helps moms coordinate brother-sister outfits. Just last week, using clothes from several different designers, she pulled together black-and-white as well as floral-and-plaid combinations.

Most of her customers, she says, like dressy dresses for their daughters but insist on practical pants for sons.

Last fall, when she went to San Francisco to buy her spring selection, Kresser says, she saw that floral prints were as popular as ever for children's clothes - and brighter than ever.

Her findings are confirmed by reports from the designer shows in Dallas last January. The war was only two weeks old at the time, but the colors were the ones we see everywhere now - red, white, blue and brights as startling as a yellow ribbon fluttering on a drab winter day.

For little girls' dresses, in Dallas, the styles were short and shorter. Hems will go down again in the fall, designers predict.

Kresser says Utah mothers, so far, still prefer longer European-style frocks for their daughters. "Some people even buy them a size or two larger, just to get the extra length."


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Children's styles feature bright play clothes, prints

From Benetton - Bright orange, pink, green and yellow in miniskirts and blue and red striped denim overalls. Patterns are straight out of the '60s: pillow-ticking stripes and dumb daisies. Engineer hats abound.

- Prints are popular with J.C. Penney's children's wear. They show girls in loose-fitting jumpers and boys in printed rayon shirts with pleated pants. Unstructured jackets are paired with shorts for younger fellows.

- Prints are also popular with denim manufacturer OshKosh B'Gosh. Its spring line for little girls includes English pansy prints, tiny rosebuds, and orchard fruit and vine motifs. While their play clothes are bright, the special occasion dresses are in pastels like lilac and bleach blue.

Boys' clothes by OshKosh are colored with sea greens and sky blues. You'll find flower-power brights in their Clam Bake and South Pacific prints, nautical colors in the Cabana Bears series and primary colors in Whale Watch.

- The Izod Kid's division for boys focuses on "teaching kids how to dress at an early age to help prepare them for many of the challenges they will be facing in the competitive world of the future."

Translation: They'll show boys how to dress for country club sports. In sizes 4 to 7 and 8 to 20, Izod Kid's has a golf collection, a boating collection and a tennis collection. The collections are interchangeable (though presumably any lad would know better than to wear tennis clothes on the golf course). Colors are bold and bright: red, jade, turquoise, marine blue, coral and lime.

The golf collection, with pleat-front cotton slacks, cardigan sweaters and sport shirts, is definitely dressy enough for Easter wear.

- Polo by Ralph Lauren Boyswear includes blazers, tailored shirts and pleated flannel pants as well as play wear.

- Lego (yes, the toy manufacturer) Wear has a spring play clothes line for boys in sizes 4-7. The colors are basic Lego red, blue and yellow with pirate and spaceship designs on the T-shirts.