As I write this, the national economy is weathering another blow, and I know that plenty of local parents are worrying...

As I write this, the national economy is weathering another blow, and I know that plenty of local parents are worrying about how this will affect their family's financial well-being. And yet here we are, forging ahead with an issue devoted to the topic of ... fashion.

I'll admit: When we first hatched the idea for this issue, I worried it wouldn't have a whole lot of substance, that readers might find the topic frivolous. Why, when there are so many families struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, would we devote our attention to something like clothes?

And yet, as we shaped the story ideas, and then, as the finished stories started to come in, I realized that what we were assembling was far from frivolous. The topic of kids' clothes opened the door to all kinds of issues that matter.

First, the topic gave us yet another opportunity to showcase and promote local businesses. Both of our "Well-Dressed Kids" stories this issue feature locally owned and operated stores because, let's face it, supporting local business is where economic recovery starts.

And what about getting the most out of your family's clothing budget? Our editorial intern for the summer, Ohio Wesleyan University student Mary Slebodnik, logged many hours and miles to create a truly comprehensive Go-To Guide on resale, consignment and thrift stores. I think the majority of my kids' clothes have come from resale stores, but I still learned plenty from what Mary found, and I'm sure you will, too.

But beyond these practical stories about where to buy and sell, I was especially pleased with our news features. What became clear as stories rolled in from our writers is just how important the issue of clothing is when you're raising a child.

Clothes are not just a basic need. They are a form of communication, as you'll see in Debbie Angelos', Anietra Hamper's and Melissa Kossler Dutton's Hot Topic news stories. Families use clothes - sometimes in the face of prejudice and discrimination - to communicate who they are and the values they hold dear. Children use clothing choices to develop into psychologically healthy and strong adults. There are even considerations of physical health when it comes to the choices we make with shoes and accessories.

Finally - in my defense of the Fashion word - I think I realized, in pulling this issue together, that fashion offers us a creative outlet that is essential, no matter what the economic climate. Fashion also means - especially in this country - that we are free to express ourselves, and that's an F word we can celebrate.