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The 8 Back-To-School Dresses Emily And Birdie Picked Out Together (+ 24 Other Affordable CUTE Options)

There are about a million things I miss doing with my mom but one is definitely shopping together. I know that sounds shallow and superficial but they were times full of discovery, joy, and a lot of laughter. Ok, not every time was pure bliss since we were still mother and daughter, but most of the time those shopping trips just felt really special. So recently, when Em was mentioning how much fun it was to shop with Birdie for her back-to-school dresses, hearing that took me right back. But also, how could it not be when you have a kid like Birdie who LOVES color, fun prints, and of course, sparkles?! Obviously, we all wanted to see what they picked out and boy did our hearts melt when we did. The dresses are so stinking cute! We told Em this needed to be a blog post. However, since the Henderson’s are MOVING INTO THE FARMHOUSE this week and are extremely busy, I volunteered to write it. I mean once upon a time I was also a little one who loved a pretty dress to wear to school. Needless to say, I felt qualified. Also, school has already started for a lot of families. Time is of the essence! I did, however, ask Em what their dress requirements are in case that’s helpful to any of you shopping for your little one:

“Birdie is very specific and particular about her dresses and needs them to be the following: bright, comfortable, twirly, and she likes fitted on the top (as opposed to blousier – we learned this the hard way). Last year we both became obsessed with local kids’ dresses by Little Stocking Co. (who also makes awesome thick stockings for girls who want to wear dresses in the winter). This year she wasn’t as into the colors (brighter! she says) so we shopped around a bit to find a few that she loved and that felt high enough quality to at least last the year and be layerable in winter, etc.”

Now that we are all prepped with what to look for, let’s get into their purchases and some other fun picks.

Patterned Play Dresses

I love that Birdie wears a dress for almost any occasion. Outside, in the dirt, no problem. And she also loves a print:) Here are two that Em and her picked out:

Mattie Dress | Long Sleeve Print Pocket Dress

That pink polka dot number is adorable. The color is so happy, the pattern is fun yet classic and the twirl capabilities look top-notch. Then that little cat dress is perfect for Birdie’s animal-loving heart. The print also feels fun and a little modern, making it pretty cool:) Also, both of these dresses have pockets which are perfect for storing little found treasures. Then she can throw on a pair of leggings as the temperatures go down and she’s set for a lot more wear time. Em also wanted me to mention that she knows that the dresses they bought aren’t cheap but she tried to shop from small, sustainable companies. But if these prices aren’t in your budget (especially since kids grow so fast) we have plenty more options for you…

1. Cotton Jersey Dress: I love how this dress looks a little dressy but is made in a causal, play-friendly material!
2. Kids Babydoll Dress: Great color, sweet print, and great for the upcoming colder months. A little pricy but very cute.
3. Patterned Cotton Dress: This looks like a mini Madewell dress!
4. Girls’ Floral Button-Front Short Sleeve Dress: The perfect color and print to work for any season.
5. Cotton Jersey Dress: I can’t get over how sweet this 70s print is. 10/10
6. Girls’ Short Sleeve Challis Dres: I would maybe wear that dress as an adult. It’s kind of giving an Ulla Johnson vibe. I love the cool pattern in this delicate color. Plus the tiers and ruffles are the sweetest!
7. Girls’ Printed Short Sleeve 100% Cotton Knit Dress: Great color combo with a super fun, not “too girly” pattern.
8. Percy Plaid Twirl Dress: I want to buy this now for my potential future child. My heart can’t take how adorable this is.
9. Kids Babydoll Dress: Same style as #2. Great fall/winter colors and love the large-scale polka dots.

Solid-Colored Play Dresses

Tillie Dress | Mauve Rose Charm Dress | Mattie Dress

Prints are great but having some solid-colored dresses are also fun and good to have. These are Birdie’s picks. The colors are so fun and the dress in the middle (and #8 from above) are from Little Stocking Co. and according to Em,”are super comfortable, drape really well, girls find them fun to wear, and most of the time they have pockets.” Also, they are made in Portland and lasted all year long, without a stain or rip. So while they are on the higher price tag end, they are a good investment.

Here are some more affordable picks:

1. Cotton Dress: Love the sleeves and will be easy to layer as the weather cools down.
2. Tiered Rib-Knit Swing Dress (2-Pack): Great fall colors and great price.
3. Girls’ Adaptive Ruffle Sleeve Dress: Again, cute little sleeves and sweet seam detail.
4. Girls’ Quilted Ponte Riding Dress: A little fancy and a little pricey but perfect for fall and winter and is SO adorable.
5. Girls’ Plaid Button-Front Long Sleeve Dress: Another dress that looks like it’s from Madewell and I would happily wear myself.
6. Uniform Short-Sleeve Pique Polo Dress: Love this little preppy look.

Special/Party Dresses

Laurie Dress | Brisa Ruffled Capsleeve Basic Twirl Dress | Rainbow Dress

As we all know, Birdie loves all things colorful and shiny. Rainbows are her favorite. So naturally, she was going to want some bolder dresses too. The shiny one on the far left is actually her birthday dress (Caitlin and I are honored to have her in the Libra club:)). It’s pretty darn special and was why Em was willing to splurge a little more. Then the one in the middle is perfect with those big, happy flowers. Lastly, a rainbow dress was essential and this one from Hanna Andersson is incredible. Emily also says that this brand’s quality is awesome. Birdie has others from them and they have lasted a year and look brand new still. FYI none of Birdie’s dresses were gifted. Both Em and Birdie both just love them and want to support (well, the supporting part is more Em:))

Wanna see the other options? These ones are a little more expensive since they are more “special occasion” dresses.

1. Butterfly-Sleeved Tulle Dress: It’s perfect. Love the colors, love the fabric, and love the sparkle. Oh, and the price isn’t too bad either:)
2. Girls’ Tiered Corduroy Dress: Perfect for the cold weather when you want them to be warm and a little dressed up. Did anyone else wear lots of corduroy as a little one???
3. Girls’ Mixy Dress in Tulle: It looks like a modern ballerina dress! The color is so pretty.
4. Pink Star Short Sleeve Dress: What’s not to love? A classic pink with a non-itchy tulle (at least that’s what they say) and the sparkles are moon and stars!
5. Tulle-Skirt Jersey Dress: This sweet little number could work for either a party or the playground.
6. Long Sleeved Tulle-Skirt Dress: Such a great color and love that little velvet belt.
7. Tulle-Skirt Dress: The short-sleeved version of the #6! (and comes in other colors)
8. Juniper Mixed Media Dress: Hello drop-waist for something a little unique:)
9. Toddler Girls’ Sequin Rainbow Heart Long Sleeve Tutu Dress: A more affordable version of the one Em bought for Birdie!

Ok, that’s all for today! Even if you don’t have a little one to buy for, I hope this was a happy feast for your eyes. Oh, and if any of you have other small and sustainable kid clothing brand recommendations, drop them in the comments.

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credit: Photo by Suraya Barbee

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🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

This was definitely a “happy feast” for my eyes!
#so.cute! 💞
I love that Birdie is fierce (remember her broken arm situation?) and that she stands for what she feels?
She. Wears. Dresses! 👍👗

Gotta say this:
“Here are two that Em and her picked out.” ❌ Here are two that Em and SHE picked out. ✅

My two nieces (5 and 7) have been on a road trip around Australia for the last year and they’re back in a couple of months. While they aren’t dresses-only-officionados, this post has inspired me to be on the look-out for fun, affordable dresses. Also, they aren’t opposed to Op Shop dressing (that’s what we call thrift shops: opportunity shops), so even more affordable options are at my fingertips! 😊

1 year ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Close but still not 100%.
“Here are two that SHE and EM picked out” is the correct, and most natural sounding, way to express this thought.

EHD writers, it’s really not that hard. Simply remove the other person and ask yourself if it sounds right.
“Here are two that HER picked out”
“Here are two that she picked out”

Why haven’t ya’ll hired an editor yet?

1 year ago

When my two girls were younger I learned that Hanna Andersson was a really good investment. At first I refused to shop there because the prices were too high. Then I started finding them at Costco and in second hand shops so they became my go to. They held up for YEARS, were able to be passed down from my oldest to my youngest, and as the girls grew they went from dresses to tops. We never had a rip or a quality issue. Even buying thrifted, they held up. And they are CUTE too.

1 year ago
Reply to  MKP

I completely concur!! I have two small girls, and the Hanna Andersson clothes have held up wash after wash, over years – they still look mostly new. Plus I find they frequently have sales online, so it’s very easy to get them at less than full price. It also makes it very easy to pass on the clothing in dignity condition to our friends! I don’t think I’ve ever thrown out a Hanna Andersson piece.

1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

Came here to co-sign the Hanna Andersson endorsements! Incredible quality. My daughter is 18 now so I haven’t shopped there in a while, but their stuff is absolutely top quality for both boys and girls. We never did the ‘all family pajamas’ thing though 😁. I do miss the women’s clothing line— I have a pair of gray yoga pants that are probably 15 years old and I still wear them around the house. It doesn’t look like they make women’s clothing anymore.

1 year ago
Reply to  MKP

I agree that Hanna Andersson is such great quality and washes and wears so well. My daughter has long outgrown them, and I’m sad they don’t have their women’s line anymore. I have my own dresses from them that have lasted years. Finally, for people who want to find more affordable, look on eBay. I’ve had success finding dresses for girls really inexpensive there.

1 year ago

Check out Winter Water Factory! They are a small 100% organic company based in Brooklyn and have a bunch of different dress silhouettes. They are pricey but their prints are so cute and unexpected – this season they have art supplies and broccoli among others. They do end of season sales too!

1 year ago

Here to heap some love on the quality of my fave kids’ clothing, a British company called JoJo Maman Bebe. I have two little dudes, so I can only take my nieces’ word on the twirliness of their dresses (good, they report), but the cotton is thick and soft and holds up for major play and lots of washes, so they’re great for hand me downs. (I am equally in love with MiniBoden, but find most people know Mb and not JoJo, but they tick all the same boxes). The best part is the designs: bright, happy, silly, with lots of interactive flaps. We have a red bus shirt full of dinosaurs that you can open the doors to reveal more Dino’s. We have a gator hoodie where the arm has chompy teeth on it. We have shirts with sloths, toucans, stars, foxes, cats – not the same old dumb gendered stuff but happy fun things everyone loves equally! Great longevity, super soft, fun designs – excellent. They’re not cheap but they do have good sales and last for multiple kids.

1 year ago
Reply to  Meredith

I buy some things from Mini Boden too. I usually check out their sales and if I like something I buy it in larger sizes. I get a number of things to mix with Carter’s and a few other brands.

I got a lot of tios from Okaidi a few years ago. The quality then was pretty good. I don’t know the current selection or quality, but it’s worth checking out too

1 year ago

Alice + Ames dresses are great quality and hold up so well. And their “ballet” dresses are maximum twirlability!!

1 year ago

You’ve got to try Ballet dresses From Alice and Ames! It’s all my two girls will wear, and they hold up so great! Family owned business, and MAX twirlability! 🙂

1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

Julie, are you me? 👆😊

1 year ago

My girls also wear dresses every day and we shop at Primary and Boden. We usually shop end-of-season sales for the next size up. Both last forever and are comfortable cotton.

Rebecca Lemon
1 year ago
Reply to  Patricia

Primary is so so amazing! We adore their clothes.

1 year ago

Came here to join in the love for Hanna andersson! They have the best, most comfortable cotton underwear! They are expensive but so worth it if you have the kind of kid that doesn’t like most underwear. They last forever!
My daughter is older now but we bought a lot of great (high end brand) clothing from kid specific consignment shops. Target has really really fun little girls clothing to fill in the rest.

1 year ago

These patterns are so simple. I made my daughters dresses like these thirty years ago. Each one took less than an hour to sew. You don’t need very advanced sewing skills to make them. I guess I should start making them again for my granddaughters.

1 year ago
Reply to  Becky

They are simple to make, get a good skater dress pattern and then adjust style lines as wanted. The hard part is finding quality jersey fabric for the dresses without spending tons of money. The European cottons are so nice and usually have the most fun graphics, but run $20 – $30 per meter. Sometimes it is cheaper to just buy the dress, unless you also just like to sew or have fitting challenges.

1 year ago
Reply to  jax

you can get second hand fabric too! lots of people donate old supplies because so few people know how to sew now!

1 year ago

Yay for Hanna Andersson a great Portland OR company, employing lots of women!!

1 year ago

Adorable dresses Jess!
Clearly Birdie knows what kinds of dresses she likes, and fitted on top and twirly on the bottom is so much fun! Actually, that is the style I love to wear too! 🙂 And about the special, party dresses – tulle is always a good idea! 🙂

1 year ago

Popping in to say that I’ve had luck ordering the the higher quality brands (mini Boden, Hannah A., J. Crew) on Thredup. Even secondhand, they’re still in great shape!

1 year ago
Reply to  Ashley

I was going to say this as well! I’ve had great luck with

1 year ago

Little Stocking Co is not made in Portland, fwiw. All of their products that I’ve just perused say that they’re imported, which in my shopping experience means they’re imported from Southeast Asia somewhere (no one minds telling you if they’re importing from Europe or even Central/South America). I’m going to ask where their stocking are made bc I’m interested in buying some but it’s not local manufacturing for sure.

1 year ago

I love all of these, and so would my 5 yo daughter! She has dresses from Little Stocking Co. and Hanna Andersson and I concur that the quality and fit are both great. But I’d love to champion buying thrifted clothing, especially for kids who via growing and use go through it so fast. I just bough 10 adorable dresses from ThredUp for $100. That’s right — TEN. And they’re all in great shape and worn in regular rotation.

1 year ago

My granddaughter is more of a pants and hoodie kid, but she and teen brother are both happy shopping at thrift stores.

1 year ago

Thinking back to going to kindergarten in 1976 in ‘gauchos’ and clogs…… I would have LOVED all of these dresses!!