I’m generally the parent I predicted I would be pre-kids (so far), with varying degrees of “surprisingly ok” or “still learning” in some areas. But one of the truly shocking developments, or digressions I should say, is how little I care about what they wear. Prior to having kids I verbally marveled at the stylish 3-year-old girl, wearing a peter pan collar under a french-style suspender romper, likely with a beret. I still do I guess. Sure, when they look pulled together and cute I love it and take many a photo – what mother doesn’t? But once they formed opinions contrary to mine about their wardrobe, it became a battle I stopped fighting regardless of how “creative” it looks – See Exhibit A and B below. (I obviously love how they express themselves no matter what, I promise).
Brian is good enough to do most of the clothes shopping (except special occasions) and HOT MARRIAGE TIP: If your cis male partner buys your 3-year-old daughter the unicorn and princess dresses that she wanted, you open your mouth only to say, “oh cute, thank you for doing that!” That’s right, ladies – you, like me, may have to mourn the death of the little french schoolgirl outfit you envisioned her in, cause it’s not happening (and it’s ok). If she loves it then Bite. That. Tongue. Now if you are super into fashion and how well your kid dresses brings you joy or pain, then you do you and maybe stop reading this post.
In short: we believe in play clothes, and nothing makes me happier then them getting messy and dirty (preferably outside). But we are ruining clothes faster than usual, or maybe just noticing it more. So it made me think about what we can do now that is more environmentally friendly (aka not just buying new replacements), but still practical for small kids that destroy clothes.
Our current situation has forced a lot of us to rethink every single purchase to ensure that what we are buying is truly what we need and what will get used for as long as possible (this is going to be a reoccurring theme this year, so get used to it). Regardless of your budget, the greenest thing you can do is buy used when possible, make them yourselves (ha), hand things down or trade, and then when buying new ensure that it’s what they will actually use and wear for as long as possible. Kids are hard on clothes (and they should be) and buying heirloom-quality doesn’t really make sense for play clothes or when they are so young and grow so fast. So I did what any mom would do – I asked my sisters and mom, impressive child bearers, with a large inventory of children and experience, for their tips (as well as mine). Here we go:
Let Practicality Drive The Ship
- It must be comfortable or our kids won’t wear it – I get it, I think we agree right now. Birdie only wants to wear dresses over cotton leggings, which doesn’t seem that “practical” but she refuses denim (same) opting for leggings instead. These are 5 for $29.99 and are consciously made (but I’m not sure exactly what that means in H&M terms). Birdie, of course, would much prefer the patterned ones.
- Easy on and easy off – This means not a lot of buttons, zippers, or laces. Those cute suspenders or rompers you love with the zipper up the back? They only work if they are a shorts version and don’t have buttons, laces or zippers in the back. Think hard before buying them for everyday clothes. When an “emergency” arises, you’ll be bummed your 2 1/2-year-old is in a lace-up one-piece (some of them are easy, just something to think about). If you are in a dressing room and they can’t get it on and off by themselves, skip it – why give yourself another job?
- A drop crotch is good – like mother like daughter – and it looks pretty darn cute, but be careful once you go drop crotch it’s hard to go back (trust me). I think they call them “harem” pants for children.
- Go affordable for play clothes – For play clothes (shouldn’t they all be play clothes?) buy used, affordable or swap with friends/neighbors and just splurge on the pretty/fancy stuff for your special occasions (1st day of school, Easter, Christmas, birthday, etc). And for those occasions or if you have a larger budget year-round then think about supporting a small business or an Etsy maker.
- Curate their play uniform (buy multiples) that you don’t have to think about – For instance, we know that these are Charlie’s favorite pants that are stretchy enough to run in, but are a level above sweats that look nice (and are lightweight). So we buy 3-4 of these a year and besides sweats and shorts, these are his only pants. My sister swears by these jeans for both her boys for years – so if you find something that works for you and them, stop shopping and buy multiples. Birdie loves this dress and it comes in many patterns and is $7.99) and these shorts.
Reduce your battles
- Narrow down a curated list that YOU like. Going shopping with Birdie for the first time was one of the most fun (but INSANE) 2 hours of my life. She had never been and her enthusiasm for EVERY SINGLE sparkle, pink, princess-anything was so contagious. So many “ooooh mamamamama!!!!!” I don’t want to label my children (yet) but I’d bet 100% she’s enneagram 7. Anyway, I learned that day what I knew in every other way – limit the options, curate the choice.
- Let them choose. Every kid is different, but we have found that our kids actually wear the stuff that they pick out – they feel ownership over it and autonomy. I totally get it.
- Have less, wear more often, reduce the daily mess. Options make us all go nuts (I’m realizing this so much about myself being up here, saving so much time with so much less to choose from in every way). Our kids pick out their own clothes and the method in which they do this is to dump out at least 1/2 their entire drawer each time. But with just one drawer each, it’s manageable.
- Limit shoes. We have maybe 3 pairs per kid – their everyday sneakers, natives or summer sandals, taller boots for hiking and up here we don’t have any nice shoes but I think most people would want to have at least one pair that isn’t totally disgusting. Nothing with laces, too many straps, everything has to be easy for them to get on and off and nothing too fashiony that might be uncomfortable (I’m always shocked when kids wear heels. It’s like ladies put off that torture, you have decades of it down the road).
** If you want to know what Natives are it’s what 3 of the 4 of us are wearing (ha! me, too!) in the below photos (Brian has some, too). They are basically cooler versions of crocs and totally waterproof and so comfortable/easy to get on).
How To Buy Once And Save on basics
- Size up at least one size (can even do two for pajamas). Sounds obvious but just don’t forget. Every store is different, too.
- Separate school clothes, church clothes and play clothes (making play clothes hand me downs) so that the nice can stay nice and you can care less about the play clothes.
- Buy pants with button waist control.
- Make hand me downs feel fresh by adding patches, embroidery, or even a tutu on the bottom of a T-shirt. Birdie is psyched to have anything from her older girlfriends, but NOT from Charlie. We found these patches in bulk from Etsy and thought it would be fun to let them choose, to help shake things up.
- By basics in bulk, then give them options, and then offer ideas like embroidery or patches.
- Go for busy patterns, dark colors, OR bright white (so you can bleach, but I’ve never personally done this). Sounds obvious but every time I’ve let Birdie choose something light pink it gets obviously stained quickly. Gotta hide those stains.
- Socks in bulk. The fact that some idiot/genius decided that packs of kids socks should not all be the same is insane to me. I want to buy 12 pairs of socks, per year that are identical, to make our lives easier. I’m ready to just buy only these for both our kids. If anyone knows a source that I can find matching socks in bulk that are cuter (all the same stripe) please let me know.
- If you can buy matching pajamas then handing them down is easier. Our Christmas pajamas (below) are the only ones that Birdie will wear of Charlie’s because I think she thinks they are hers (we love this brand’s pajamas, in general, a lot). Good note for next year. I know if we forced her to wear more of his clothes we’d eventually win, but see point #2 about battles.
Obviously I’d love any other tips you guys have. It seems like the perfect time to do clothing swap or trade of hand me downs by just dropping them off at each other’s door. But if you are like us and kinda stuck somewhere not near friends, here is our strategy: buy in bulk for affordability, then buy used for anything that might feel more special (or shoes) that we’d want more high quality. In our experience, our kids grow out or stain clothes before they rip them. We researched the best used kids clothing sites and if you have the time and resources shopping from them keeps them surviving: Thredup, Kidizen, Etsy, Toycycle
In general, we are big “play clothes” people for our kids and are very not precious – as demonstrated in the above photo for literally a national lifestyle magazine in 2018 (Real Simple). I’m not saying it’s cool to be messy or not care, I think it’s just from being raised in the woods of Oregon with lots of kids – it simply wasn’t what was valued and that was passed on.
Lastly, here are some sustainable/ local brands we love and want to support:
Now, what are your strategies for buying clothes for kids who seem to be constantly growing and spilling?? Any and all tips are welcome. xx