Shopping small for the small
When my daughter became old enough to a) reliably fit into things for at least a year and b) not destroy her clothing like a pureed-food goblin, I started to think a bit harder about her wardrobe. The ‘leggings and a onesie’ standard baby uniform is fine – functional, practical, a diaper blowout or strained carrot disaster isn’t the end of the world. As she got older, though, I really wanted to step things up a bit.
Unfortunately, if you’ve tried to find children’s clothing in the mainstream, ‘stepped up’ does not describe it. Most manufacturers seem to have been taken over by Big Unicorn, and a lot of the quality is very poor. I know kids outgrow clothes and get them dirty, but handing things down and doing the laundry are valid options. Plus, a lot of the children’s clothing out there is made so poorly that it shreds well before it’s outgrown. This can’t be my daughter’s fault – she hates nature and would rather color indoors.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across Classic Children’s Wear Instagram a few years back. I had searched Google with limited success for things like children’s Fair Isle sweaters, smocked dresses, and girls’ khakis without ruffles or rhinestones. The first retailer I found via Instagram carried a beautiful wool tartan dress with smocking, and I was really impressed with it – fabric quality, stitching, detail work. Was it $13? A definite no, but we still have it, thanks to strategic sizing up, and it’s in excellent shape.
I’ve found a great many other children’s clothing retailers on Instagram since then. Some tried-and-true favorites are linked at the bottom of the post – remember, these aren’t affiliate links, just things I like. All my support for creating this content comes from the kind people who buy my books.
Not only do I like the quality and style of the Instagram children’s wear, but I’m much happier to support a small business than to throw more dollars at Big Unicorn. I mentioned the higher price point above, but there are budget-friendly options, too. Interestingly, the quality – in my experience anyhow – doesn’t really drop versus the pricer children’s brands. I’ve had great experiences with Seven Lantern Lane (I think most/all of her items are under $40) and Posh Pickle, plus these are woman-owned small businesses. Buying these smaller-batch, better-made items from independent retailers is also more sustainable.
A word to the wise about selling classic children’s wear to the wearer – your child. These clothes were definitely a hard sell at first. Big Unicorn knows how to give the small people what they want. What three-year-old will appreciate a worked Peter Pan collar and Oxfords when compared with a sparkly pink kitty shirt with shoulder cutouts? And rainbow shoes that are already shredding at the toes?
This is a hundred percent not a parenting blog. Sell the cardigans however you will to your own individual child. I bribed my own kid with marshmallows. My Mother of the Year trophy is backordered. In time, she has come to generally appreciate the better clothes. Don’t force your kid into dressing like a Princess Charlotte ideal for Instagram, although I admit, I definitely tried that at one point. That wasn’t cool. She’s five. If she wears a glittery unicorn shirt to the library on occasion, that’s life.
Recommended Classic Children’s Wear Retailers Starter Pack
Land’s End (this a ‘Big Prep’ retailer and not a small business, but I buy her school clothes through them. They’re better quality than the uniform pieces I’ve bought from a certain higher-priced Big Prep retailer, which faded after two washes.)
Footmates Shoes (It’s worth noting that I cannot for the life of me ever manage to cram her gigantic feet into their Cheer Oxfords, no matter the sizing, but they are very well made.)
You can always email me if you want to discuss classic children’s wear, and I will gladly talk your ear off for a hundred years.