I’m not sure when the moment was that my attitude towards kids clothing totally changed, but it might have something to do with my son.
Unlike my daughter Gigi, who is almost 5 and strangely immaculate when it comes to cleanliness, he is the polar opposite. It’s not uncommon for him to have at least 3 outfit changes per day, and his refusal to wear a bib at meal time means I’m guaranteed to be spraying stain remover on his pint-sized tee shirts and pants most nights.
When I first became a mum I fell into the trap of buying ALL THE THINGS when it came to baby clothes and associated paraphernalia, but I quickly learnt that my preference for buying “nice” things was sending me both broke and crazy. My daughter was constantly in the top percentile for both height and weight, and almost always outgrew every piece of clothing I bought her before she ever had a chance to wear them. Regrettably and a little embarrassingly, this meant pieces from the likes of Stella McCartney Kids, Bonpoint and Louis Louise would be sent off to charity with their tags firmly intact after having never been worn. Oh, the shame.
As she grew, became more mobile and started attending daycare, I finally caught wind of the fact that kids don’t do fancy. Correction – kids don’t need fancy. What they need is hardworking basics that can be machine washed, hide a multitude of sins (read: paint, food, bodily fluids…) and are fun to wear. I get that we’re in a time where minimal-style kids clothing is having a real moment. You know the type I’m talking about – linen, rompers, muted colours, beige (So. Much. Beige!), kind of Amish – but I feel really conflicted about the whole thing. On the one hand, the colours and styles are undoubtedly gorgeous, kind of like a Byron Bay Instagram filter in real life, but on the other hand, these colours and styles don’t do much to entice little people to get dressed and have fun. I strongly believe happy clothes – colour, easy-wear-silhouettes and unrestricted shapes – are better for children both mentally and physically, so while I understand the trend for minimalism, I just can’t commit to it wholeheartedly for my own children.
When my son Louis came along, I really struggled to find him cute clothes and still do.
There seem to be two categories when it comes to boys’ fashion – nautical and preppy, or skulls and crossbones. I’m really not into either, so I’ve had to fudge my way along for two years. This mainly consists of buying plain coloured tee-shirts in navy, white, grey and black from Next, Target and Cotton On, and pairing them with printed shorts and pants from the likes of Zara Kids, Seed and Nature Baby. Admittedly, I do occasionally splurge on a few designer pieces on sale for him, mainly from my favourite brand Bobo Choses because their clothing really nails unisex, age-appropriate pieces – but for the most part, his wardrobe is filled with basics all under $20, and it suits us both just fine.
Of course, I still love shopping for kids’ fashion and will always favour quality over quantity, I’m just a hell of a lot smarter about the whole process now. I know exactly what to splurge on and where to save each season, and while I love a bit of beige, I think my kids look and feel better when they’re embracing fun colours and prints (I limit “character” clothes, namely Paw Patrol, to pyjamas only because we all have our limits!). In the spirit of sharing, here’s where, what and how I shop for my kids’ each season to keep my sanity, laundry basket and bank balance in check …
- Next – Unbeatable quality, super fast delivery and a huge variety of styles for babies through to teens.
- Marks & Spencer – This UK institution is failsafe for both everyday and occasion dressing, and don’t forget to check out their dress-up options for parties, too. Also excellent for underwear and singlets.
- Target – Plain coloured tops are so hard to find for kids, which is why I stock up here every single season.
- Cotton On – The variety on offer at Cotton On is hard to beat. They do great basics for boys, and their swimwear and beach towels are affordable and excellent quality.
- Boden – The entire kids-wear section is worth a look here, but I particularly love the Mary-Jane shoes and leather boots for girls.
- Nature Baby – I always stock up on Nature Baby’s non-scratchy merino wool bodysuits and leggings for babies in winter. Beautiful prints and the quality withstands even the harshest machine wash.
- Seed – I particularly love the summer range at Seed. They always have really great dresses for girls and shorts for boys, and who can go past their abundant range of accessories, from stick-on-earrings to cute sun hats and basket bags.
- Zara Kids – Honestly, their online selection is a game-changer, and it often gets delivered in a day or two with easy returns. Look out for cashmere knits and boys’ linen pants.
- Alex and Alexa – I buy most of my designer pieces here, from Stella McCartney Kids to Bobo Choses and Mini Rodini. They also have a great selection of shoes that are hard to find anywhere else (Pom D’Api, Superga, Adidas, Nike, etc.).
- Printebebe – The reason I love Aussie label Printebebe goes beyond the adorable prints, it’s because the wonderful dresses, tops and pants are always elasticised for easy-wear, and the sizing is generous meaning you don’t have to upsize as often as other labels. Bang for buck and style to boot.
- Smallable – The stuff of kids-wear dreams, but be warned, shipping isn’t cheap. To make it worthwhile I usually stock up on sale items here off-season so I’m always one step ahead.
- Jamie Kay – This New Zealand-based label specialises in simple basics in gorgeous natural fabrics – think linen, muslin and organic cotton. I especially love their cardigans.
- Kidostore – A one-stop-local-shop that has a new mega-size location in Sydney or reliably efficient online store. Find all the labels you love in one place – Mini Rodini, The Animals Observatory, Rylee & Cru, plus an excellent selection of toys and books.
Kids’ shoes are something I don’t usually scrimp on. I care a lot about comfort so I always opt for quality brands that are both reliable and adorable, such as:
- Saltwater Sandals – The best, the end, but if I have to entice you, I’ll say that these machine-washable leather sandals are a no-brainer for both comfort and style every season. Both my kids have had these since birth and I literally just size up every year without any issue.
- Native Shoes – There are a lot of imitations to these classic “holey” plastic shoes, but nothing beats the original in terms of quality and comfort. It’s all about the lightness here, so an excellent choice if your kids prefer to be without shoes or are near the water every summer.
- Birkenstock – Mini Birks are just good for little feet as they are for adults. A word of warning about the slip-on styles though – kids can often find backless shoes hard to walk in, so the classic Rio style with back straps are always our preference.
- Adidas – As much as their classic three-stripes look ridiculously cute on little people, I always love how Adidas cater so well for kids with velcro straps, a spongey inner-sole and tough-wearing leather.