• Jessica Whelan

7 things clothing designers do that prove they hate children

Sometimes when I pick up a children's garment, I imagine myself as a fly on the designer's wall, and all too often I have to assume the design studio looks like either a sterile boardroom or an actual theatre of pain.

A boring, black and white shot of an empty boardroom with a bar graph in the background
The arrow shows increases in both profit and kids/parents crying!

This is because the designer clearly wants to put your kid into a hairshirt but can't for legal reasons, so they get as close as they can while following the letter (but not the spirit!) of the law.

Here are some of the worst offenders I've seen recently, along with some avoidance techniques.

Exhibit A: Pants without any form of adjustable waistband (including fake drawstrings) so that your child must conform exactly to the average size for their age.

Check the specs. Clear, detailed sizing info should be part of the item post (I think MEC does an especially good job in their size guide). And in person, bring your buddy the measuring tape along with your child's most recent measurements OR save time by bringing a top and bottom that fit well now, with a bit of room to grow.

Exhibit B: Camouflage of any sort, suggesting that a child's caregiver/well-wisher close to the family probably has bad taste in movies and wears ugly shoes.

Embrace more pacifist fabrics. This is slightly easier for more feminine items. And feel secure in the knowledge that animal prints, stripes, solids, colour block and simple graphics don't make your children look any less ready to engage in a fight to the death (and they'll benefit from the element of surprise).

Exhibit C: Cold-shoulder tops, planting confusion in a child's mind about the seasons of the year and how they work

Exhibit D: Lack of reinforced knees, since children are known for their tendency to sit in a drawing room, docile yet able to recite verses of the Iliad on command

Exhibit E: Missing a warm lining, so that you need to transition directly from shorts to snowpants in many parts of our great and varied land

The above 3 issues can be somewhat rectified by thoughtful layering. Leggings under jeans. Cardigans over the silliest of blouses. Wind/rain/splash pants over all bottoms to be worn outdoors for anything more strenuous than a stroll down the street for brunch. Tights/leggings present the biggest problem because they're soft and stretchy enough to be comfy, but the knees blow out like a birthday candle and mending them is beyond many of us. Buying something thicker or more densely woven in the first place helps.

Exhibit F: Uncomfortable fabrics that are just f&*@ing scratchy or itchy, including all forms of wool*, weirdly placed inner seams, ornamentation better suited for smoothing the edges of raw lumber, etc.

Feel inside (focusing on armpits, chest, waist and inner leg areas) before you buy if possible, or stick to simple stuff without a lot of embellishment. Also know your labels.

Natural fibres that usually feel good are cotton, bamboo, hemp, silk, modal, lyocell and rayon (these last 3 are tricky. Some synthetics** don't cause discomfort but it depends on the kid and the type of clothing.

*Mohair, alpaca, cashmere, camel hair, angora, merino, chenille, flannel, felt, tweed, chinchilla, crepe

**Fabrics like fleece, microfibre, acrylic, nylon, polypropylene, PVC, lycra/elastane/spandex, acetate and polyester are all made of chemical polymers. I find them to be really soft, durable, and stretchy so they're awesome for winter base/mid layers and jackets but I wouldn't typically choose them for PJs or underwear (but that's just me).

Exhibit G: your child becomes a free billboard for both in-your-face kinds of brands and the propagation of sickening cultural cliches like "lock up your daughters" and "daddy's little heartbreaker".

Visual inspection is key here. If something is categorized as a "logo tee" you may wish to move on right away.

But massive brand logos and catchphrases of all kinds have become so common on kidswear it's pretty hard to avoid them unless you want your child to look like a larval Ivy-leaguer (which I personally am willing to accept).

But let's be reasonable adults. If a shirt is your kid's fav shade of green and shows a happy dino saying "let's play ball!" I won't wag a finger at you or feature any of your cute instagram photos in my upcoming Toddler Fashion Crimes post.

It's ok to say no. Put your foot down and refuse to buy any of the above instruments of torture. And if you find yourself throwing your hands up in vexation next time you shop, just ask for help from someone who knows a bit about finding the exact opposite of these things.

What's the most painful thing you ever wore as a kid (or recently)?

What's an item your kid has refused to wear, against all your hopes and expectations?

Where is the most terrible place to shop, in which all of the above swirl around in a vortex of saccharine suffering?

Please share, and help us protect each other from designers' sadistic instantiations of so-called children's clothing.

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