Did I just spend $250 on kids' clothes?
Have you been a victim of the jumpsuit influencers? If so, I feel for you. But what about your children? Can they escape unscathed? Or will they too be photographed posing adorably in a $250 utility suit in shades of turmeric, oat milk, or pine?
Sometimes I wonder what kids' clothes really cost, and what we really get for our money. Fashion influencer jokes aside, the clothing we wear isn't superficial. It fulfills our basic need for warmth and protection and serves as a way for us to signal who we are and what group we belong to. Clothing (and by extension fashion) means something to us. So what exactly are we doing, and why?
So what happens when we take the time to experiment? Let's find out what we get (and what we don't) when we build a back-to-school wardrobe for a 6 year old. While we're at it, why not compare across a range of popular brands from bargain to higher-end?
We'll keep it simple for comparison's sake. Brand new school clothes only: No underwear, outerwear, footwear, or accessories. No school supplies (including lunch kits/backpacks). To make this a best-case scenario, we'll assume this is an outdoorsy kid who goes for comfort (i.e. warmth, softness and stretch) over style. Aiming for unisex items. It's for fall/winter so it will need to contain:
0-1 picture day/special occasion outfit
Chosen because it's where people I know go to get things cheap. I was expecting to put everything I needed in my cart for around $100 and as you'll see I was sooooo mistaken.
Time spent: 45 min
Content: 13 items including 3 layers (fleece, sweatshirt, hoodie), 5 pants (1 cargo, 1 chino, 1 jeans, 2 joggers), and 5 t-shirts (all cotton, 2 organic)
Experience: frustrating and confusing, since they're also an online distributor for other brands and the filters aren't very helpful (however it was probably less frustrating than going to the closest brick and mortar Walmart
Resale value: low to zero
Pros: I was able to find some simple, universal basics in cotton and even some organic items
Cons: I wasn't able to get a good reading on the fit, and I expect that half these items would need to be returned/exchanged
Chosen because it's a mainstay for families and I can't throw a rock* in a schoolyard around here without hitting a kid in one of their logo hoodies.
Time spent: 30 min
Content: 15 items (5 joggers, 5 long sleeved crew tees, 3 tshirts, 1 jeans, 1 sweater)
Experience: pretty smooth with minimal hair-pulling
Resale value: Possible to recoup 25-50% of initial cost via direct resale/consignment
Pros: able to filter for size and sleeve length, and separate denim from joggers, and I like that these are simple, classic clothes.
The company says it's doing good things for garment workers and the environment with Gen Good, but I don't know whether those claims are legitimate or not, and I'm confused by the Give Back Box - why would I mail clothes away to be donated instead of giving them away locally?)
Cons: It was just luck that lots of these things were on sale (clearance) but not already sold out in the size/colour I needed. Sizing info was decent but not specific enough to prevent poor fit for some items. I'd expect to need to return at least a couple of things.
Chosen because parents I know in Toronto rave about it. and I've heard excellent reviews.
Time spent: 15 minutes
Experience: Interesting. I loved that there weren't oodles of options to get lost in, but the filters didn't work that well (I couldn't just get size 4 sale bottoms/tops to save time).
Content: 10 items (1 jeans, 2 joggers, 1 sweater, 4 shirts - 2 long-sleeved, 2 short-sleeved)
Resale value: high. This brand is always snapped up right away whenever it gets posted on Facebook marketplace for more than consignment price.
Pros: I love that the quality is high and the manufacturer is ethical and organic, and mom-owned. It's also classic, comfortable and gender neutral. And I love the great fundraisers they're doing via their Kind Human Club collection. And great sizing info!
Cons: I'd likely need to do laundry more often (2-3 times a week vs. just once) to get my son dressed for school properly (ie. not filthy)
After all that, I confess that I'd rather get fewer items I love for the same price. Overall, it's less stuff, less hassle, and less waste. All without sacrificing comfort, style, convenience, or function. So mini mioche was the clear winner.
Going through the process above, I realized it is really possible to view the things we wear, not as a commodity, but as an investment in a story with a happier ending.
See if you can do more with less. What if you replaced 5 cheap things you sort of like with one durable piece you love? What if you jumped on the bandwagon for the 333 wardrobe challenge? What if when you got a new job, you tried out a capsule wardrobe or built your own work from exclusively preloved pieces? What if you never bought kids clothing again, but borrowed it instead?
Smart parents out there, what's your solution? I'm sure 99% of you are more savvy shoppers than I am, so share the wealth and tell us how you get your kids dressed!
*Just to reassure you, I do not throw rocks in schoolyards, especially when there are kids around. In fact, as a parent I follow the COVID guidelines and don't set foot on the grounds when school is in session.