Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dressing My Kids

I have a personal philosophy on clothes buying, especially for my children because it has to be done so often.  I have a lot of fun dressing my kids up and I’m kinda picky. I have always enjoyed fashion, one of the reasons I follow The Sartorialist blog, and I’ve learned that even children can become fashion victims at their parents hands.   

I hate the mini-rockstar/tough kid style that seems to dominate a lot of kids clothing.  I want my children to look like the sweet, innocent, precious little ones that they are.  I tend toward classic styles that I could see me or my husband wearing. Ok there are a few things I put my kids in that no respectable adult would wear like ruffle bum pants, wildly striped tights, and rompers – I can’t resist.  I’d like it if my kids skipped the whole teenage dressing thing and moved straight into dressing like adults when it’s time.  Laugh if you will but I’ve witnessed kids who’ve done this and no, they weren’t outcasts.  They fit in with their peers just fine and looked stylish.

So today as I was unpacking from a week out of town I started going through the twins clothes and that turned into an inventory project which turned into a fall clothing planning session.  I know, it’s only May, but I love shopping for clothes in the fall better than any other time of year and all the new stuff will be in the stores in 2 or 3 more months.

So here is my clothing philosophy, favorite stores, and plan for this fall. 

1.     Only buy it if it’s a “10”.  One of my friends shared this gem with me.  When you’re tempted to buy something rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 and only buy if it’s a 10.  It doesn’t matter what a great deal it is, if it you don’t love it you won’t use it.  If you have the slightest hesitation, just don’t buy it.  Wait for something to come a long that you just love and have to have.  I spent 2 very cold winters in Seattle waiting to find the perfect coat.  I wasn’t willing to spend money on anything I didn’t love.  Finally in the 3rd winter I found my lovely green wool coat and I truly adore it.  I get compliments on it all the time and I’m so glad I didn’t settle for something else or waste my money on something I would just get rid of later.  I will have this coat for at least 15 years.
2.     Buy things that last.  Some clothing items just won’t last more than 1 season no matter how much you spend but I’ve found that it pays to spend a little more for high quality items that will last and to choose styles that are more classic so they can be worn years later.  Obviously kids wear things for a year or less but high quality items make great hand me downs.  5 years later, my Chloe is wearing many of Isabel’s hand me downs.  It’s worth noting that most of these clothes have also been worn by 2 or 3 cousins and they still look great.  And because most of them were “10”s I still love them.
3.     Choose your best colors.  Everyone looks best in certain colors and not as good in others.  Spend some time figuring out what colors those are for you and your kids.  Only buy things in colors that look great on the individual.  My girls look good in many of the same colors but there are some that Isabel looks good in and Chloe doesn’t, like pale pink.  So now when I shop for Isabel I try to choose colors that look good on both girls.  If you have a sort of dominant color scheme for each person it makes mixing and matching their clothes to create outfits a lot easier.

      My son looks really good in bright blue, navy, orange, and bright yellow so I buy most of his things in these colors and all his stuff coordinates.  My girls look great in orange, bright pink, yellow, red, and deep lavender.
4.     Less is more.  I’ve mentioned before that I keep my laundry in check by limiting the amount of clothing each member of the family has.  This cuts way down on laundry, makes getting dressed easier because there aren’t so many choices, and allows me to spend more money for high quality on fewer items.  I’d much rather have 2 really nice shirts than 8 cheap ones that won’t look good after they go through the wash.
5.     Have a plan.  This may sound neurotic but for me it’s fun.  I actually have a written plan of what I want to buy for each child twice a year.  I do my biggest shopping for Fall/Winter and just fill in with a few things for Spring/Summer.  This doesn’t work as well for infants because their sizes change often and unexpectedly and you can’t always predict what size they will be at each season.  Start planning once they get to 2T and can most likely wear the clothes for a year.

My plan for each child includes shoes, outerwear, 2 to 3 church outfits, PJs, and 6 everyday outfits.  Buying whole outfits is key.  If you just have a bunch of cute separates that don’t go together you’ve just got a pile of useless clothing and that person will always have nothing to wear.  It can feel expensive and time consuming to get several complete outfits but it will ultimately save you time, money, and stress.  Make sure you have the socks, tights, shoes, and belts to really make outfits.  And because I have a personal color scheme for each of my kids, it makes mixing and matching to create many outfits, easy.  So even if you only have 3 or 4 complete outfits, if each item is a high quality “10” and they all color coordinate, you can mix and match the pieces to create dozens of outfits that you love.  Many items can be worn more than once before washing.  Some little ones do get dirty every day but probably not every item of the outfit is dirty.  Maybe your son needs more shirts than pants to deal with this, for example.  PJs can almost always be worn 2-3 times before washing. 

Also if you save up and then plan to shop for a whole season all at once it’s easier to coordinate the wardrobe and get complete outfits.  Also, retailers often have sales on new merchandise in the Fall so you can definitely get all the sizes/colors you want.

And if you have a checklist of things you want to buy for next year, shopping end of season sales can be very productive.  For example I know I’ll want 2 pairs of little boy lightweight church pants in size 2 next spring so if I see some I really like on sale this summer I can get them and check off those boxes on my checklist.  It also prevents me from going crazy and buying more than I need.  I’m always tempted to get too many dresses for my girls. 

I have a friend who dresses her kids adorably in mostly designer clothes from the Goodwill.  With a plan and shopping list you can do this too.

Also, when Grandma generously sends adorable clothes for the kids, you can check things off your list and avoid buying more than you need.  Do the same with hand me downs from family and friends.  And be discriminating.  If you don't love the hand me downs or they won't look good on your child, don't use them.  Why let something you don't like take up space in the chest of drawers or add to your laundry?
6.     My Favorite Stores.  I do a lot of online shopping these days.  Here are my favorite stores for kids clothes.  I almost always buy things on sale.  The one sort of exception is Mini Boden.  Their stuff usually sells out at full price.  But if I buy things all at once at the beginning of Fall I get 15% off my order.

Mini  Boden  - this is my very favorite.  It’s an English brand that’s classic and sweet and pleasantly quirky. 

Janie and Jack – This is Gymboree’s upscale cousin.  I love the classic, tailored style of their stuff and the quality is excellent.  Tucks, smocking, and peter pan collars abound.  They have great sales regularly.

Gymboree – I don’t like this as much as the first two but I do find some good stuff here and the quality is great.  If you can figure out how to use gymbucks you can save 25% - 50%.  Also they have regular special sales for customers on their friends and family list.  Their outlets are good too if you can find one near you.

Nordstrom – I only buy things here on sale and I have to weed through quite a bit of rockstar/tough kid clothes but they do have high quality stuff that I like.  The Anniversary sale every July (I think) is all new fall stuff at 15%-25% off.  The Nordstrom Rack is great if you live by one and take your checklist so you know what you actually need.

Shop It To Me - This is a website that will send you email notices whenever your favorite online brands or stores put items on sale.  You tell them what type of clothes and sizes you want and then twice a week they send you emails with dozens and dozens of items on sale.  It's easy to scroll through the pictures quickly and check out the 1 or 2 things that interest you.  Especially useful when you're looking for something specific like a winter coat.  Just keep checking the emails until you see what you're looking for at a great price.

7.     My Fall Plan.  Here’s my plan for each child this fall.  I already have some of this stuff, especially for Chloe, and will get the rest when Fall clothing hits the stores.  If I don’t love what I see I’ll wait and watch for the good stuff to show up. 

Liam
o Sneakers
o Rain Boots
o Sunday Shoes
o 4 pairs of PJS
o Coat
o Hat/Scarf
o Mittens

SUNDAY (2 outfits, 1 of them for Christmas)
o 1 Suit
o 1 pants
o 2 LS shirts
o 1 Sweater vest
o 1 Sweater
o 2 pairs of socks

6 Everyday Outfits
o 3 jeans
o 2 pants
o 1 sweatsuit
o 6 LS shirts
o 2 hoodies  (1 of them for the sweatsuit)
o 4 sweaters
o 6 pairs of socks

Chloe
o Sneakers
o Rain Boots
o Sunday shoes
o Casual Mary Janes
o 4 pairs of PJS
o Coat
o Hat/Scarf
o Mittens

SUNDAY (3 outfits, 1 of them for Christmas)
o 3 dresses
o 2 tights to match

6 Everyday Outfits
o 2 jeans
o 1 sweatsuit
o 2 skirts
o 1 dress
o 2 tights
o 5 LS shirts
o 2 hoodies (1 of them for the sweatsuit)
o 4 sweaters
o 4 pairs of socks

Isabel
o Sneakers
o Rain Boots
o Sunday shoes
o Casual Mary Janes
o Dress Boots
o 4 pairs of PJS
o Dress Coat
o Puffy Coat
o Hat/Scarf
o Mittens

SUNDAY (3 outfits, 1 of them for Christmas)
o 3 dresses
o 2 tights to match

6 Everyday Outfits
o 2 jeans
o 1 sweatsuit
o 2 skirts
o 1 dress
o 2 tights
o 5 LS shirts
o 2 hoodies (1 of them for the sweatsuit)
o 4 sweaters
o 4 pairs of socks


Update: My sister just asked for my help developing a clothing checklist for her first baby, a little boy who should be here by October.  Here's a link to the post she did on her blog with the list we made.

Update:  Here is a recent pic of my kids in their 2012 Easter outfits.  Also, I've slimmed down my checklist some.  I'll post a new one soon.

11 comments:

Trudy said...

This is awesomely great planning. Next: How do you find time to think through all this , let alone find time to type it all! :)
Trudy

Jennifer said...

Thanks Trudy. This is a hobby for me so spending time on it is fun and I just squeeze it in by neglecting things I should but don't want to do like dishes. I wrote this last night after my husband went to bed early, instead of reading, which is what I normally do at night. Also, I think in lists - just how my brain is wired.

I shared it because I know most people would never go there but might be able to adapt it for their own use. I'm always piggybacking on other people's great ideas and plans.

Blythe said...

I read this with great interest, since selling children's clothes is what I do for a living. I personally approach things a bit differently (mostly because I am in a store nearly every day, so it doesn't make as much sense for me to buy things all at once).

The advice I like most is to only buys the "10s". I could not agree more. Gap changed the employee discount policy a little over a year ago, and it really changed how I shopped. Under the previous policy, we got 30% off anything (sale or full price) if it wasn't something we were buying for ourselves personally. So it always made the most sense to wait until things went on sale before I bought them for my husband or kids. Under the new policy, we get 50% off anything full-price, regardless of who it is for, and only 10% on sale items. This has changed the way I shop...for the better. Before, I really think I would buy some things for my kids simply because they were such a good deal that I just couldn't pass them up. But if you don't love something, do you really want to look at it forever? Sometimes on more than one child? (I'm talking about you, ugly tan cargo pants). Now because I always get a good deal on anything full price, I only buy it if I love it.

That said, after a certain point you just don't get as much say in what your kids wear. You can still decide what you will spend your money on, but whether they wear it is much more up to them. But then I have teenagers (and one ten year old who will still let me pick his clothes).

Jennifer said...

Blythe, I would be in such trouble if I worked in a clothing store - so hard to resist it all! And I think I would do things more piecemeal then because you get to stare at it all for days and days and consider it and then see when it goes on sale.

Coincidentally I just ordered a handful of stuff from The Gap today...

I am just starting to see my oldest have strong opinions about her clothes...it's just the beginning, isn't it?

Kathleen said...

Jen
This is great. I love the list and will definately benefit from using it!

Blythe said...

Definitely just the beginning. But on the plus side, it is also fun to see their personal styles emerge. My daughters both dress well, but their taste could not be more different.

I meant to tell you too that I agree about colors. Many people don't really give it much thought, either for themselves or their children. Some of them are the same people who cruise the clearance rack looking for a bunch of great deals...which sometimes aren't so great if they don't go with anything in your closet.

Dani said...

So useful! I love the list idea. I've made one before, but left it at home instead of in my purse. Duh! This fall, I'll definitely have it handy and use it regularly.

Erica said...

I loved reading about your approach to dressing your kids and have thought about it all week. The 10 rule is definitely a good one...I totally fall into the category of the shopper who buys things because they are on sale, even if I don't LOVE them. As a side note, I too love Janie and Jack...I wanted to name Gracie "Janie", but Jed didn't think a good clothing line was enough of a reason...oh, well. So, when will you post your ideas for keeping toys under control?????

Jennifer said...

Glad you enjoyed it Erica! Ok, you talked me into it, I'll post my toy philosophy.:)

tada! shop said...

We couldn't agree more with your shopping philosophies and you have said it perfectly. Wanted to introduce you to our site as it was conceived to solve so many of the issues you bring up. A children's shopping site, http://www.tadashop.com, started by two moms who felt shopping on the internet was too difficult. We offer a shopping list so you can create your lists as you mention, our create a look tool was created so you can think in outfits and not just have a random assortment of clothing that doesn't go together (like you mention). filters by store, brand, size and color (so you can just see the colors that look good for your kids :) and lastly, so moms can shop across stores and see everything so that when they buy they are informed and buying the perfect 10!

Do you mind if I post your your blog post on our facebook page, I think its really helpful!

Jennifer said...

Thanks Tada Shop! I will definitely check out your site. Feel free to add me to your facebook page.