May 2, 2006

Q. Holy Moley, Where Are The Decent Kids Clothes At??

I ran some stuff back to Neiman Marcus to exchange sizes last night--one of the grandmothers had been in town and had showered generous gifts on the child, who promptly had a meltdown that prevented any trying on in the store--and it was HORRIBLE. How they ever managed to find the few decent pieces of girl's clothes that they did is beyond me.

The whole rack of toddler clothes was an uninterrupted smear of rainbow sherbet. Every pair of jeans was encrusted with some junk. Every pair of pants had three tiers of ruffles and ribbons on the cuffs. Every shirt and dress was the same, only frillier. You know you're in trouble when Lilly Pulitzer starts to look sedate. [And Lilly's fine, but there aren't enough divots to be replaced between chukkers for her to wear all the Lilly she already has. As for everything else, it looked straight out of a Care Bears Gone Wild video.]

The boys' section, meanwhile, was an unrelenting row of rugby shirts. "I've never had anyone buy boy's clothes for a little girl," the saleswoman sniffed. No doubt.

Maybe it's just the sheer, style-free conventionality of suburban Washington, DC. Maybe other Neiman Marcus locations have for kids what I've always found for adult clothes: a reliable selection of high-end brands and solid, high-quality private label stuff. Maybe there are sophisticated, normal, goodlooking, urban-friendly clothes in every mall but Tyson's Corner.

Or maybe not. Here's what DT reader Robert just sent me:

Being an older dadĶ I am somewhatĶ eh, not exactly sickened, but not really too overwhelmingly stoked by the choices of kids clothing available for our soon-to-be-one-year-old-twinsboy & girlĶ

Im wondering if there is anyplace to get clothes that dont Ķ..well, look like brat clothes ?? no cute kitten/frog/Disney characters and no trendy adult-oriented themes such as ipods etc..

where can I get a simple pair of black pants and a black shirt for our kids?? Is there anything out there??

Amen, brotha. When I asked the Neiman Marcus woman about black clothes, she actually made a face. "No, and when we had some once, all we heard was, 'Who would dress a child in black??'" She said to the dad standing in front of her in a navy sweater, grey t-shirt, and black pants.

So. question: where's a guy gotta go to get his kids some nice clothes that don't make him cringe?

48 Comments

American Apparel.

I've searched all over for simple, unencrusted, reasonably-cut T-shirts for the kid for the summer. They are next to impossible to find. I finally ordered them from American Apparel. They're great, and they come in black.

You really want to know? Why, France, of course. Both Petit Bateau and A.P.C. have simple, stylish (but age-appropriate) childrens lines in gray, navy, and normal bright colors like orange and red. To procure them both affordably and stateside, I suggest the P.B. outlet store at Woodbury Commons, and the yearly A.P.C. sample sale at an old bank building in Williamsburg (this is advertised in NY Magazine, so you will have to get there early and fight the hordes of, how you say, grups.)

Full sicko disclosure-- I've been assembling a trousseau in this way for several years, since before we were even sure we'd have children. I sure hope the kid likes gray as much as I do...

[apc. but of course. -ed.]

Kids clothes are so bad. I don't know who picks this stuff but I don't think they have kids.

Most stores hardly have any boys clothes at all. They have 2-3 racks of boys and about 20 for girls. ( I did count them at the one that begins with W). There are just as many boys and they need clothes too. they all end up in the same outfit because there is nothing else. If you don't shop when the stuff first comes out they sell out and then they have nothing to wear.

Or the little girls end up looking like Bratz dolls. What happened to just plain clothes they can wear and play in?

I'm not so sure that 2-3 racks v. 20 racks thing is limited to just kids. Seems like most stores have way more women's clothing than men's.

I hate to say it, but go low-end. Wal-Mart, Target, Old Navy, etc. For some reason, I think some people think if they are spending a lot of money on kids' clothes they need to get their money's worth on embellishment. It's true that at the low-end places you have to sort through the character stuff too, but they also usually have plain things - even for girls. I got my daughter plain black leggings and a black turtleneck onesie at Wal-Mart as well as plain jeans, khaki shorts, simple cotton dresses, etc. They may not be heirloom quality, but she's going to outgrow them soon anyway.

[I think that's "the one that starts with 'W'" from the previous comment. -ed.]

My mother-in-law likes to shop at Jacadi - I don't know about boy clothes, but the outfits she gets for my little girl are fun and cute without being all pink and frilly (there is some of that, but plenty of alternatives). For summer, she got her some mix-and-match outfits in dark purple and a neutral green, with polka-dot accents (http://www.jacadiusa.com/ecomapp/shop/theme.do?themeId=12). Can't speak to the price though, but knowing my MIL they are probably not cheap...

My wife buys most of my son's (he's 2 1/2) clothes at The Children's Place.

He honestly looks like a mini me. If you want your kid to look like a normal person, then that's the place to go. Very affordable, very plain, very durable.

We've also bought some clothes at H&M for him and for my goddaughter. They didn't make him look like eurotrash or anything. They were nice. Not as durable though. But nice.

I have always been happy with the stuff i have found for my 3 yrs old daughter at Target. and I personally have bought boys clothes for her...i mean she looked rocking in her camo shorts and Ramones tee her uncle bought her.

also I love making iron tees for my kids (i also have a 3 month old son) but my biggest challenge is finding BLANK COLORED tees in their sizes. so if anyone has any leads...i am all ears.

-shawn

Hanna Anderssen (sp?) has nice, reasonably gender-neutral (or at least less frilly for girls) stuff. Up here in Canada the Euro-store Zara stocks kids' clothes that are pretty nice and less bedecked with ugliness.
What I most resent about kids' clothes is the sledge-hammer approach they take to gender identification. As if, if there's not a football or a truck emblazoned on the front, people won't be able to tell my kid's a boy.

Friends got our daughter a black long-sleeved tee and knit black pants from American Apparel when she was born. It was our favorite outfit for her, but she outgrew it at around 4 mos. I recently was in an Old Navy and spotted a whole rack of solid color (including black) tees, tanks, shorts and pants for babies. I've found that when I dress my 9-month-old in anything other than pink (which she has very little of once she outgrew all the initial gifts), people assume she's a boy. When I correct them, they look at me as though it's my fault for failing to dress her like a little princess.

I agree that places like Old Navy and Target are pretty decent on the not overly done girl clothes. Gap Kids isn't so bad and a lot of their infant boy stuff is good for girls, too.

Here's another question: As a mom who bought my infant daughter overalls from the boys section and gave up trying to find a plain denim skirt for her, how come every single item of girls clothes is embellished with flowers and sparkles and butterfies and other pink treacle (so that you have to get the outfit), where as the boys stuff is plain. Rarely did I find pants or overalls covered in trucks or dinosaurs or anything on the boys side.

And I can't wait for winter when I can pair my daughters plaid Gap Kids kilt ($4.99 on clearance!) with her CBGB onesie. Now if only I can find her some black tights to go with it...

I wanted to second some of the suggestions here. I do like to dress my 18 month old in things that are cute, but despise the "tween wanna be", overly embellished, pink explosion you see in a lot of typical girls clothing.

We have a lot of french brands--Catimini, Deux par Deux, Clayeux, Jacadi--that we mostly buy on e-bay (or on sale), H&M, Hanna Andersson, and the Children's Place. Selective purchasing has lead to a mainly pink-free wardrobe so far.

Have y'all been to Target this season? Ugh, ugh, ugh, on the girls' clothes. Exactly as Greg describes -- rainbow sherbert and frills. Must be something about this year. I had to laugh that it's the same at NM! I tried Gap and it wasn't much better. Off to Children's Place and to scour EBay for Hanna Andersson. Too bad Zutano doesn't do bigger sizes. . . .

The trick is to find places that sell basic Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Jerzees etc stuff to embroidery and printing places.

Best find so far in the UK are www.schoolwearhouse.co.uk and www.leisurewearhouse.co.uk - not always the cheapest admittedly, but blessedly logo-free.
Great for older kids too and handy for schoolwear, especially in the UK where schools often demand absolutely plain stuff in the school colour, and charge a premium for buying it through the school.

Janie and Jack had navy blue pants and sweaters last month. I also picked up a plain dark green set of overalls with no trim except for a stylized grasshopper on the pocket.

You'll have to go into Tyson's 1, of course. Can you do it without breaking out into hives? ;)

Also, and I know that if T1 is below your pain threshold, Target out at Fair Lakes is unthinkable - but all winter long, they were stocking black corderoy pants for girls.

(And, obligatory old crotchety woman comment - I remember when Tyson's was a really crappy little mall with no parking garage, and Ballston Commons had an open air courtyard and an Orange Julius. I'm only 31. That's why I snicker a little whenever you talk about T1 being low rent - the people who used to shop there were priced out years ago.)

We've found some pretty good stuff at Babies'R'Us every once in a while. You really have to dig through the racks to get something palatable, but we bought our son two pairs of Levis, camo pants, and some Nike track pants on SALE there. We also found a Nike hoodie when he was first born that he still squeezes into. It's an even better quality than the adult sizes.

Old Navy also has some plain stuff every once in a while. My brother wanted to buy my son an outfit as a gift, and I told him no animals/sports/pastels/stupid sayings. He came back with navy blue corduroys and a brown half-zip wool sweater. It's a great outfit, but he did complain it took him weeks to find something without all of that crap.

Since Tim owns the skateshop in Boston, we get to order DC and Vans shoes for him at wholesale. That's a definite perk. We have a pair of soft-soled old-school Vans high-tops which are pretty cool.

Also, my mom goes to some consignment baby store in Newport all the time and gets carloads of Petit Bateau, Ralph Lauren and Baby Gap clothes for him for PENNIES of the cost. I mean $7-10 for a Ralph Lauren bodysuit. All the clothes she's bought for him still have the tags on.

Up until about 3 months ago, when the ultrasound revealed that we were having a girl this round, I was blissfully unaware of the fugly that is girls clothing in department stores.

Really, Monster has just lived in plain Wranglers, some nifty overalls from Popi Kids (no web site, a store aimed at the wealthy, asian population of Vancouver and area) and stripey shirts from wherever I could get them. He has 4 older cousins, all boys, so the hand-me-downs are plentiful and generally very basic, character free clothes.

So far, Please Mum (www.pleasemum.com) seems to be relatively inoffensive for girls clothes, but I have not looked much beyond infant sizes. I accidentally happened upon low rise jeans in a size 2t at a department store, and decided that i was not ready to deal with toddler girls clothes for a while.

It might also be because I was an only child and never suffered the indignities of hand-me-downs, but I must admit that I love shopping second hand. Especially in areas where upscale parents (and grandparents) shower the wee ones with full ensembles that are often worn only once for pictures. I really like the fact that my daughter can wear something that is already worn-in and soft, too, although we will see how long she is cool with that.

Lucky jeans has fantastic mini size Lucky jeans for babies and tots. They also have some fantastic tee shirts. Lucky clothes, only miniature. Love love love it.

I agree that France has the best to offer, but the problem is buying it in the US without paying an arm and a leg. There are several on-line boutique shops that offer Euro brands, but the price is often staggering.

One exception is Du Pareil au Meme, which ships overseas and can be worth it if you have a larger order to dilute the shipping. Its items are cheap, and it is one of the most affordable stores in France. www.dpam.com

Admittedly, some of the stuff at DPAM can be bit over the top, but they usually have a collection that will have something you like. We often get normal colored overalls from them. The site has an English option too.

Unfortunately, there are many other great French options but you will have to fly to France. Go the first day of the bi-yearly sales and stock up.

www.babyrockapparel.com (has black onsies and t-shirts in addition to other items. Kunckleheads stuff is an option)

www.urbanmonster.com (has some rather funny stuff). It may not be helpful, but is fun to look through once in a while. I've thought of getting the President Poopyhead t-shirt.

The tea collection on CocoaCrayon seemed pretty restrained
http://www.cocoacrayon.com/tea.html

km

Yeah, shopping for shoes for our 2 year old last week was useless. Do they make girls shoes that aren't pink & white?

H&M has some pretty cool clothes, including black.

My favorite clothes for under-2 are Zutano. Awesome colors, prints, etc. Plenty of unisex cute clothes. The shirts are a little short for my daughter with an enormous belly but the pants fit and they just couldn't be cuter. she loves the prints. They have black too.

Only problem is they don't have an online store so you have to pick and choose from other places.

I like Old Navy too. They have a whole set of capris, shorts, and t-shirts this spring, very plain, including black!

Then you can save money for sale clothes from Janie and Jack, which rock, though are very gendered.

Agree with the TCP hookup. Our son dressed in normal chinos, khakis,jeans and dark polos and creww. Our daughter will soon be wearing them despite the fact that they are boys clothes.
We gota number of black and red solid tops and black pants from baby gap.

Regarding the shoes. The robeez are unisex for the little ones. We have numerous pairs of girls VANS just awaiting the day that they'll fit.

Overall, I agree with a few other reader that The Children Place has proved to be the best place for just plain clothes.

Lands End was also good for basic goods. tees. cotton pants.

I ditto American Apparel. Great cotton, plain basics. They may be too boring for some but they have black and other cool colors. I like to layer their shirts, decent prices and sweat shop free. Love their baby wife beaters.

Not trying to toot my own horn but we always hear we have the coolest dressed boy since birth (he's now 9 months) and honestly about 75% of his wardrobe is from Target or Old Navy. All about how you put it together ;) We found the most killer distressed grey/white pinstripe blazer for him at H&M. And we always heard the "why is he in black" comments. To which we reply, he wears black on the outside b/c he feels black on the inside. That and we worship the devil.

You are soooo right - I am tired of butterflies for girls and trucks/basball themes for boys!

I would look up Shilav - I stumbled upon it at a friends house (her son was wearing an amazing green hoodie and pants), and bought some of their stuff for my 2yo son and my 5yo daughter. They are rather new, but very high quality and very decent prices!

I like H & M, if you have one in your town.
American Apparel is great, too. I like it for myself (I'm really slim, and their T-shirts fit me better than anything else.)
Dave

In looking up the Shilav info(btw, their boys clothes totally rock) I remembered another brand for girls from Australia called

Oink!baby.

Is it okay to mention Oink in the same sentence as an Israeli brand?

[here, I added a line to make it into two posts. -ed.]

I think it's a lot harder to dress a boy, frankly, especially if you don't want him to look like a miniature version of a preppy suburban dad, a soccer hooligan, or Tommy Lee (you'd be surprised at how many skulls you see on kids' t-shirts these days). I also don't think any baby should wear a onesie with Che Guevara on it unless said baby is actually a communist.

Here are my suggestions for some great (non-pastel) clothing lines for girls: Eliza Gran, Dagmar Daley, the Bluebird Collection, Devi Baby (all available at totshop.com). For boys and girls I like Bu and the Duck, the Tea Collection, and Splendid.

[1. oops, don't look at the jcrew kids post I just did. 2. how about wearing che as a sign of triumphalist commodification and a celebration of capitalism? yeah, capitalism? and 3. taken all at once, those clothing brands sound like they came out of a celebrity baby name equivalent of a pornstar name generator. that's all. -ed.]

I've had a hard time finding some basics for my daughter's wardrobe. Last fall, I just wanted a pair of plain denim overalls and a denim overalls skirt. I finally found both at Children's Place. This spring, I just wanted simply khaki pants and shorts for her, no embroidery, no embellishments, and I was thinking I was going to have to settle for toddler boys' cargo pants. I finally found plain, simple khaki shorts at Target. And Kohl's has a decent selection of toddler girl Polo shirts and simple T-shirts.

Geez Greg, looks like you've got a closet fashionista audience on here. I've never seen this many comments on any post that doesn't reference a stroller.

[or circumcision. -ed.]

Just have to say American Apparel dresses are my daughter's favorites. She has every color and just goes through the rainbow as the week progresses. And when it gets cold she tosses on a turtleneck and tights. (oh, and they do run small she's a tall 4 year old and wears a size 6)

I have to say, as a new father (5 wks), a lot of this fashion talk seems a little over the top. So far we mostly dress her in what fits... but as we get more options, i am hoping to be not so obsessed with how her outfits reflect my style decisions- whether that be Che shirts or frilly things. I am definitely anti-pink, but when it comes down to it I can't really get myself to care - its not like there is anyway out of rampant consumerism, and it is especailly not helped by spending hours online buying things from France to look different.
Having said that, i am sure there will be a lot of American Apparel as that is where i shop a lot for myself. love their underoos (for grups)

[congrats, and spoken like a true grup. Or, as we used to call them/us, Gen-X'er. -ed.]

I've said it before--go to Belgium, especially Antwerp. The Belgians make the hippest children's clothes out there.

[See, Daniel? not everyone's going to France for their kid's clothes! -ed.]

Did anyone mention Zutano? They have some nice gender-neutral stuff in good colors like brown and orange and red...

I regularly shop the boys dept. for our daughter. KMart has some good boys cotton solid colored t-shirts that I get for her which will be passed down to her baby brother eventually. Second the recommendation for H&M as well.

We're lucky to have lots of relatives in France who regularly send Jacadi, Bout 'chou, Petit Bateau and other brands to us, both new and hand-me-downs.

zutano actually makes clothes up to a size 6; here is the current girls' line and here is the boys' line. (The boys' section is half the size of the girls'; shocking, i know.) totally seasonal, so you have to keep checking back. (the girls' stuff is puketastically flowery this summer, alas.) i also like H&M, hanna andersson and old navy for girls -- you can definitely do the no-pink there. i LOVE oilily (it's not pink and frilly, but it's exuberantly colorful/layered to the point of "schizophrenic pushing a shopping cart" but we dig that look). oilily sure isn't cheap, tho...so i go hog-wild (sorry, shilav) at the sample sales for both oilily and calypso--for me and for the kids, once or twice a year.

[I'll never get the image out of my mind while we were buying a couple of oilily shirts of the wife of the ambassador for some African kleptocracy taking her sweet time peeling 100's off of a Big Gulp-sized roll to pay for a mountain of clothes while her nanny and bodyguard chased her whiny head-to-toe oilily brats around the store. Good clothes & good times. -ed.]

The old navy t-s are a staple for Lucas. At the end of one of their imaginary seasons last year we bought a bunch for $3-4 CDN each. Solid color, ring neck collars, with a small (really small, like 2cm) old navy logo on the back near the head hole.

[um, maybe the seasons are only imaginary because you live in the arctic circle? just saying -ed.]

Try Wonderboy for very cool boys clothes. Good quality and styling and best of all, no "clever" sentiments. Great with Levis ($17 at Kohls) and any T.
wonderboyclothing.com

I've found some great tees at Lucky for both son + daughter, as was previously mentioned. Also, Fred Segal for kids has some cool stuff. I especially love the black lace bloomers by Lifesize (only $17.95) - very comfortable and versatile. I have to admit I do dress my daughter in pink/purple alot but I add black in and I steer way clear of any kitties, puppies or "princess" type designs. no thanks... Gap sometimes has decent stuff too - i like their PJs.

i'll second the totshop & tea collection suggestions. american apparel is a given. and since they haven't been mentioned, i'll just throw these in there:

http://www.florahenri.com/
http://www.buandtheduck.com/

totally decent, totally classic kids clothes. the italian leather shoes are perfect.

for simple cotton tops, shirts, yoga / karate pants, etc. American Apparel is unbeatable

and yes, babies in black rule ;-)

I know of ONE place where you can buy simple clothes in black for babies and toddlers: www.rainbowbabies.nl

The clothes are plainer than plain, prices are reasonable, the quality is good (the black stays black even after more than 10 washes) and the shipping rates aren't too ridiculous either. They also have a (pricey) lettering service so that you can have the jaded phrase of your choice emblazoned on a onesie or t-shirt.

Their site is only in Dutch and German right now, but each item is clearly illustrated and they are very helpful if you drop them a line.

(Tip - if you use a tumble dryer, buy a size larger)

www.jako-o.com also has great quality basics, plain cotton in bright colours. Officially they don't ship to the US but I think that's just because they've never been asked to! Ask them and I think they will.

-Hayley

[It's like "Dutch Apparel." -ed.]

Hi
Just to mention that Deux par Deux that Carrie mentionned as a nice French brand is actually a Quebec brand http://www.deuxpardeux.com/en/ (so you get to pay in canadian dollards, instead of euros, wouhou!) and they indeed are great. This brings me to an aspect of this topic: their clothes are made in Canada (good labour rights, etc...). We were happily shopping at Target and Old Navy for basics since our son was born 8 months ago. But we saw a piece on tv about workers' rights in the factories in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, etc... and the kids were about the size of the clothes they were making. Now we are deseperately seeking good looking clothes that are made in ethical conditions... American apparel, Baby's own, Deux par deux...Does anybody know the origin of all their fantastic looking baby clothes? I know, if we stop buying the clothes that come from those bad factories, the kids that have to work in there will just starve because they need the income for the family, so we are wondering, what are we supposed to do? What is more important? That our son looks nice / cool (whatever that means) or that we care about others? Can we do both?

How about toddlers' shoes? Where does everyone get them?

[morgan and milo, saltwater sandals from hoy -ed.]

My absolute favorite for my 1.5 yo girl is Mini Boden (bodenusa.com). I don't love all of their stuff, but they have some cool, retro dresses and logo-free t-shirts, etc. Your order arrives from the UK, so it's not instant gratification -- delivery normally takes just over a week.

Old Navy has sleeveless, ribbed tees for girls right now in a bunch of colors, including black. I bought a bunch of them in different sizes.

Lastly, H&M has reasonably-priced, relatively frill-free stuff.

We get a lot of girls' clothing from Hanna Andersson. Some of the colors are bright, but they don't have rhinestones all over them.

I found your blog while doing a search and had to chuckle just a bit....(do people still chuckle?) My wife and I own a chidren's boutique on Hilton Head Island, SC and have done so for over 20 years. We take pride in making sure that we have clothes in our store that appeals to almost every taste. If we don't have it, we can get it. It is funny though, we rarely stock black for babies. Maybe it is because we are in the South, maybe it is because we tend to be more traditional in our approach to kidswear, who knows? We have carried European brands for years and search the world for the newest and best designs. If you ever get to Hilton Head, visit our store, Island Child. If you need some help finding special clothing items, feel free to contact us, or visit us online at http://www.islandchild.com. I enjoyed the comments that have been posted.

Why would you like a child to look like a mini version of an adult? Let kids be kids, they will never get to wear those kind of clothes again. I am not saying that they should look like ridiculous puffy dolls, but just cute and child-like. KIDS SHOULD NOT WEAR BLACK!

[you are talking about a totally arbitrary definition of "cute and child-like," of course. But you're right. Grey is much, much easier to keep clean. -ed.]

Hip Baby & Childerens Tees with nice printings and very Funky look!
take a quick look at www.funkyxs.com
put your little prince or princess in a dare 2be funky Tee.

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