When I first read How to Quinoa: Life Lessons from My Imaginary Well Dressed Daughter, I laughed so hard and so long it was actually uncomfortable. Not to me, but to the people around me, who looked at me funny. Even though I’m a tad resentful (it’s as if the author, Tiffany Beveridge, is a mindreader and read my mind and wrote the book I was meant to write. But funnier.), I still can’t stop laughing. Because, in my mind, my kids are also hip and shockingly well-dressed. They don’t complain about itchy tags or fit or comfort or, well, anything. They don’t have favorite colors. They don’t like the same dress for 5 years even though it looks like a dishrag just because it came from a beloved cousin. They never attempt to mismatch outfits or steal fleece dresses from the winter clothes closet to play outside in Florida in May. And they don’t leave their brand new monogrammed hair bow on the playground at recess. Your kids don’t do any of this stuff, right? Right. Neither do mine.
My kids adore darling outfits like the back to school ones below. And they never get their clothes dirty, because, deep down, they understand that these clothes are super-duper expensive and dry clean only. They just get it, you know?
But let’s assume, for the sake of this post, that your kids aren’t as accommodating as mine. 😉 That they complain, or lose things, or get dirty when they play. Fortunately, I can offer you more than sympathy. I can offer strategies. Here, how to shop for kids, BeautyMommy-style.
1. Leave Them At Home
You do know this, don’t you? Unless you have a toddler in a stroller, kids have no business in a kids clothing store. Why are they there? So they can harass you into buying things you don’t need or ask endless questions that make you want to give up on shopping and start drinking wine even though you don’t drink because it immediately puts you to sleep? I once saw a mom at Gymboree whose talkative 5 year old had her so flustered that she only managed to leave the store with a couple of pairs of socks and a bangle. Tragic. There was an incredible sale and she totally missed it. Shopportunities, like the $6.99 and under sale at Gymboree, don’t come along every day and are not to be squandered.
Chances are, your husband doesn’t want to go to the mall anyway, so send him to the birthday party with the kids while you hit the stores alone. This serves a dual purpose. Husbands can sometimes squelch your enthusiastic shopping sprees, and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
2. Keep Them Busy
Like most moms, I am an excellent multitasker, but I find it impossible to shop for kids’ clothes and listen to my girls argue at the same time. If your kids do find their way to the mall and start asking for pretzel bites and rides on the jumpy thing, try this:
1. Deposit them and your husband in the play area or at an ice cream shop.
2. Bring your mom along so that one of you can browse while the other watches the kids. Okay, so you can browse while she watches the kids.
3. Meet a friend at the mall and take turns shopping.
If none of these is an option, distract them with your phone or some other device to buy yourself some time. If you’re lucky, these devices might get you through an afternoon of shopping without multiple requests for candy and plastic stuff from Claire’s. If you can get past the glances of judgement from other parents, you’ll see a glimmer of respect, because your kids look adorable and you have shopping bags, and the only thing they have managed to do is circle the mall aimlessly while their child wields a drippy chocolate ice cream cone like a weapon.
If your time is limited (and let’s face it, it’s always limited), hop on to the store’s website or check out the catalog before heading out. If you’re nicer and more democratic than I am, you might even ask your kids to point out some things that they like. This is completely acceptable, as long as you don’t actually listen to them. Just go ahead and buy what you were going to buy anyway. They’ll still feel heard. And I promise you that they’ll hardly notice that the Justice jeans they asked for were swapped out for a darling little dress.
4. Shop Ahead
There is a cardinal rule of shopping that many people forget: The best time to find something is when you’re not looking for it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to shop ahead. Purchase items like party dresses, coats, boots, and holiday outfits when you see them, especially if they’re on sale. I buy coats and Christmas dresses for the following year during the post-holiday sales, and shoes and boots whenever I spot them. All of these new purchases go into a bin until the season (or size) is right, when I get the fun of opening it up and rediscovering all of my finds!
When shopping ahead, it’s always better to go for a slightly bigger size than you think they will need.
5. Hit the Good Stores
While I love Target and H&M as much as the next girl, don’t skip the higher end stores just because you’re on a budget. The sale prices at posh little boutiques can make their merchandise very affordable, particularly if you are buying at the end of the season. Department stores are another amazing place to land great deals. A friend picked up Lilly Pulitzer dresses for her little girl at Dillard’s for about $20 each, a fraction of the original retail prices. If you’re willing to plan ahead, you can find value and quality. Stores like J. Crew (Crewcuts) and Janie & Jack also have excellent sales!
6. Make Returns a Breeze
Keep all tags on clothes until your kids try them on, and you know that they will be worn. It makes returns that much easier. Many stores no longer need a receipt if the tags are on. Know a store’s return policies before you buy! Sometimes, stores have different policies for deeply discounted items or special occasion items.
7. Shop Everywhere
It can be easy to get into a shopping rut, and buy all of your kids clothes at Gymboree or Target. Broaden your options by shopping at unexpected places. I discovered a few adorable beachy lines at a well-stocked gift shop while browsing with my mother-in-law. Museum shops, flea markets and thrift stores can all be good sources for great children’s clothes!
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! With a little planning and ingenuity, you can clothe your kids in cutie couture, on a budget, without losing your mind. Tomorrow, my favorite places to shop for kids’ clothes, including some online sources you may never have considered!