How to Shop Smart for Kids Clothes
I read this week that 6,000kg of clothing is thrown out every 10 minutes in Australia. That’s enough clothing to fill the MCG over two and a half times every year. That just blows my mind! There are so many factors that contribute to the problem- we're constantly being encouraged to buy more by advertising and ever-changing fashion trends, companies are trying to push down the prices which leads to poorer quality and replacing damaged items seems more convenient than mending. Being mindful about our shopping habits is one way to start attacking this problem.
As an adult, you’ve probably already accumulated enough clothing in your size and it’s easier to see how you can simply buy less, but if your little ones are anything like mine, they grow at a rate of knots. Some days I feel like I blink and my kids have grown! This creates a genuine need to buy them more clothes- enough to get them through the week without fretting about the washing that still isn't dry, and allowing for spares for childcare and accidents.
So how do I shop smart for my little ones? I haven’t perfected the art (I still occasionally wake up to shipping notices from late night online shopping binges!) but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and chatting with other parents. My way of shopping for clothes for them is probably a little unconventional and as you could guess, my family wears 80% second hand. We honestly don’t have the budget to buy the brands we like brand new, I’m a bit addicted to the thrill of second hand shopping and I like our eclectic style! When we do buy new, we buy the best quality we can- particularly for the things that get a lot of use like shoes, jackets and pants. Those big-ticket items are supplemented by second-hand items and then affordable basics from chain stores for things like leggings and pyjamas that will get worn until they disintegrate. I try to apply the 'capsule wardrobe' principles to my kids' clothes, choosing items that all (kind of) go together- brights for my blondie and earth-tones for my olive skinned little man. I do my best to shop with a list and do a thorough wardrobe clean-out before we decide we need more.
When you're on a budget it's really tempting to look for the cheapest option. It's a short-term fix, but it can cost more in the long run if you're continually replacing clothes that have stretched out of shape, faded or come apart at the seams. We usually talk about different quality cottons when we buy sheets, but a similar principle applies to the cotton in clothing. More expensive cotton fabrics use longer cotton fibres, making the fabric smoother, stronger and more resistant to holes. You can sometimes feel the difference in the weight and the way the clothing feels against your body. Brands that are more focused on quality do more quality assurance testing and take more time to ensure the 'grain' of the fabric is straight so the garment doesn't stretch out of shape. Cheaper garments often have higher percentages of synthetic fibres, which aren't as comfortable to wear. Price doesn't always determine quality- but when things are really cheap you have to wonder how they can produce them and where they've cut corners.
Have you noticed that the higher quality garments last long enough to be given to other children? Whether it’s a sibling, a family member or a neighbour everyone appreciates a good quality preloved item of clothing. As the third daughter growing up, most of my clothes were hand me downs either from my sisters or our older cousins or friends and I was always super excited to go through a big bag of outgrown clothes and choose whatever I liked (maybe that's why I love my job now!) One of the saddest things about buying cheaper clothes is that they don't get passed on- even in op shops only 15% of donations ever get re-sold in Australia, some of the leftovers are packed up and sent overseas but a lot is sent to landfill.
The initial outlay on a brand name piece of clothing may be higher, but there is the possibility of being a savvy consumer and selling the clothes once they no longer fit your little ones. There's a thriving market for nice shoes and clothes that have been looked after in weekend markets, Facebook, eBay and Gumtree. If you like the idea of making some of your money back but don't have the time or inclination to go down those paths, selling or trading with Use-Ta! Is a fabulous solution.
Kinder on the Planet
Vivienne Westwood once said "Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity." That's some wisdom to live by- imagine the impact we could have if our clothes lasted longer, we found alternative uses for them and used them until they could no longer be used! I'm no scientist but I'm sure if we all did more to shop mindfully the pile of clothes gathering in landfill would be substantially reduced. Use-Ta! Is all about helping parents shop sustainably for their little ones, we're passionate about kids' fashion AND the planet!