We know the story. You see images of beautiful streamlined children’s wardrobes but feel it’s unattainable because children are wonderfully messy and grow out of their clothes rapidly. Those wardrobes are unrealistic, too expensive and far from pragmatic, right?
Having transitioned our daughters who love food (stains) and adventure (more stains) into their own capsule wardrobes without an overwhelming overhaul, we have some pointers to help get you started.
1. ENVISION IT// Don’t expect the transition to happen overnight, but rather, take a long-term view of what your goal is. We all have an image in our head of what we want our closets (and lives) to look like; keep that vision handy every time you see a pack of 300 socks on sale for $3 and start by simply saying no to impulsive purchases from companies who mass produce cheap clothing by the pound using questionable ethics and quality. Take a considered approach as to how you will buy children’s clothes beginning now, and motivate yourself with how you wish to spend your time (do you wish you had less laundry/shopping, and more time for experiences?). Remember that every time you spend money you are voting for the types of businesses, ethics, and lifestyles you want to experience.
Map out your route in your mind: envision filtering in a few high quality gorgeous pieces and filtering out the bulk and junk; this is a process that can take seasons or a couple years if you’re looking for a slow, budget friendly transition.
Hop on Pinterest and put together mood boards with the aesthetic you want to pull off. Keep in mind: classic styles will have longer staying power (to pass down for subsequent children to wear, and for resale value), and a cohesive aesthetic will make it much easier for your child to independently mix & match, giving them a plethora of working combinations despite having fewer garments to choose from.
2. RESEARCH IT// Find the brands who are doing good things. Slow and ethical production is not a fad; it is the future of manufacturing and sustainability. As inhabitants of our planet it is our most basic and fundamental responsibility to be conscious consumers. When it comes to your family making a change, like most things in parenting
So where do you begin?
Start by looking for companies who are consciously and ethically manufacturing, who use 2 year sizing (i.e. size 2T-3, 4-5, 6-7, vs. standard size 4, size 5, etc.). These silhouettes are very forgiving with sizing and you can often size up if your child is starting out on the high end of the size; so conceivably, one shirt can last 4+ years between two children (2+ years each) if you size up, shop smart and aim for quality.
We have found that our 2 and 5 year olds can actually share 3/4 length and short sleeve shirts as well as shorts, skirts (even some pants!) and a few dresses; the aesthetic looking short or more fitted on Ivy, and looser, longer but still adorable on Cora (we are now talking 6+ years of wear for one garment between our two children). We have found that these pieces, if cared for properly could clothe both of our children for years.
Next, follow your favourite brands via their newsletter and IG so you can get a sense of:
-Their selling patterns: How often they release collections (i.e. 2-3 times a year vs. small releases and restocks that trickle in throughout the year)
-Their pricing: A few small and slow fashion brands rarely put items on sale since they operate small, often family-owned businesses with much higher manufacturing costs due to fair wages, healthy working conditions, quality of fabrics, ecological mission, and level of craftsmanship. You will find some who almost immediately sell out a large portion of their stock at every release, and others who you can count on for regular end of season discounts.
By tuning into their company and their latest news you can decide when and how you will shop with them (are you first in line looking to pick your favourites from a new release or are you an end of season shopper looking to upgrade your child’s wardrobe by choosing from sale pieces your child can grow into that fit your budget?).
If you are working the sales and budget conscious angle you might be surprised at how often your child can pull off wearing a garment 2-3 years bigger than their current size (we've recently pulled off a 6-7 linen dress on Cora (2 years old), and had Ivy wearing (again linen) shirts for 8-9 year olds)!
The long game is totally possible with children's clothing.
It's also worth mentioning that getting to know the creators of your clothing is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Seeing the passion and participating in the community behind a brand is magic!
3. SHIFT YOUR MINDSET // It is significantly easier to own and properly care for longer-lasting higher-quality items when there are simply less things around. In a culture where our children’s wardrobes can feel disposable it takes a mindset shift to spend our time and money differently; to put energy and time into
Will you actually be spending the same amount of time and money after going capsule? Possibly, but consider HOW you would like to spend your time; would you rather spot treat, fold and hang a handful of beautiful clothes with your children that bring you joy by simply holding them, or would you rather spend that same amount of time (and in all reality, much likely more) in an endless sea of dirty clothes strewn about their bedroom searching for the other matching sock and having a never-ending pile of laundry to fold with new clothes rotating in and out every 5 months?
THE TAKEAWAY // Clothing can be a very joyful part of our lives, and the pride that comes from carefully curating, consciously consuming, and properly caring for the things we own is not only a gift to the Earth, but to ourselves. It is especially a gift to our children who are fully able to enjoy this perspective beginning at a very young age, and who will be faced with important ecological decisions in their lifetime.
An extremely important part of this conversation with our children, and the formation of Coco & Ives, has been to be sureWhen we speak about our clothing with our girls we talk about its durability, its functionality, its story, how it makes us feel. We do not point our focus on how it makes them look “i.e. you look so cute in that dress!!” but more on “Do you think you can run fast in that dress? Does it twirl? What do you think you’ll collect in your pockets today? Tell me about your outfit today! Those wool socks look like they’ll keep your feet warm while we’re out in the cold! I bet this button will keep your treasures nice and safe!”
We have seen firsthand the incredible transformation that comes from modelling and sharing the joy of owning and caring for a handful of things we truly love. We have seen the excitement, interest, and happiness our children feel when taking care of their clothes (washing, folding, putting away), and the independence they have found from being able to create their own outfit pairings with zero guidance and zero cringing on our part.
Our children will now caress or study a nice fabric like something familiar and loved, can identify linen, wool and cotton (and know the weather of the days they are all best used). They talk brand names, hues, identifying buildings in a city or things nature that they wish were a color of their dress or shirt, and recognize various cuts and types of clothing. They differentiate between knee highs and ankle socks, oxfords and ankle boots, leather and canvas, and have truly taken an interest in the functionality of what they are wearing.
And just like adults, you will see how your child stands in front of the mirror with a unique confidence when they are wearing a well-made piece of clothing built to enhance their day; one they know the story of, the ins-and-outs of, that not only happens to look beautiful but makes them feel beautiful…and confident…and clever…and independent.
Up next: PART II // THE PURGE // How to streamline and get rid of the bulk
Note: This awareness doesn't have to (and shouldn't!) end with our clothing. Knowing the story of the things we own, the food we eat, and the people who create them is the beginning of a rich, deep, beautifully attuned life. We fervently support makers all over the world who are passionate about quality, health, and craft. Let's continue the conversation in the comments below; who are your favourite makers (clothing or otherwise!) deserving of their name and craft being shouted from the rooftops? Let's share the goodness!!