Mathilde's Green Parenting Guide:
Part 2. Doing Fashion For Kids More Sustainably
For part 2 of our series on eco-parenting, I wanted to cover a topic that I personally find very challenging: Kids clothing! One of the many challenges parents face is ensuring that fast-growing little ones always have something to wear without breaking the bank.
That can mean buying an awful lot of (often cheap) clothes, and that all concepts of capsule wardrobes, or making clothes last, seemingly go out of the window. What do you do with all the clothes they’ve grown out of so they don’t end up in landfill? Can you buy new children’s clothes in a way that is both sustainable and doesn’t make you completely broke? Read on to find out about the little things I think we can all do to do kids fashion better!
Circulate what no longer fits
We recently explored some great platforms to buy and sell clothing, and if you scroll down to the last section you will find yourself a Bonus for Parents which will help you find a new home for the clothes that no longer fit your LO (or make a bargain or two if you are looking for new ones). Practising sustainable fashion is especially hard when it comes to children’s fashion because they grow up so fast, and so cheaper fashion does make so much sense - the “make it last” argument does not really seem to apply. But you can and should make things last, even if your own children are not the ones to enjoy an item for the next five years! Mend, and take the best care of your children’s clothing, clean stains early when they’re fresh so they are unlikely to set - so you can then sell, swap or donate them for someone else to enjoy!
Save the best for the weekends
At times, it’s quite hard to resist having your little ones walk around looking like fairy princes(-ses). I know I don’t want to deny myself the pleasure! The trick, I think, is to save the really good outfits for special days (like stay-at-home days, or the weekends) and using more practical ones on days that are likely to get messy - because you won’t risk their (your) favourite outfit coming home from the nursery with a massive (unrecoverable) bolognese stain covering it from head to toe. And it’s ok to send your child to play football in a muddy field in shorts that have seen better days… You can make the good outfits last longer, and the less good ones get a lot of mileage and face the pitfalls of your little one’s messy play. More fun guaranteed!
A lot more brands are now producing gender-neutral outfits that can be passed from sibling to sibling, in cute non-gender specific colours. Check out the gorgeous Nellie Quats capsule collection by Courtney Adamo (a mama that we all should follow) for starters. Or head over to Tutti Frutti Clothing who never disappoints when it comes to making colourful and comfy styles while keeping the manufacturing process kind to our planet. As for adults, also avoiding things that blatantly will go out of fashion and will definitely not be easy to pass on to another sibling or cousin is very important.
For the baby gifts
As children, and especially infants and toddlers, quite literally grow like grass, my next tip is to never buy clothes sized ‘one month’ or even ‘three months’ as birth presents for your friends... Everyone does this, so your present will be lost in an ocean of 1-month sized onesies; some babies will never even wear them (my boys both were too big for size 1-month from the get-go!); and generally babies grow out of them quicker than the time it took me to spell ‘onesies’ - they will be worn so, so little. If your friend or relative just had a baby, rather buy something special sized 18 months or up - they may use it a little later, but they will think of you (and thank you) then and for much longer, when all the other presents have long been discarded and they have to start buying new clothes themselves!
Choose the right materials, and wash before wearing
If clothes had the same kind of nutrition labels as food did, your jaw might unfortunately drop... The process of manufacturing clothes is a rather dirty one and often includes the use of pesticides, preservatives and synthetic dyes. Since babies usually have very sensitive skin, this can, in turn, cause rashes or allergic reactions. Now, I’m not suggesting to throw out all synthetic clothes your children’s wardrobes may contain (that would probably mean quite a bit, and also - go straight to landfill…), but whenever you can, opt for natural fibres rather than synthetic ones. Same goes for organic clothes. Have a look at your favourite brand’s website to see what they are doing about the problem. If they fail to impress you, head over to The Good Trade for their best organic children’s clothing brands. Oh, and do wash everything before you put anything new onto any member of your family! So many reasons for this. One: extra dye can be transferred to your skin or other garments (most fabrics made from synthetic fibres like polyester or acrylic - are coloured with azo-aniline dyes, which can cause severe skin reactions in children). Second: new clothes are most often coated in chemical finishes like formaldehyde that manufacturers put on clothes to enhance colour or texture, or perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) like Teflon to make clothes more static-resistant, stain resistant, flame retardant, or wrinkle-free. Do not take the risk: wash it off.
I hope you got some inspiration to eco up not only your own wardrobe but your children’s too. If you have any other ideas about how to do children’s fashion more sustainably - let me know! And stay tuned for part 3 of my Green Parenting Guide, which will be about personal care - the natural way - and comes out next Friday!
In case you missed it:
Mathilde’s Green Parenting Guide: Part 1