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 a year, 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 landfills? Every year it’s not only adult jeans, skirts, sweaters and jackets that fill up landfills, childrenswear is the hidden fast fashion - Can you buy new children’s clothes in a way that is both sustainable and doesn’t break the bank?
Read on to discover the small things I believe we can all do, to master ethical children’s clothing.
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 little one (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, so cheaper fashion does make so much sense - the “make it last” argument doesn’t apply here. 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!
Make sure to mend, and take the best care of your children’s clothing, clean stains early when they’re fresh and 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 that 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 use more practical ones on days that are likely to get messy. This way, 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.
Then, of course, it is 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 ‘special’ ones get a lot more mileage to 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 and varied 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 sustainable and kind to our planet.
As with adults, avoiding things that will blatantly go out of fashion and definitely won’t be easy to pass on to another sibling or cousin. This is more cost efficient and someone else can get joy out of it too!
For the baby gifts
As children, 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... Honestly, everyone does this, so your present will be lost in an ocean of 1-month sized onesies, sweaters, slippers...and some babies will never even get to wear them. My boys both were too big for size 1-month from the get-go! Plus, babies generally 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 that is sized 18 months or higher- they may use it a little later, but they will think of you (and thank you) 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 throwing out all synthetic clothes your children’s wardrobes may contain (that would probably mean quite a bit, and they would also just go straight to landfill…).
Whenever you’re shopping and it is possible, opt for natural fibres rather than synthetic ones, and the same goes for organic clothes. Take a look online 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 remember to wash everything before you put anything new onto any member of your family!
So many reasons for this.
First: 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, please let me know!
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, please let me know!
In case you missed it:
Mathilde’s Green Parenting Guide: Part 1