beauty

How to buy clothes your kids will actually wear.

by MIA FREEDMAN

Mamamia Publisher, Mia Freedman

When my now 15-year-old son was in primary schools, most days started with another argument about what he’d be wearing. I never expected to have fashion fights with my son. When I imagined being a parent, I has always pictured my off-spring dressed compliantly in cool little outfits that cleverly reflected my own fashion sense.

Not accessories, as such but more like stylish little extensions of my own love of clothes and my own opinions of what looked good on a small child. Okay, I pictured the kids as  accessories. But like most pre-conceived notions of how your child will behave and what you’ll be like a mother, I got it so very wrong.

Seed Basic Boys T-shirt $7.96. Buy here
Seed Pull On Chambray Shorts $34.95. Buy here

Let’s start at the beginning. Fifteen years ago, when Luca was born, there wasn’t much on offer in the way of baby clothes. It was pre-Bonds reinvention, back when they only did plain baby singlets and terry-towelling jumpsuits in pastel pink, blue, yellow and white.

Also on offer were assorted other labels that did frilly froufrou stuff with naff ducky and teddy prints. Back then, GAP was the Holy Grail for their simple, well-made, cute basics but since you couldn’t yet buy it online, you had to send someone to get it. Any friend or relative going to the USA was instructed to bring back bag loads of the stuff.

Through the toddler years, Luca’s wardrobe was fairly uneventful. Boy’s clothes aren’t much fun: it’s just tops and pants with the odd superhero cape that becomes popular around age two. That’s it. All year round. Dull really.

Seed Boys Bleach Dipdye T-shirt $19.96. Buy here
Seed Boys Pull-on Shorts $34.95. Buy here

While my friends with girls got to indulge their fashion fantasies through their daughters, dressing them in fairy dresses and a riot of pink, the most fun I had was cutting the sleeves off the occasional t-shirt. I never understood how Pamela Anderson persuaded her sons to wear tricky beanies or how Elle Macpherson convinced her boys to wear hippie beads and bandanas. I tried all that but my son wouldn’t have a bar of it.

Seed Girls Top $11.96. Buy here
Bonds skirt $17.47. Buy here

Like most small boys, my son was growing and messy, I saw no point in buying him expensive clothes and stuck exclusively to cheap stuff. Target was a favourite. So was Myer’s house brand called Kids World.

The single exception to this rule was when Luca was about four and I splurged on three pieces of Diesel Kids from Marcs: cargo pants, a jumper and a jacket. Together, the amount they cost me was obscene. But by golly those clothes looked cool.

And I justified it by reminding myself how much money I’d saved over the years by shopping at Target (this was my first experience at shopping justification on behalf of someone else – fortunately the rules are the same as when you justify a big purchase for yourself: denial is your friend).

My karmic punishment for spending so much money on such a little person came quickly. The following week, he came home from kindy with a large hole cut into one leg of his new Diesel pants. “I wanted to see if the scissors were sharp,” explained my child who has never willfully destroyed an item of clothing before or since. Perhaps he was just customising.

ADVERTISEMENT

The other lesson I learnt in regards to my expensive splurge was this: when your child is old enough to have an opinion, you’re stuffed. Because of course, after destroying the pants, Luca decided he hated all his Diesel gear and refused to wear any of it. This was despite me using every manipulative technique available including food bribery. “Darling, if you wear the lovely Diesel jumper today I’ll buy you a chunky Kit Kat!” Nothing doing.

Another mother once gave me this piece of kiddie fashion advice: “If anyone gives your child an item of clothing that you don’t like, make it disappear because any item you hate is guaranteed to become their absolute favourite and they’ll insist on wearing it every day.”

She was right dammit. And as my Diesel experience showed me, the reverse is also true: anything you love they will hate.

Fast forward a few years, okay about a decade, and praise the fashion gods, there are loads more options for kids clothes. Country Road, Seed and Big are three of the best. I’ve also discovered the ease and value of shopping at Pumpkin Patch where they do several different stories every season, all within a great colour palette so your kid can mix ‘n’ match and still look pulled together. Even when you’re in the shower and they’re styling up their own look.

My son is now 15 and still has extremely strong ideas about what looks good on him. I rarely have the confidence to buy him clothes if he’s not with me. When asked, his opinions on my own outfits are also extremely useful when I’m torn between two different shoes or earrings. They boy knows clothes.

Purebaby Organic Cotton Dress $34.97. Buy here

When I had a little girl, I discovered just how much babies’ clothes had changed since last time I was shopping for them. Bonds of course has cleverly exploited the (literal) gap in the baby market and Baby Gap is no longer required. The rest of the market can be broadly divided into two: smart-ass and wholemeal.

The smart-ass baby clothes feature slogans like “papa don’t preach” and “I must not chase boys”. I’m not sure how I feel about these; possibly a little disturbed. My personal preference is for babies to look like babies, not tweens or Paris Hilton.

When my daughter was four months old I went to incredibly groovy kids store in Clovelly. It was our first mother and daughter shopping trip. Conveniently forgetting my Diesel lesson, I splurged on the softest C&C baby t-shirts and Splendid leggings in brilliant colours. Also some onesies in funky prints.

At that age, at least she was too young to have an opinion about what I dress her in, let alone take it off. Oh happy day.

00:00 / ???