How to Build A Wardrobe for Your Children
by Krista Hart
1. Make Do.
As moms, we often receive clothing from generous friends during a baby shower, hand-me-downs from relatives or friends, gifts from grandparents, etc. However, as nice as the thought may be, sometimes the item is just not what one would prefer. When I had my first child, I would quickly weed out any clothing gifts that did not fit my idea of what I preferred for my child to wear. However, I’ve learned that to stretch our family’s clothing budget I need to make the most of what is given to us, so I try my hardest to make it work. Often by combining another piece of clothing or a matching accessory, I have been able to tailor the outfit to my liking. If the clothing item doesn’t meet our family’s modesty standards, layering has been our friend. A pair of leggings under a shorter skirt or a t-shirt under a strappy shirt has turned an entire outfit around.
It’s easy to get spring cleaning fever and weed out everything from the previous season, however don’t be too hasty to relinquish these items to the yard sale pile. No need to throw the short sleeves out with the summer. Instead, save them and use them to layer. Not only is this in fashion right now, but it adds an extra layer of warmth. If you are handy with a sewing machine, the same can be done with winter items by turning pants into shorts, long skirts into shorter skirts, long leggings into capri-length--the possibilities are endless.
3. Buy Used.
Once you have compiled your stack of hand-me-downs and gifts and exhausted your repurposing efforts, it’s time to pack up and head out to a local thrift store, consignment shop, or consignment sale. I always begin by shopping at thrift stores, because here you will find things for the lowest cost. For example, at our local Goodwill, all children’s items are $1.99. Next, I shop consignment sales. You can still find incredible deals, but it will be a bit more expensive because consignors are looking to make a profit (A list of consignment sales in your area can be found here). Consignment stores are great, but tend to be my last stop because both the consignor and consignment shop are attempting to make a profit, and therefore, there can be a decent mark-up. Two of the chains I frequent are Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child, but you can find other thrift/consignment stores in your area here.
4. Buy New On Sale.
Always make the department store your last stop! Those aisles of minature sized clothing have a way of calling out, beckoning me to part with my money, but the reality is that I would be parting with far more money than it is worth for the short amount of time my children will wear the clothing. Before heading out to a department store, I inventory what I’ve collected from gifts, repurposing, and buying used, then make a list of what I am lacking. Usually, it boils down to just a few plain-colored shirts, a few pairs of leggings, underwear, and socks. I am usually able to find all the patterned shirts, sweaters, jackets, pants, skirts, and shorts I need, but plain colored basics are harder to find used. With my list in hand, I search out the items I need on clearance racks. If I absolutely cannot find what I need on clearance, I will look for sales, and, if necessary, buy one or two items at full-price.
Things to Consider When Dressing Your Children on a Dime
1. Think outside the matching box.
1. Think outside the matching box.
As I have made my best effort to stretch our clothing budget, I’ve re-thought my approach to matching clothing. Whereas, at one time, things had to match perfectly, I now settle for things not being the exact same shade, but close enough. I also try different color combinations for fun. Sometimes, by switching a couple of pieces, my children have a whole new outfit.
2. Don’t sweat the small stains.
Buying used or making use of hand-me-downs means that sometimes you get an item home and find that there is a small stain or even a very small imperfection like a hole or a missing button. This used to frustrate me badly, and I would discard the whole item. However, the reality is that your little one will probably make their own “impact” on a piece of clothing! So, my rule of thumb has been not to “sweat the small” stains, holes, or imperfections. Often, the piece of clothing is still in good condition and usable. Sometimes a little Oxiclean in the wash will take care of a stain, and buttons can always be sewn on to make these items work.
3. Know your brands and prices.
Buying used means that you need to know if you are getting a good deal or if you are paying the same price as you would for a new item. It is particularly useful to know what things cost before going to a consignment store or sale. An easy way to do this is by looking online and jotting down prices for items you might be looking for at a consignment store. You might also take notice of sales when you are in a department store. For instance, I know a basic, Cherokee brand t-shirt from Target will usually be marked down to $5 several times throughout a season, so if I see a used one for $4, it’s probably not the best deal!
Using these strategies, with two children, two-and-a-half and five, I have never spent more than $100 per child to clothe them for a season (I only shop for two seasons: fall-winter and spring-summer). I hope that these tips will help you in dressing your children on a dime. Happy saving!
For more reading on how to dress your children on a dime, see: