We had a fabulous weekend of hiking, canoeing, and generally enjoying the absolute pinnacle of beautiful fall weather and colors.
Now it is raining, and raining, and raining. Which means I must face my promises to take the ducklings up to the attic and--shudder--organize the clothing boxes. Somewhere I read advice to the effect that you should just consider the thrift store your attic and donate all your children's outgrown clothes there, and then go buy others when you needed them. Whoever said that could not have had (or planned to have) very many children. That, or they must have loved shopping.
I hate shopping. Even worse than I hate organizing. It takes a lot of time and hassle to assemble a decent-looking wardrobe from hand-me-downs and my very, very occasional forays into second-hand shopping. I certainly don't want to throw it all out as long as there's a possibility I might need it again someday. Truly, if I had tons of money I would just mail-order them a few basic pieces that could all coordinate with each other, and donate them when they outgrew them.
Since I don't have tons of money, I keep piecing things together. This is a messy process. Especially when the boxes have been moved a few times, and winter clothes were shoved in random spots by one fleeing from the summer attic heat, and seasons never change all at once, and children never outgrow an entire set of clothes simultaneously, and the ducklings' very favorite game to play is packing for a trip, and one very foolishly asked certain younger relatives to move the boxes without making it clear that THROWING them was not the proper method.
I sort through the debris and wonder why clothing manufacturers cannot get their act together on children's clothes sizes. Just when I've figured out that 18 months is the same size as 12-18 months, NOT as 18-24 months, and when I've figured out how many pounds that is, some other manufacturer decides to throw an "extra-small" at me. Every once in awhile a European garment shows up to completely throw me for a loop. I can excuse the Europeans, but not the Americans. There is no excuse here like there is for adult clothes, where they must all compete to make us feel as skinny as possible. Toddlers Do. Not. Care. what number is on their clothes. Just set some industry standards!
Furthermore, long experience has taught me that dresses should be put in a size down from what they say, or they're likely to be too short when they come out; and on my kids, at least, pants probably belong in a box up. So um, this is a 2T dress, which means it goes with the 18-24 month clothes, but this 24 month dress needs to go in the 12-18 month clothes while the 24 month pants need to go in the 2T box . . . and meanwhile somebody has fallen down and gotten stuck in an empty box and somebody else is wanting to help by moving things from one box to another, just like Mama!
I got the main sorting done this morning, and if it can just stay sorted until I can get back to it, I'll go through and weed through the clothes until I can easily close the box (paper boxes DOB brings home from work), one box per size and gender. (It seems to me only fair to allow a summer and winter box once they get old enough not to grow into a new size every season, though, so I'll probably keep two boxes of D1's most recent size.) This is when I can get rid of anything with yucky-feeling fabric, or anything that long experience has taught me is too much trouble to put on. Sometimes I look back at things I picked up before D1 was born and wonder what I was thinking. I got a little too desperate when the first few yard sales I hit didn't have much good. I should have just been patient.
So here's my hard-earned thoughts on children's clothes. These are all buying recommendations; I will temporarily take hand-me-downs that don't quite meet up if I don't have enough clothes to rotate in a particular size.
- Only get 100% cotton. Anything with polyester will feel yucky really, really fast, if it doesn't already. And 100% cotton is not hard to find anymore. (As to whether you want to pick up wool things, I leave that to your dry cleaning bill.)
- Choose a color scheme for a child. D1 pretty much gets pink and purples, D2 pretty much gets orange, red, or sometimes green. (These are colors they like and look good in, for the record. I hate pink.) They both get denim, which goes with everything, right? The more I do this, the fewer odd garments they have that never seem to go with anything and clash horribly with their coats and shoes.
- If you're buying an isolated garment, as opposed to a set, make sure it either is neutral (jeans, khakis, simple solid or striped tops) or will go with a readily-available neutral. You are never, ever, ever going to find clever matches in second-hand clothes if they don't come together. For little girls, denim pants or jumpers with a little mixed-color trim can usually be matched to something, so I count them as neutral.
- Don't get things you don't like. Children may have clothing preferences when they are old enough to earn their own money and drive to the store. OK, maybe a little before then. But while you can give them choices, you're the one who has to look at it and pay for it. Personally, I shudder at TV characters on clothes, so those always go straight out.
- From birth to four months, look for how easy it is for you to put them on. Snapping all the way down the front usually works best for me. Slipping a newborn head through any neck hole is a challenge. Fussing with elaborate fastening procedures on someone who spits up at every feeding is just not worth it.
- From four to eighteen months (more precisely, from rolling over to walking very well), look for mobility. Long, loose garments are going to tangle them up and slow them down. Shirts that snap underneath are perfect, since their tummy stays covered and their legs are free. I try to avoid long dresses for girls at this age, except for Sunday morning. All-in-one outfits should be cut pretty tight or have elastic around the waist, or they'll get tangled in them.
- From eighteen months on, avoid those snaps underneath, and anything in the overall or coverall line. Not only will you be ready for potty training whenever it occurs, but I've always found it much easier to dress a wiggly toddler standing up than have them lie down long enough for all those snaps.
- All clothes for two year olds and up should be purchased with an eye to how easy it will be for the child to learn to get them on and off by himself. I try to stick to wide-neck knit tops and elastic-waist pants, plus over-the-top dresses and jumpers for girls. It is a happy, happy day when your child can dress herself. Don't delay it by stuck zippers and tiny buttons.
- Make sure you hold onto a few less-than-perfect things sturdy enough for playing in the mud.
- Don't count on sizes--hold the clothes up to each other and make sure they are close. Some manufacturers consistently run large or small. (Unfortunately, I can never remember which.)