How to Buy Kids Clothes That Will Last

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Want to know how to buy kids clothes that will last longer than a few months of rough play? Read on!

Today I’ve got a really useful post from Jessica Berentson-Shaw, a New Zealander with a passion for ethical clothing and social justice. Jessica is sharing with us her clever clothes-shopping tips on how to buy kids’ clothes with longevity in mind. This will help you get the most out of your money and the clothes that you buy.

A lot of the clothing we buy these days is of the cheap, and what I call, ‘uncheerful’ variety. Let’s face it no one was smiling while they were making these fast-fashion items. What’s more, cheap clothing may not have a long and fruitful life and therefore will have a bigger carbon footprint. However, sometimes spending more does not always equate to a longer-lasting garment either.

How to Buy Kids Clothes That Will Last

Kids playing in the woods with a blue text box that reads how to buy kids clothes that last.

It’s a bit of a minefield, so to help you out here are 9 clever clothes shopping tips on how to buy kid’s clothes that will last. This will help ensure the clothes you buy (new or old) live to a ripe old age and tread much more lightly on the earth.

I have focussed mainly on kid’s clothes here, but these tips can apply equally to all clothing:

1. Look For Quality Fabric

When buying kid’s clothes look for heavier, thicker, fabrics with closer weaves or knits as these tend to be more durable. Avoid polyester components as these will pile and be scratchy within months. Give it a feel. Does it seem like a quality well-made fabric? Ask the shop about the weight and density of a fabric if you buy online. Expect a sensible answer.

Types of fabrics that tend to have a longer life include denim, corduroy and heavy-knitted cotton fabrics. Those with a small component of ‘elastic’, for example, lycra, can also be beneficial for retaining the shape and longevity of clothes.

2. Is The Fabric Fit For Purpose?

Look for clothes where the use of the clothing is well matched to the fabric it is made from. Have the designers even considered this issue during its making, or perhaps tested it with wearers? Lightweight denim for kids’ winter trousers is never a good choice unless you live in a hot country!

3. Look For Certified Organic Fabrics

Another handy tip for buying kids’ clothes that last is to look for certified organic fabrics – such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Cottons.

There are two reasons for this. The first is about the way the cotton is grown, the second has to do with the treatment it receives during processing.

Studies have shown that compared to conventional cotton, organically grown cotton has longer and stronger fibres, with better quality yarns being produced from organic cotton.

Organic cotton is not put through chemical treatments during cleaning, processing, dyeing, and printing. Many of these treatments are petroleum or acid-based and can break down the fibres at a molecular level.

In the final stage of production, non-organic clothing is also often given a Teflon, polymer, or formaldehyde-based coating to reduce creasing and give a smooth feel. These chemicals may weaken the fibre, and reduce the life of the item. So certified organic cotton clothing is likely to be a better longer-lasting product and better value.

4. Look For Clothes That Allow For Growth

Where kids are concerned a longer-lasting item often equates to one that still fits after a growth spurt. Most kids tend to grow up but not out a whole lot. This means that cuffs on arms and legs that can be turned up and then down are a good buy. As is looking out for hems that you can turn up or down. In waistbands look for elastic AND drawstrings for both a stretch and a pull-in.

5. Account For The Weak Points

Another tip for buying kid’s clothes that last is to examine what you are buying. Have potential weak points been considered and perhaps reinforced, maybe with patches on the knees and elbows? How about reinforced stitching in places like the crotch or underarms? Do the items look like they were made to last? These are all good questions to ask to make sure you’re buying something that is intended for play.

6. Look For Clothes That Have Multiple Functions

Multifunctional garments mean you can get more wear and more value from clothing. Reversible coats and jackets. Pyjama tops that double as a t-shirt (only you will be the wiser!). Leggings that can double as tights. The list goes on!

7. Know A Thing About Kids Heads

Mini adults, they are not. Kids have heaps to learn and a big head to match. So when buying kids’ clothes, check out that neckline. Does it look a tad small for that extending neural development, or a not particularly stretchy fabric? A good ribbed fabric around the neck will help with stretch and will mean the item won’t stretch out of place.

8. Transverse The Seasons And Fashions

‘Fast fashion’ (and cheap clothing) is a cash-in on the idea we always need the new next best thing. Here is a tip: great design lasts years not weeks. A good stripe or a single colour will never go out of fashion. Whereas character-based clothing will be out as soon as the new Peppa Pig comes along! Look to the long-term item and clothing will still look appealing in the wardrobe next year (or on the next child!).

vintage kids dress
Jessica’s daughter in a dress she wore as a child

9. Consider The Buttons & Zips

My final tip on how to buy kids’ clothes that last is to consider the fastenings. There is nothing worse than all the buttons on a garment falling off within a few days of wearing. Don’t be afraid to give them a tug to test the quality of the stitching of them!

Buttons do offer one benefit though – they are an easy fix. Zippers on the other hand wear out and are hard to fix, so are not always the best choice for longevity. However, if you make friends with a good repairer they can replace a zip in a jiffy!

Do you have any tips on what to look for when buying for years, not seasons? Any particular pet peeves in kid’s clothing? I’d love to hear them. And do also check out my post on where to buy ethical kid’s clothes in case you are looking for any inspiration.

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  1. Great suggestion to go for certified organic fabrics and Check quality of fabric and accessories befor buying. I appreciate your style of tip along with quote: “Great Design Lasts Years Not Weeks”;

    Thanks for sharing your expert views along with survey report of wrp(dot)org(dot)uk stating life of fabric.

  2. Nice sharing Wendy, I believe in quality shopping specially for clothing. Some of points, in your articles are known and I consider these points whenever I do shopping but you have given useful flow of information including kids clothing.

  3. Wow great article.We all knoe how kids grow really fast & what can you do with those clothes. If you’re thinking about selling baby clothes, there are a couple of options worth considering.
    Generally speaking, unless you have designer baby clothes, it may be a better plan to bundle the items to sell online.You can make the most cash selling second hand clothes.

  4. Great points to look out for – can I add my four extra points as well?
    1. T-shirts can also double up as PJ tops if, like me, you seem to get given bottoms with no matching tops
    2. Try and be a bit less forgiving on your child always being in perfect clothes – if they are messing around outside then put them in something old that may already be a bit stained or worn at the knee and get plenty more wear out of it.
    3. Head to charity shops, Boot Fairs and Jumble Sales (do they still have jumble sales?) and pick up some cheap second hand garments. I got a fabulous designer hoodie on my last visit to a charity shop for just £3 younger son absolutely adores it!
    4. Likewise accept second hand clothes from friends and hand on the ones your child has outgrown to younger siblings or friend’s children.

  5. Scandinavian clothes are usually sized much more generously so last longer. I love Polarn O.Pyret, it’s not as cheap as the usual kids places but they often have offers. My 2.5 year old has been wearing a pair of their jeans for nearly a year now, which I would say is pretty unheard of in toddler clothing. My pet peeve is clothes not going over cloth nappies, my son was a big baby and it was very hard to get him trousers to fit over the nappies (he’s slimmed down now). Again good old PO.P fit really well, and I thought it was better to buy a couple of pairs of good fitting trousers than spend the same on several that didn’t fit, very wasteful! They sell well on eBay too, so I pick up used stuff there funded by what I sell.