Babies, Children, Families

9 Clever Clothes Shopping Tips

clothes shopping tips

clothes shopping tips

Today I’ve got a really useful guest post from Jessica Berentson-Shaw, a New Zealander with a passion for ethical clothing and social justice.  Jessica blogs over at Muka Kids – where she’s documenting her adventures in setting up a kids ethical clothing enterprise.  Jessica is sharing with us her clever clothes shopping tips for buying kids clothes that 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 (lets face it no-one was smiling while they were making them).  Cheap clothing may not have a long and fruitful life & therefore will have a heavier footprint.  However, sometimes spending more does not always equate to a long lasting garment either.

It’s a bit of a minefield, so to help you out here are 9 clever clothes shopping tips to 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 kids clothes here, but these tips apply equally to all clothing.

From fabric choices, to considering buttons, and more, these shopping tips will see you right!

environmental impact of clothes

1. Look for quality fabric

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 & 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 is 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 it’s 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. Certified organic fabrics are better quality

There are two reasons for this.  The first is about the way the cotton is grown, the second is 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 though chemical treatments during cleaning, processing, dying and printing, many of which are petroleum or acid based and can break down the fibres at a molecular level.  In the final stage of production, 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 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 not out a whole lot, so cuffs on arms and legs that can be turned up and then down are a good buy, or 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

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?

6. Look for clothes that have multiple functions

Multifunctional garments means you can get more wear and more value from clothing.  Reversible coats & jackets; pyjamas tops that double as 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 check out that neck line – 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.

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. Buttons & Zips

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: though if you make friends with a good repairer they can replace a zip in a jif!

Got any tips on what to look for when buying for years not seasons? Any particular pet peeves in kids clothing? I’d love to hear them.

Top photo by Flickr user LeAnn, licenced under Creative Commons 2.0.

Children, Families

Food Waste: Should You Clear Your Plate?

food waste

food waste

We’ve been working hard on reducing our food waste and are a lot better than what we used to be (although there is probably room for improvement!).  But one area where we really struggle with, as parents, is dealing with toddler leftovers.

Our local council don’t offer food waste collections (although I have heard through the grapevine that they will next year).  We do compost all of our vegetable peelings and raw food waste, but leftover cooked food is a bit of a problem.

Toddlers and young kids are notoriously fussy eaters, and although our daughter isn’t as fussy as some (although she does have her moments!), she doesn’t always finish whats on her plate.   I try to reuse what I can to a point – however I draw the line at half chewed food or food that has already been reheated and then not eaten.  I feel so guilty at throwing it in the bin when there is probably something that can be done with it.

reducing food waste

Typical lunchtime leftover – uneaten omelette

When I was little my mum wouldn’t make me leave the table until I had eaten everything on the plate.  I can vividly remember being about six and sitting there for what felt like hours trying to eat some golden wonder potatoes which I absolutely hated (and still do!), in tears and gagging with every bite.  Have you had golden wonder potatoes before?  They are very dry and floury, and my mum used to boil them for us even though Wikipedia says you shouldn’t boil them!  I still feel sick at even the very mention of them and their vile dryness!

On top of this, my primary school favoured the same approach.  You weren’t allowed to go outside and play until you had eaten everything.   My school used to serve disgusting hamburgers (aah, the eighties, when hamburgers were considered nutritious meals for children!) – consequently, until switching to vegetarianism, I was probably the only meat-eating young person who did not like burgers!  I also have terrible associations with rice pudding and anything similar.

While my parents and school were only doing what they thought was best for me at the time, I don’t like that I’ve got such bad feelings associated with some foods because of this approach.  I’ve only relatively recently started eating cauliflower after many many years of avoiding it like the plague.

Consequently we have quite a relaxed approach to my daughter’s eating.  We provide her with nutritious food and let her eat as much or as little as she likes.  While I hope this will help avoid future food hangups, it’s not great for our food waste situation!

So parents who have been there before, how do (or did) you cut down on your kid’s food waste?  Offer food in smaller portions?  Reduce snacking?  Or do you just accept it as necessary waste?  Or perhaps we’re being too liberal – do you insist they clear their plate?

Something I am interested in is bokashi.  I found this article on bokashi quite useful – has anyone else had a good or bad experience with it?

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on kids and food waste.  Perhaps you’re a clear your plate proponent?  Or is it just me or do you avoid certain foods after being made to eat them as a kid?