You don’t need me to tell you all the things that are wrong with the majority of kids clothes these days, and that’s not what this post is about. (Though if you’re curious about this you could read more about how kids’ clothing is extremely sexist, gendered in its limiting messages towards boys and girls, very sexualized, and unsustainably made with poor quality & toxic materials.)
So let’s set that aside since we can all agree that a lot of problems exist. But what do we DO now? We certainly don’t want to press yet ANOTHER item on mothers’ shoulders to make them feel self-conscious and stressed about their parenting choices. However, we do want to have a conversation about the range of options we have and the actions we can take to start to slow down all of these trends to hopefully turn the cog in the other direction.
You’ve probably heard the expression “you vote with your dollars.” And that’s very true—we certainly encourage a lot of change by making smart choices with our money and creating demand for more ethical and sustainable products—but we can’t CONSUME our way out of our problem with over-consumption. Buying better is just one part of the equation.
I’m writing this post in partnership with an amazing hand-made brand that I LOVE called BabyBlastoff. Their mission is to offer families kids’ clothing that sends a positive message, that represents the “innocent unabashedness” of childhood, and that helps children see themselves as brimming with creativity and potential. Many of their designs are simple and nature-based (just like their non-toxic dyes), and each organic garment has a positive message sewn inside. For the last several decades, children’s clothes has been sending kids a message about themselves. BabyBlastoff wants to change that message.
We would like to CHALLENGE YOU to be proactive in changing the conversation and the consumption of children’s clothes. Whether you participate in our giveaway, or just incorporate these practices into your life, you’ll be making an impact. Don’t just vote with your dollars, vote with your actions! Vote with your skills! (*SEE GIVEAWAY DETAILS AT THE END OF THIS POST!*)
6 Ways to Change The Game
1. Confront the Brands & Create Conversation
There are so many parents out there emailing and writing open letters to the brands they shop asking for what they want. And it WORKS! I know it does, because even the uber-popular brands like Carter’s are putting out girls’ t-shits now with slogans like “My true nature is amazing.” That doesn’t happen unless a boardroom full of people agrees on what is going to sell, and they don’t agree on that unless consumers make it clear what they’re looking for and what they choose to spend money on. (This is why Doritos is making organic versions of their chips. Not that they’re better, but consumers want organic, so big brands are delivering!). Most websites will have an avenue for contacting the company, so take the time to write something civil, thoughtful, and honest. Get your kids involved as well. Whether it’s a slogan, a graphic, an uncomfortable lack of choice, unethical labor practices, or poor quality materials, let them know they’ve lost your business until something changes, and be clear about what changes you'd like to see
2. Organize a Clothing Swap
Oftentimes thrift stores and charities are only able to re-sell about 20% of the clothing donations they receive. That means the rest of it is going to end up in a landfill. Your best bet is to guarantee that your items end up used again and again by gifting and swapping with other families. A clothing swap can also be a great community gathering, a recurring seasonal event, and a lot of fun for kids who are growing faster than you can even keep track of. You can find some helpful instructions and ideas for setting up your own clothing swap here (REAL SIMPLE) and here (THE MINIMALIST MOM).
3. Shop Second Hand
Thrifting has a lot of great perks: It’s inexpensive, it reduces landfill, it oftentimes benefits charity, and it’s really fun for kids! Furthermore, most of these items have been worn and washed multiple times, so many of the chemicals and hazardous materials of concern have been off-gassed and washed out. (You know that “smell” of brand new kids’ clothes? That’s often a chemical called nonylphenol etheloxilate, and it’s toxic.) Another perk of shopping second hand is finding the rare and unusual gem of a well-made vintage piece. In our fast fashion world, today’s clothing is so quickly and cheaply made. There’s something magical about a great kids’ coat or a pair of overalls with a great lining, sturdy seams, and true craftsmanship.
4. Make Repairs
The average American throws away 60-80lbs of clothing per year, and 85% of that ends up in landfills, where toxic chemicals from production leach into soil and groundwater. Kids’ clothing goes through the gauntlet of an active childhood, which means stains and damage, but who even knows how to darn a sock anymore?! Most torn, worn, and stained kids’ clothing ends up in the trash. With the wonderful technological magic of YouTube, you can easily learn how to repair holes, sew on a patch, or properly replace a button. These are the skills many of us millennials missed out on when “home ec” disappeared from schools and we lacked time with our elders who would have passed these skills on to us. (What an incredible fine motor skill for your school-aged kids! I’ve always been impressed by the little girl at the end of the children’t book Corduroy for replacing the button on her bear’s overalls all by herself!). If you lack the time and supplies to make repairs yourself, you are doing a world of good to prevent waste and support small business by taking damaged clothes to a tailor or seamstress to be repaired. Small repairs and patches often cost less than $5 or $10. Shoes can also be cleaned, re-soled, and laces replaced.
5. Sew an Original Garment or Make Alterations
Again, you can type “how to sew baby pants” into Google or YouTube and find a heap of tutorials for creating baby clothes out of old adult t-shirts, or in your favorite cotton print at the fabric store. Start small, start simple, but imagine the value of this skill not only for your own kids, but as gifts or potential income! You can also combine thrifting and sewing skills to make alterations or up-cycle garments into something new (look no further than Sarah Tyau @sarahtyau on Instagram for inspiration!).
6. Buy Quality and Buy Less
There are SO many conscious brands out now who are using quality materials, sourcing non-toxic fabrics and dyes, using ethical labor practices, and creating designs with real families in mind. You can purchase an amazing pair of children’s cotton pants with and extra-long ankle hem that can be rolled up when your son is a 2T, and then rolled all the way down when he grows to a 4T. That’s one pair of pants that serves as a 2T, a 3T, and a 4T—eliminating the need for two extra pairs of pants. These items will cost more, but they’re WORTH more, and their quality lessens environmental impact. When you buy quality items, these can be worn by multiple kids in the same family, gifted to others, or passed down to grandchildren as heirlooms.
If you’d like to participate in our Instagram giveaway, here are the details!:
BabyBlastoff is giving away a $100 gift card to winner of our Instagram challenge! To enter the challenge, post a photo, a video, or an Instagram story of you participating in one of the sustainable practices discussed above between November 17th and November 19th. In your post, explain your project, how you are including your family, what you’d like to see change in the world of children’s clothing, or another relevant topic. Make sure your profile is public, and be sure to tag @BabyBlastoff and @Wholly.Chloe in your post so we can see it. The giveaway will close at 8pm central time on November 19th and a winner will be announced Monday, November 20th.