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11 Best Ways To Create A Sustainable Children’s Wardrobe

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Danielle Alvarado

01/04/2023

Are you looking to build an affordable and sustainable wardrobe for your children? One of my favorite takeaways from building an eco-friendly wardrobe for my kids was realizing just how little they really need when the products are made well. High quality fibers, durability, and basics can go a very long way. Let’s get started!

How to build a sustainable wardrobe for kids.

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By choosing my children’s clothing carefully and mindfully, I was able to create a sort of capsule wardrobe for them without much work. It’s interesting how taking our time with selection, thinking about how many times the child will wear each piece, and opting to size up for longer use can really transform any closet into the perfect sustainable closet!

Clothes were never meant to be worn for a short time and tossed. They were meant to be used for years and years, mended and upcycled, and used some more. Let’s get back to that!

If you are ready to explore the magical world of sustainable, second-hand, fair trade, and minimalist fashion for kids, look no further than this Full Guide to Sustainable Shopping for Children’s Clothes!

This post is about building a sustainable children’s wardrobe.

Steps To A Conscious Children's Wardrobe

1. Choose clothing with longevity in mind

If you hold up an item and cannot guarantee that your child will hit at least 30+ wears (with all the chaos that kids put clothes through!), then simply put it down and step away from the item (this is a wonderful trick to work for parents too!).

2. Check the label

Linen, organic cotton, and hemp are some of the best materials for children’s clothing.

Synthetic materials do have a place in fashion for durable swimsuits and even some winter jackets, but try your best to keep these purchases for the second-hand category only.

We want to aim to decrease the use of plastic in the fashion industry for our children’s future. Natural fibers are best for the environment and your children for so many reasons:

  • Natural fibers cause much less (or zero) irritation to children’s skin.
  • Natural fibers are much less resource-intensive to produce and manufacture.
  • Synthetic materials “shed” microplastics that have been found sneaking their way into our very own drinking water.
  • Many synthetic materials use toxic production processes that are harmful to the waterways, the garment workers, and the person who wears the item.
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4. Go For the Basics

While the flashing shoes and tasseled shirts may intrigue your child at the shop, I urge you to get the basics down first before thinking of going with any trends.

Basics include solid and durable t-shirts, long sleeves, sweaters, zip-ups, leggings, thermals, dungarees, rain suits/all-weather suits, rain boots, barefoot shoes, all-weather breathable hats, gloves, circular scarves, durable and warm socks, and any imperative weather gear for where you are living.

Each one of these basics should come in a solid or easy-to-clean print. While I always recommend going second-hand with most items, some superb brands offer these basics. One brand that I always check out during sale season (late summer and late winter) is Patagonia.

They have, by far, the best layering pieces that I have encountered. I stock up during the sale seasons, and I always keep an eye out for them when second-hand shopping (they even have their own secondhand site here).

5. Key In On The Outdoor Gear!

My biggest tip for adults and kids for a small but mighty closet? Get those key outdoor staples.

For kids, this could be one really great snow suit/wool suit and mud pants. The mud pants can be worn year round for rainy days and when you just don’t want them to get their clothes all dirty (my kids lived in their mud pants all Spring!). The snow suit/wool suit can be worn in those super chilly months! No need to spend loads of money on winter clothes – just snuggle them up in their high quality outdoor gear.

More of my favorite outdoor staples: wool thermals (my kids have 2 sets for the year to wear as needed), snow suit, mud pants, light rain jacket (layer as needed for colder weather), and rain boots.

6. Size Up 1-2 Sizes

One of the easiest things that you can do to help your child’s clothes have a longer (and happier!) life is to have them worn as much as possible!

One easy way to do this is by sizing up 1-2 sizes, depending on your child. I personally size up 2 sizes for the boys and it has worked beautifully. This year we’ve only had to purchase 2 pairs of pants and 2 extra sweatshirts for the chilly weather. By sizing up, I saved a significant amount of money!

While my sons currently fit in a size 4T, I only search for 6T and even have all of our collaborations send over the larger sizes. Any parent can easily roll up or hem the clothes to fit the child at the time and let them out over the years.

You do not have to be any sort of professional tailor here, I promise you! I do the simple roll-up method, and it works like a charm.

7. Learn How to Mend, Repair, and Upcycle

One of the best ways to help to reduce waste in your very own home is to learn just a few simple tricks of the trade. This can be as simple as learning how to sew, hem, patch, and upcycle old clothes and broken items around the house. Like we always say, there is nothing more sustainable than what you already own!

You can find a local sewing class, take a few online lessons via youtube or even host a little “trade” party! I have actually been to a few fun coffee dates where my friend’s mother and grandmother would come and they would teach us something fun like knitting, baking an epic cake or even tips & tricks to help with the little ones. These are marvelous gifts to learn from the hand of an expert and I cannot tell you how much I cherished learning these skills from these amazing women.

sustainable childrens closet
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8. Secondhand may just be the best (for several reasons)

First of all, what some of you may (or may not) know about our family is that we shop primarily second hand. Our son’s clothes are 100% from my grandmother and mother’s garage sale finds since birth, and we did not start to introduce “new” clothing until every single last piece of their amazing finds had reached the end of their cycle with my children. This simply means that my sons grew out of them all quite fast – as most children do.

This is something that we all need to keep in mind as parents: Children grow quickly.

The most sustainable and eco-friendly thing that you can do as a consumer of children’s fashion is to shop second hand, vintage, rentals, or any other means to help the clothes reach the end of their life cycles. Our goal here is to use and wear these materials as many times as possible before recycling or upcycling. We are talking about sustainability here and this is the fact: Nothing is more sustainable than what has already been made.

I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t feel free to support the many fair trade, ethical, eco-friendly and even upcycled brands out there. Just keep in mind that adding second-hand items to your children’s closets will genuinely help a pretty big crisis that we are facing in the world today.

Secondhand Children's Shops:

Kidizen: Kidizen is my favorite resale marketplace to buy, sell, and swap your kid’s clothing, gear, toys, decor and more.

ThredUP: The Largest Kids‘ Consignment and Thrift Store Online

Kid’s Dress Smart: Where 60% of proceeds of every sale sent directly to Children’s Charities

Little Luxuries: Gently worn, preloved, secondhand designer children and baby clothing brands

Baby Outfitter: Everything listed on Baby Outfitter is “like new” and they are very picky about selections and what they will sell!

Loopster UK: Where quality kid’s clothes live on

Facebook MarketPlace: A gem that has saved us a ton of money on everything from wooden toys to emergency shoes when our kids both shot up 2 sizes in under a month!

Second-Hand Shops Nearest You (Physical Stores)

The Thrift Shopper Website: Simply type in your zip code and a huge directory of the nearest consignment shops, goodwill shops, and so forth will come up for you to check out!

Thriftigo APP: Download this app to keep second-hand store information readily available on your phone wherever you are!

Thrift Store Listings: Another helpful directory of local thrift stores based on your location.

9. Renting Kid's Clothing is AWESOME

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Renting clothes is such a fantastic way to stay sustainable but also have fun! From birthday parties to photoshoots, you can have exactly what you want and return back to the company for the item to make another child (and parent) happy!

Rent-A-Romper: A second hand capsule wardrobe selection from newborn to 4T. I couldn’t love a rental company more. Each time your child grows, you send the old clothes back (stained/torn/whatever) and get a new box for your kid’s needs! Super budget friendly and genius. 

Rainey’s Closet: Just one look at this gorgeous website and you will know that you can find just about any precious and gorgeous piece for any occasion. From fairy dresses, formal dresses and adorable bow and ties….you cannot go wrong with this rental service for any special occasion.

Sylette Co: Another great rental company located in sunny Los Angelos!

Bundlee UK: A very cool and more laid back version of the rental service for our UK friends. You can find pretty much everything on this rental site!

10. Shop from high quality and sustainable brands

While second-hand will forever have a special place in my heart, I will say that there is something quite special about finding that *perfect* piece of clothing that just meets every single one of your needs without having to go through countless shops and racks. Sometimes, no matter how long you look, you will not find that particular item that you need second-hand. Do not fear; these tips will help you to keep your sustainable goals in check while also saving money and a few headaches along the way.

Sustainable kid's clothing brands

For our full guide to sustainable and organic children’s clothing brands, click here.

11. Keep those sales dates on your calendar!

While sustainable and organic children’s clothing brands have absolutely stolen our hearts, there is the issue of affordability. For many of us, the prices are a bit too expensive full price.

My biggest tip (and one that I use yearly) is to follow your favorite sustainable brands and keep track of their sales periods (usually once per year). Use those sales to stock up on your essentials. Not only will this save money, but it will also get us into the habit of choosing items with patience and budgeting in mind (quite unlike the fast fashion model).

This post was all about building a sustainable wardrobe for kids.

There you have it! Just a few helpful ways to shop with a more mindful and sustainable approach. I promise you; once you start you will be absolutely amazed at how great it feels to be part of the sustainable movement. 

We need you. The World needs us to be much more mindful and conscious of our consumer decisions. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and I would love to hear your own tips and tricks to sustainable living with kids!

If you liked this post, you’ll definitely want to check out these other posts from SKL:

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