7 rules of shopping for children that will save you time and money

First, let’s talk about why it’s not always easy to find clothing that fits well, and is both comfortable and durable.

Trousers hang on my slim boy like a bag. But if I buy the right size at the waste, his legs will stick out of the trousers just below the knees. Good for casting in Les Miserables, not good for everyday school.

Or the opposite case. A friend of mine asked me to help out with the trousers for her little boy. He had a chubby botty and stompy little legs. What to do in this case? Buy trousers to fit the bottom and roll them up five fold. Handy? Not really, especially if it unrolls and becomes a step-on-my-trouser-legs-and-fly-face-down hazard.

Recognise yourself?  I hear this story every time and again.

So why is it so difficult to find the right fit?

  1. The obvious one. Children come in different shapes. Same height -different proportions. Shorter or longer legs, rounder or slimmer tummy, odd shaped botties.
  2. There is no industry standard for sizes. Each brand uses measurements typical for their target customer. That’s why the same size from different brands will fit differently on the same child. And that’s why French sizes are different from UK sizes, for example.
  3. Children are getting bigger. Some brands are following the trend by producing wider clothing for the same height to fit 90% of their customers.
  4. Fabric shrinks in wash by 5 to 7%. Not every brand includes that allowance in the final pattern. As a result, you buy something and then magic – it shrinks two sizes after a wash. Oh, my daughter is so big, she is just 4 and wears 7/8 years sizes. No, she is not some Alice in Wonderland, it’s the brands are being a bit skimpy with fabrics.

We’ve worked out your child is not some Alice in Wonderlands who gets bigger or smaller overnight. Some clothing lasts longer, some is cut and made to fit the exact size and gets too small too quickly.

What to look at if you want to buy something to last and fit your child for a bit longer?

Easy to remember. HEAD – SHOULDERS – KNEES – AND TOES… and WAIST – and SIZE (continue to the tune)
HEAD Stretch the neckline of a dress/t-shirt. It should be flexible and big enough for independent dressing. Ideally avoid small fastenings at the neck for simple reasons. a. You will have to fasten it on your wriggly child. b. They can get ripped fairly easily.

SHOULDERS. Look at the sleeves. There should be enough space under arm. If the sleeve is narrow and armhole is small, a top/dress will last no more than 3 month. Better look for a wider cut armhole and wider sleeve.

In addition to wide armholes and sleeves look for raglan sleeves. (The sleeve starts at the neck and the seam goes across the shoulder to the armhole). That way shoulder is a bit less defined and gives more room for growth. Dropped shoulder will also do the trick.


KNEES. Trousers reinforced at the knees. Or the simplest thing you can do – apply knee patches as soon as you buy trousers. Or attach fusible interfacing to the left side of the trousers in the knee area. That way they will last beyond a standard month of wear.

TOES. Trousers gathered at the hem (with elastic or a jersey rib). Even if the trousers are few centimetres long (and to grow a size up they only need to be 3 cm longer), they will still sit nicely on an ankle. No rolling up or down

WAIST. Adjustable waist in the trousers or elasticated waste in skirts. That way width at the waste can be adjusted easily. A cord is a no go, especially for potty training. No self-respecting 2/3yo ties and unties a cord to do a wee-wee.

SIZE. Better to go for clothing with double sizing on a label. For example 110/116, 3-4 years etc. Single sizing (like 104) means a garment is cut precisely to this size and doesn’t allow much room for growth. These types of garments tend to shrink a size down after wash and become small very quickly. Go for a size up in this case.

With these tips in mind I hope you can reduce piles of clothing that grew small too quickly and save yourself a lot of time on shopping.


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