Affordable kiddie chic

By Mir
February 8, 2007

Faithful (and pretty) reader Missy T writes:

Dear Pretty Mir…

Our family is soon to grow to 6. The adults will now be outnumbered 2:1.

Since you are so savvy, as well as pretty, which online stores do you think are the best places to find somewhat inexpensive AND hip/stylish/really cute kids clothes?

My wee ones ranges from in-utero to 7.

Many thanks for any suggestions you can pass along!

First of all, congratulations on your impending addition! I’ve been outnumber for years and I highly recommend it, if only because when you’re hiding, there’s a greater likelihood of any given child finding another child to torment rather than looking for you.

I feel a little silly tackling this question, because my answers aren’t going to be all that mind-boggling. Readers—please chime in with your suggestions, as well.

First, two non-branded, non-online suggestions because you know I can’t resist:

Announce you’re in the market for hand-me-downs. In addition to saving your own children’s clothes to pass down, let people at work and church and wherever know that you will happily accept any cast-offs they’d love to pass on. Sometimes, yes, you’ll have to wade through a bag of stuff in poor condition or out-of-date styles, but you never know what some kind-hearted person wishing to clear out a closet might send your way.

Shop second-hand. It’s no secret that I love expensive things; I just dislike expensive price tags. The brands which we love but cannot afford I routinely pick up either at the thrift store or our local kids’ consignment shop. And I’ve written before about making the most of those sorts of trips, too. My kids wear Gap and Hanna Andersson and other brands I’ve acquired when spending pennies on the dollar.

And now, my store endorsements:

The Children’s Place. You can find them in almost any mall, as well as at Children’s Place online. They are always having a sale. They often have online coupons (and shipping’s only $5). Their stuff holds up pretty well and is a great mix of utilitarian and trendy. If you shop in the store they often hand out coupons. Basically, there’s never a reason to pay full-price there. I buy very little of my children’s clothing new, but of what I do buy, I’d say 75% of it comes from TCP.

Target. Oh, you knew I was going to say Target. While I don’t find their sales online to be quite as good as what you’ll find in the stores, in-store you can often pick stuff up at 75% off. And it’s not as though their regular prices are that steep, either. Both Circo and Cherokee are brands we like there; similar to Children’s Place, it’s good sturdy cotton stuff. Just yesterday I picked up more pajamas for the kids—they were marked down to $1.75/pair.

Kohls. Shopping Kohls online is a mixed bag; when you hit the sales right, you can really make out. Their regular (and even “normal” sale prices) are quite a bit higher than preceding two options, however. They carry brands like Carters and Healthtex, which is nice when you have babies/toddlers. And if you have a Kohls credit card, there’s nearly always a coupon code for cardholders floating around. (Right now cardholders can use code MVCHOME15 for an additional 15% off, and everyone else can use NEW6866 for an additional 10% off.)

Lands’ End. Now that you can go directly to the Lands’ End Overstocks online, finding the bargains there is a no-brainer. Now, I’ll say right up front that this is the most expensive of the four options I’m suggesting. However, I’ll also wager you that whatever you buy at Lands’ End will last through all four of your children. (And guess what—if it doesn’t, send it back, and they’ll replace it. Best customer service ever at that store.)

In general, to get the best bang for your buck when shopping for kids’ clothes, you have to be willing to strike while the iron is hot. That means buying ahead, when stuff is on clearance, and sometimes that results in clothes that are never worn because they turn out to be the wrong size for the season, or whatever. That’s okay. A bit of excess isn’t going to hurt your overall savings much, and often you can either consign or eBay those extras and make money. Or if you have someone else to pass the goodies along to, just increase your good karma and give that stuff away.

I’m looking forward to everyone else’s thoughts, too. There is very little more fun than buying clothes for kids, in my book.


  1. There’s no reason you can’t have Gymboree either. With Gymbucks ($25 off coupon for redemption later for every $50 you spend), and their clearance rack (in the store, online isn’t where you find the best deals)… you can take advantage of their clothing cuteness too. My son’s wardrobe is 90% gymboree and I’ve never paid full price… OR half price for that matter. I’ve never bought anything more than 9.99. Yet his closet is full of cute stuff from them. Just sayin!

  2. As far as clearances go, I’ve had good luck at Younkers and affiliated stores when they do their yellow dot sales. Brands like Carter’s, Oshkosh, Buster Brown, and Nike, plus snow suits and jackets are marked way, way down. Rummage sales are hit or miss, but fun if you enjoy the hunt (and I do!).

  3. We have sadly moved away from a mall that had both Children’s Place Outlet and Old Navy Outlet stores. I miss them!!! 🙁 You could score some incredible deals there by digging through the racks. It might be off-season, but just shop a season or two ahead. Occasionally the Disney Catalog store has some great kids apparel deals.

    I second Mir’s suggestions of Kohl’s and Target. Kohl’s Sonoma brand has held up well with my son. If you have a little time to dig through the clearance racks at both those stores, you will surely score! Happy Hunting!

  4. I don’t know where Missy T is located, but if you’re in or near a city, you might look into freecycle. You can post what you’re looking for or just peruse the offers. There are regularly posts on my local list offering baby and children’s clothes — also equipment, strollers, toys. Also a great way to unload things when you can’t fathom hauling your donations and kids to the local thrift shop.

  5. Doh! How did I forget Old Navy?? They’re another one where the bargains tend to be better in-store than online, but sometimes you get lucky.

  6. The Rugged Bear has pretty good prices and quality (for shirts, if you’re wavering on sizes, order a size up — I noticed that the ones we bought last year are a bit small compared to Lands’ End of the same size).

    They’re having a 20% off sale now until Feb. 14.

  7. Don’t know if you have Mervyn’s nearby, but their sales are amazing. Yesterday they had everything on clearance (and, let me tell you, that was about half their total stock!) for $2, $4 or $6. I am talking complete Disney outfits for babies (three pieces) for $4! It was incredible. I buy almost all my kids’ clothes there.

  8. Forgot to mention that I have friends who both buy and sell kids clothes on e-bay.

  9. Love the Kohl’s codes! I’ve saved so much since I learned to look for those.
    And yes, second hand shops rock. I even buy a lot of my teaching wardrobe there.

  10. I use ebay for things like winter coats — things where you want good quality, good quality is pricey, and they’ll grow out of them.

  11. I’m a HUGE, HUGE fan of second hand shops. If anybody’s near Austin, there’s a great one called Children’s Orchard at Parmer and 35. Also, the Mommy and Me Resale at the Dell Diamond is March 23-25th. I made out like a bandit at the one last fall.

  12. We’ve had good luck at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Not always – sometimes there’s nothing good there, but it’s worth checking out, as you can get great deals.

  13. When my son was younger, we lived in Northern Virginia, which had a TON of kids consignment sales. It was a win-win situation: I could sell the outgrown stuff there (and by doing so I often got into the presales for first crack at everything!) and then get more stuff for my son. They are often organized by mom’s groups/churches. Here is a GREAT website that lists sales by state:

  14. I’ll put in another plug for eBay. There is a HUGE amount of children’s clothing on there. I buy better brands (like Gymboree, Janie and Jack (Gymboree’s upscale sister store), and even a boutique brand here and there) and resell it on eBay, usually making back at *least* half of what I paid if not more. A few outfits are naturally ruined by my child while wearing them, but most are still in good shape at the end of a season. I also buy only on sale, and buy ahead, and I also buy a decent amount of stuff on eBay or on selling loops…where I can get complete outfits that are new with tags or have been very lightly worn, for sale-or-cheaper prices. You have to become a little bit “saavy” to do the eBay thing, but it isn’t hard!

  15. I want to put in a vote for Gymboree stuff too… while they’re more expensive, their clothes are so cute and soft! And they will take an absolute beating: no matter how often you wash their stuff, it still looks great and can be handed down to another kid, or I suppose you could sell it. Probably 3/4 of my son’s clothes come from there, because it just makes good economic sense (even if you pay full price, which I usually don’t because of Gymbucks and/or sales.) (Although it always seems like the size that he’s wearing, everyone else’s kid is also wearing and somebody else has snapped up my kid’s size before it went on sale. Waaah.)

  16. Not just resale shops, but try the thrift stores as well. Particularly in nicer areas of town. The chain we love is SAVERS. Different thrift stores will vary greatly on price so sometimes it’s not too much cheaper than resale. Amazingly I have WAY better luck finding stuff for my 7yr old son at thrift stores. I think the resale shops are really picky when it comes to how well the clothes look (and rightly so) but that eliminates a lot of boys clothes that see a lot of wear and tear. I find tons of jeans and shirts at thrift stores. Much less for my daughter there – resale is better for her.

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