Wanted: twirly play dresses

By Mir
March 12, 2007

I have this friend who has been chin-deep in work lately, so much so that the occasional one-line email from her feels like a feast. So you can imagine my delight when I got a full-length email from her! But then I realized it was an advice question. Hmph. But we’ll look at it anyway, because I love her, and it’s a good question.

I’ve lost my best source for hand-me-downs for daughter Maisy, and she just SHOT UP like a weed, rendering last years clothes ALL useless. Yesterday I made the mistake of going shopping for 5 year old girl clothes at a few inexpensive places. Apparently, if you want clothes that don’t cost a MINT, you have to be willing to pimp your kindergartner out like a Pussycat Doll. No, thank you.

Maisy is girly girl, and she wants to wear play dresses and skorts in fun, frilly colors. Fine. I want her to wear age appropriate things. The girls clothes at Hanna Anderson and Gymboree are exactly right in STYLE, but LORDY I can’t spend 30 – 40 bucks per dress without having an aneurysm. She will wear them for one season! Where can I find decently priced play dresses that are affordable, but still comfortable, fun, and LITTLE GIRL looking?


I adore Maisy and don’t want her all hooched out, so I got on this right away.

When I started looking around, I discovered something disturbing. There are waaaaay fewer dresses out there now than what I remember from when my daughter was Maisy’s age. I don’t know if dresses are consider just not “in” right now or what, but Joss was right that Hanna Andersson is still the mecca of age-appropriate little girl play dresses. Though who wants to sell a kidney every time you want a new dress for your kid? (That gets really complicated after the first one, anyway.)

We can always count on Old Navy to come through with something, although you do have to watch out for the little hoochie outfits there, too, sometimes. But check out their little stripey dresses for this year. Very cute, and affordably priced.

I had very little luck at Target online, but they generally have a greater selection in the store. While I do recall a dearth of play dresses from my last trip there, they can be counted on for an array of cotton scooters and skorts in various colors. And the price is certainly right, there.

Even my perennial favorites, LL Bean and Lands’ End, do not have the selection I recall from previous years, and the prices are… well, they’re not fabulous. It’s the wrong season to be getting clearance deals on Spring clothing, obviously.

I know some folks who’ve had good luck with Webclothes, but I’ve found their inventory to be very hit-or-miss. I see no interesting dresses there right now, although they do have a few cheap skorts.

Another favorite of mine, The Children’s Place, is sadly lacking for cute dresses this year. I’m disappointed. Clearly it’s because they turned me down for their affiliate program. The whole place is just going downhill, now.

You all know my strategy: I shop consignment and thrift, mostly, and cross my fingers. eBay might be another good source, but Joshilyn is busy and likely does not want to be either out pawing through thrift shops or waiting on auctions. Any other suggestions for adorable Hanna- and Gymboree-esque play dresses at affordable prices?


  1. I’ve had good luck at http://www.kidsurplus.com/ for kids’ clothing. They post new items every Monday, and they often feature good names (sometimes disguised, like “lambs’ end”) at good discounts.

  2. the Gymboree Outlet is my personal favorite…they are last year’s line with minor changes but the prices are terrific esp when they go on sale. also Gymboree on ebay…look for EUC (excellent used condition).

  3. I was in Target over the weekend and they had a number of good deals on skorts and such that are girly, yet functional and not pricey at all.

    I do have to agree that Children’s Place is one of my favorite stores for my daughter, but they are a little lacking this year.

  4. i have to second the gymbo outlet — i got my daughter a twirly playdress for $13, not the $28 it was originally marked for. other than that, i also have to second the ebay option. a lot of folks shop at the outlets and then ebay them. i’ve been able to find a lot of gymbo stuff for not a lot of money. good luck!!

  5. My little one is leaving the world of toddler sizing (4T) and entering little girl sizes (4-5). I am not sure why, but for some reason, clothing manufacturer’s think she just turned 18 instead of almost 5 yrs old. Why would I want her to wear a shirt that says “Hottie” in rhinestones across it? Seriously. She is 4! If I see another tag with “baby Phat” on it, I might puke. Thank goodness, she has the same disgust I do for those things, so we hit the sale racks at Gymboree, Baby Gap, and Old Navy and found a decent wardrobe for this spring without going into debt.

    Go to Youandyourfamily.com, sign-up for free, and check out their “vouchers” page. You can print off vouchers for $10 off your purchase of $30 at Children’s Place and $10 off your $40 purchase at Baby Gap.

  6. Well, as of today, it appears impossible to out-hoochie Armani:
    Click here.

    More information

    (Link courtesy of Drudge.)

  7. I’ve had good luck shopping for my goddaughter at Mervyn’s and even Sam’s Club for dresses. Mervyn’s always has a great selection of spring/summer sun dresses that are very reasonable. Many swear by Kohl’s, but I haven’t had as much luck.

  8. my girls will only wear dresses or skirts/skorts. Seriously. (this imposed by me at all)

    Anyhow, I get most of my girls’ dresses/skirts/tights from Lands End Overstocks (even at full price, they are worth it as they wear really well), Gap/Old Navy, occasionally from eBay, and sometimes from Marshalls/TJ Maxx and consignment. There’s a Hanna Andersson outlet 45min from me, and I love that place.

    Right now my kids are OK with stuff from last year and hand-me-downs from friends (um, shopping strategy for my youngest is have a friend with a child a little older). I hear the “style” is to have longer shorts at least. Another strategy is to have a wonderful grandparent who likes to buy clothing for kids and can shop unencumbered by the children.

    I also decided that I wanted a few good quality (and not skanky) things rather than a ton of mediocre stuff, so they have about 5-7 dresses each, a few skirts, and a couple pairs of pants for walking in tick-infested woods. But I can invest in stuff for my 8 1/2 year old that will hand down to my 6 1/2 year old and 3 1/2 year old. Hey – why isn’t Mir handing down Chickadee’s stuff to you?

  9. I’m finding a few great dresses at LE Overstocks, and remember – with dresses you can go up a size or two without a problem, as they will grow into them! Yay! Ditto for the occasional sale at Hanna

  10. I generally go to ebay and search only for “Buy it now” items and then look for the following brands:
    Carriage Boutiques

    Five may be too old for those styles… but if I remember correctly she is Southern, and some of those are the smocked dresses.

  11. A relatively new West Coast store I love (you can also order online) is Naartjie. Beautiful fabrics, lots of fun girly-girl clothes, not a speck of hooch, and reasonable prices (they are having a sale now, in fact). I don’t know how to make it clickable, but here is the link:


    Also their stuff runs a bit big and is very forgiving on the fit so I find my daughter doesn’t outgrow it as fast —

  12. If you have a Carter’s near you, they have some spring/summer dresses called Twirly Whirly Dresses. And they are very afordable.

  13. I agree with Rachel, even if she is my daughter, and try hard to find things that are pretty, modest, and wear like iron for the girly-girl beauties. And, of course, cheap. Because I’m the grandmother, I can treat them to new things now and then so their entire wardrobe isn’t hand-me-downs, but my mom taught me never to pay full price. I like GapKid on sale — really good things, though I haven ‘t looked yet this spring. Rugged Bear has great stuff that is what we old folks call “age appropriate” and wears like iron. Their dresses are lovely. Their regular prices aren’t cheap but they aren’t ridiculous either, but on clearance, well, yeehaw. Stores often have the best markdowns, but online is also good. Here is a great looking jumper marked down from $27 to $14, and the sizes don’t stop at 4T: http://www.ruggedbear-online.com/gicaprcoju.html

  14. I also have a very tall very thin girl. She will be 7 shortly and she outgrew the little girl section of stores several years ago. I struggle to find cute feminine girls clothes for her. My term for the clothes in her size at most stores is, prostitot!!!! NOT the look i want for my sweet girl. Most of her clothes are Gymboree. It is possible to get their clothes and not go broke. I get some from ebay, but i mostly shop the sales and do it when they offer gymbucks. It is easier to spend $100.00 when you get $50.00 to spend in a few weeks. They have so many lines each year that they are not full price very long. Then when she outgrows them, I resell them, through resale shops, ebay, or to other friends who love gymboree, and all my daughters friends are at least a year behind her in clothes sizes!!!

  15. Don’t despair if The Children’s Place doesn’t have what you want right now — I’m thinking they turn over complete lines every six weeks or so like Gymboree and The Gap do. You just have to watch for all the new stuff to come in.

    One thing that helps me when I shop for clothes for my girls that I know won’t wear out but may be out-grown before I get “my money’s worth” is that I give away gently-used clothes either to friends and neighbors or to a very reputable charity near me. It eases my conscience about the money spent and creates some good karma. Of course, it doesn’t give license to buy outrageously expensive clothes but it does give me perspective.

  16. “Prostitot”!!!!!

    I’ve been looking for a name for the stuff I’ve been seeing around lately — that’s it!

    Having been the middle of the hand-me-down chain a million years ago, I’m afraid I don’t have any useful ideas, other than outlet stores.

    We must keep Miss Maisey in her ruffles!

  17. Try Hanna Andersson on line – go to the clearance section… You may have to go back a few times, but you can get great dresses for less and then you can ebay them and get most of your money back.

  18. i think all name brands are way tooo expensive !!
    well for me anyway

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