#whatwewore Choosing clothes: Vintage jacket, stripy leggings

At nearly 18 months, I’ve started to give Ada choices in her clothes. My thinking is this: give them choices about regular little things and then they won’t go all control-freakery over the bigger stuff which you have to be firm with the decisions on (like whether to wear a seat belt or not, hmmm? That one’s a no brainer, but I know that it can be a fight).

With “this” and “that” also being her favourite words, the choosing works out quite nicely. She preferred her stripy knitted leggings with a fox on the bum today to the other option of some denim dungarees which I proffered.

The cute kicker lace up shoes were a gift from Mini Magpie and she loves showing them off. Mustard socks colour clash perfectly. I adore the plaid jacket – a jumble sale donation picked up by my mum and the bright blue tee is a multi-pack Next bargain buy (boys section, of course *sigh*).

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Life Hacking: Avoiding the shoe shop

We’re a bit particular about having ‘proper’ shoes for the kids; in my book this means Clarks shoes. It’s something that was drilled into me from an early age and, perhaps because of this, I’ve never had any feet issues (bar that incident when I broke my big toe raving at a festival in Serbia, which, I think, is probably unrelated). Oh, and there was jealousy of course: who didn’t want to be a ‘cool kid’ in in some renegade shoes that weren’t the standard issue Clarks sandals?

However, getting a child to the shoe shop to get their feet measured regularly? That’s a tough one. I’ll be the first to admit, we don’t go as regularly as we probably should so I’m not always aware how quickly feet are growing. Ada is nearly toddling now so she’ll be needing her first pair of proper shoes soon (*sniff* – how fast they grow up).

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It turns out you can now measure your kids feet at home through Clarks Measure and Fit. You can buy gauge at £6 or £8 depending on size (with free delivery), plug the measurements into the Clarks website and it will spit out the correct size.

This seems GENIUS to me. I can track how fast their feet are growing and – although I imagine Clarks didn’t quite intend it this way – I can even buy secondhand shoes which I know will fit. (I’m thinking nearly new rather than well-worn; the merits of well fitting shoes have been drilled into me enough, thank you). I can’t take all the credit; someone suggested this on Facebook. Clever, thrifty mum types.

Whilst we’re on the subject, these are the specimens I’m eyeing up as Ada’s first shoes – all but one in the BOYS SECTION. Get a grip, Clarks, we don’t all want pink/floral/bows for our one year old girls! See my previous rant about the gender wars in kids clothes.

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And I like the look of these ones for non-school time for Harper. Traditionally, I’ve had just two pairs of shoes on the go for him – ones for school, ones for not, plus wellies for wet and crocs and/or sandals for Summer. At £35-40 a pop for a pair of decent shoes that need to be updated at least every 6 months… well, you’ve got to be a bit frugal…

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Kids Clothes: The Gender Wars

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I am loving – nay, ecstatic! – that more and more clothing companies are starting to eschew the idea that clothes must be gender specific. You know the story: walk into a clothes shop (or search online) and you immediately have to choose which path you go down – blue for boys, pink for girls; camo and skulls for boys, glitter and princesses for girls. Who’s to say my boy doesn’t want a bit of sparkle on his clothes or my girl can’t wear black?

Last year, I read Alice “Wonderland” Taylor’s blog post showing how she’d had to go to the boys section of M&S to buy her girls clothes, namely: “an awesome KAPOW! comicbook sweater, a superman tee, a teeshirt with a skull on it (lightning bolt, no bow), and an umbrella with robots on.” Cue: UPROAR! (from me, atleast).

She suggests ditching gender divides with clothing and, instead, grouping clothing together by things such as “ADVENTUROUS, HEROIC, FUNNY, CUTE, CLEVER, EDGY, CASUAL, SMART.”  A wonderful idea!

In reality – until kids hit puberty – you don’t really need different boy / girl cuts of clothing (skirts and dresses the possible exception here). Alice says that the upshot would be: Manufacturing costs – lowered. Shopping experience – more interesting.

This is the sort of thing they could A/B test with the website so easily – you hear that, M&S?

Whilst I will admit that most of my kids clothes come from charity shops, donations from friends (thank you, lovely friends), eBay and the occasional high street purchase, I am rather taken by the recent trend in really bloody lovely kidswear. Stuff that, because of my want to keep things nice and stain free, I would probably be a bit antsy about them wearing when slurping up spaghetti in tomato sauce or eating chunks of blood red beetroot (I’ll be there, Vanish stick in hand), but yet I know that these clothes are hard wearing, quality items that won’t fall apart like some high street stuff does (Looking at you: Primark, *shudder*). You know that when you buy independent kidswear that each item of clothing will last more than one child and, most likely, that you’ll be supporting some brilliant, probably local, entrepreneurial parent who wants something better for their kids.

My personal style is important to me. It makes me feel confident, puts a smile on my face and others – I hope! Whilst I don’t want my kids to feel that they are only judged on what they wear, I’d like them to experience a bit of the enjoyment that I get from putting bright colours together, rummaging around in a thrift store for the perfectly patterned vintage dress, or perhaps wearing big chunky beads.

Tootsa Maginty has been championing unisex kidswear for a few years. They promise colourful, quality, children’s clothes for boys and girls “that won’t fall apart in the wash”. And – music to my ears – they have a SALE on at the moment. I adore their Epping sweatpants, which I know my son would love (he goes for anything comfy, over the look of it to be honest, as many an 8 year old would) and we’d get good wear from their chunky knit cardigans or Surfers Against Sewage T-shirts with a pelican print.

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Tootsa 1Boys&Girls are local to me in London – I get their newsletter which tells you about their frequent offers and sales. They go for a bright, outdoorsy urban look – grey marls, fun prints such as stars, slouchy harem pants and adorable all-in-ones for babies. (They still divide by Boys and Girls when you’re searching – I’d like to see this mixed up a bit more please!). All clothes are organic too.

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And Loveitloveitloveit sell all sorts of non-gender specific kids brands, sorted by colour, and Ruth, who runs it, is very funny on Twitter. Plus – BIG SALE on at the moment too.

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Screen shot 2014-02-19 at 13.37.04 I’m also really liking the look of Pom Berlin (as spotted on Fine Little Day last week) with fun bunting prints on slouchy sweat pants and jumpers and eye-popping prints on skirts.

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Cooperative consumerism

I’ve grown up. I’ve started shopping in department stores. I never thought it would come to this. It feels so sensible – mum-like and middle aged!

However, there are practical reasons why mums love a department store. The number one awesome thing is that everything is in the same place. This is excellent when your shopping partner is a baby; there’s less less traipsing around and one shop doesn’t mean less choice – my nearest John Lewis has Whistles, Cos, Hobbs, Miss Selfridge, French Connection and more.

They have ginormous changing rooms with flattering light and attendants who interacted positively to my shopping companion crawling around the floor.

The very best thing about John Lewis is that everyone who works there is seemingly really happy with life. Cheery staff! I guess that 85,500 permanent John Lewis staff being partners, which means getting actual benefits and profits of a business whether they work in the shop floor or in the board room, is a clever business plan. And pretty ethical too.

The Guardian, GQ and the Telegraph were all saying good things about the John Lewis own Scandi-stye fashion range, Kin – a range for kids, men and women. I’d not heard of the Kin by John Lewis brand before but I loved the range in store. Simple grey marl tops, light knits, cotton dresses. Perfect for work, when I don’t want to rock the ‘covered in baby dribble’ look. I approve.

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The best of friends

Ada, at the ripe old age of one, has a little chum called Oaky. Perseus Oak to be precise. A grand name for a little chap.

I’ve done a childcare swap with his mum since they were little, to give each other a bit of ‘working from home’ time. It was tough when they were 8/9 months old (think: holding two clingy babies whilst trying to get some lunch ready – the local children’s centre became a haven). Now they are both aged just over a year, they clamber about together, exploring the house: pulling books off shelves, opening and closing doors, offering each other carefully selected things and, I guess, sort of playing. They certainly entertain each other.

Oaky is always dressed in amazing outfits that his mum, Kim, makes by upcyling wool and cashmere. Her online shop, Mini Magpie, is a treasure trove of cute vintage knit onesies, cosy woolen trousers, pompoms and rickrack (love that word).

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