Kid’s ethical clothing is an area that I have been pondering since we starting delving a little deeper into the ethical fashion conversation. How do you make ethical clothing choices for children? Is this even possible? This is hard because kids are exceptionally hard on their clothes (rips, stains, tears, popped seams, torn buttons) and grow out of their clothes at an incredible pace. Those two barriers make it especially difficult to justify spending the extra money that is required for purchasing ethical clothing. So what can you do to begin working towards a more ethical kid’s wardrobe? We have a few ideas for you.
Clothing swaps are not just for adults (although they are certainly fun for adults)! Organizing a clothing swap with neighbors or within your school community is an easy and essentially free way to get clothing for your children. Many communities, churches, and schools already run kid’s clothing swaps, so check out what’s happening near you. At my son’s school, some of the parents organize a uniform swap at the end of each school year to make sure families are ready with next year’s sizes. This is not a perfect solution because as I mentioned before, kids are hard on their clothes! Sometimes my son’s clothing is so stained, torn and abused that it isn’t fit to be swapped!
I love ThredUp (*referral link) for shopping kid’s clothes. You know the clothes you will receive from them are in generally good condition. The site’s interface makes it easy to search for specific items; I have used their extensive filtering options to find uniform pieces for my son. But don’t stop at online thrifting; your local thrift stores have tons of children’s clothing at inexpensive prices. Kid-specific thrift stores generally only sell clothing that’s in good condition (which, I have noticed, often makes the boys’ section a little thin!); googling “kid thrift store [your city]” should point you to some options near you.
Make it last
As fast fashion has become the norm in our culture, we have lost the art of mending. In generations past, when clothing was a significant part of your budget, if something stained, ripped, or a button popped off you fixed it! Mending your kid’s clothes may be out of your comfort zone, but making clothing last longer is central to the ethical fashion idea. Clothes should not be treated as disposable.
Make it yourself
I know, this may not be for everyone. Not everyone sews or even wants to sew! But if you want to try, this is a great option because YOU are the quality control. By selecting durable fabrics and sewing construction methods, you can make long-lasting clothing for your child.
Shopping ethical kids brands
As you may have started to pick up by now, there are many ethical clothing options for adults. Unfortunately, we have not found as many accessible options for kids’ clothing. This is likely because the labor cost of making children’s clothes does not decrease because the size is smaller. We recommend asking grandparents or others that are willing to buy items at a little higher cost to help! If you know of more brands that we should know about, please let us know in the comments!
$ – Reasonable; $$ – Moderate; $$$ – Expensive
A few brands that we know of:
American Apparel – Made in the US. I don’t love recommending this brand for a number of different reasons (some of which are summed up succinctly here), but they do have affordable baby and kid’s clothing that also include uniform options (like polos for $8, which are part of my son’s school uniform). $
Evan Brooke – Quality garments for young girls made ethically and in effort to FIGHT human trafficking. $$
The Eternal Creation Story – Australia-based and fair trade. They have brightly colored fun clothing for boys, girls and babies. They also have some school uniform options. $$
Hanna Andersson – Durable, some organic clothing with Swedish Roots. Babies, boys and girls. $$$
Mikoleon – They utilize up-cycled denim: pre-consumer denim waste is ground back into fiber, spun into new yarns and woven or knitted into new sustainable and exclusive fabrics for boys, girls and babies. They are 100% cotton, chemical free, dye free, and fair trade. $$$
Nena Kiddos – Based in Utah and Guatemala, they have items for babies, girls and boys. They work with Guatemalan artisans to create hand-woven textiles. This provides Guatemalan mothers with honorable incomes and time to care for their children as they work from home. $$$
Nui Organics – Organics. Made for babies, boys and girls. $$$
Nula Kids – Adjustable styles designed to fit through growth spurts from ages ~2-4, 4-6, or 6-8 with durable fabrics for little girls. Made with organic cotton and low impact dyes in Los Angeles. $$
Sudara – They provide safe, sustainable jobs to help women in India make their way out of the sex trafficking industry, and stay out. T-shirts and pajama pants for boys and girls. $
Tea Collection – They work only with reputable manufacturers who follow high standards of good working conditions and no child/slave labor. Babies, boys and girls. $$$
Texas Jeans – 100% made in the US from fabric through production. Made for boys and girls. $
Two Crows for Joy – Made in the US, many items are organic. Babies, boys and girls. (They have some items suitable for uniforms.) $$
Winter Water Factory – Organic and made in the US (fabric and production). Bright, screen printed patterned basics for boys, girls and babies. $$
Wildy Co. – Sourced in LA and sewn in North Carolina. Many of their fabrics are made in the US as well. They have the basics covered for boy and girls at great prices. This is by far a favorite brand! $
Utilize the teaching opportunity
One last thing I’d like to add is that shopping intentionally for children’s clothing creates an opportunity to share with your children why this is important to you. I like to tell Jude the stories behind his clothes, when I know them. For example, when we purchased new pajama pants for him through Sudara, I told him that the money we spent on his new pants went to ensure that a woman in India had a steady job to keep her safe and to provide for her family. It is important to help our children understand that real people make our clothes and those people matter to us.
Don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood. We post ethical outfits of the day, questions to our followers and more. We would love to have you join us as part of the conversation over there!