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Favorite Kid Shops Round-Up and How We Shop for Kids

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Since it’s award season and everyone’s talking about–well, besides politics–what people are wearing, I figured it was a good time to do our own “Best Of” awards for kid clothes. Where do you shop for your kids? 

To be honest, I could easily write at least a 7-chapter book on shopping for kids’ clothes, with topics ranging from the delight of little details (Peter Pan collars! Applique! Hand stitching! Hold me BACK!) to the psychology behind parental influence on style and personality through dress, but I’ve shaved off about 6.5 chapters for this post and will simply leave you with our favorite places to shop. After ten years of shopping for kids–wait, who am I kidding–I was buying clothes for my imaginary kids long before they existed. Okay, after a lifetime of studying children’s fashion and implementing practical application of practices for dressing real life kids who don’t want to wear knee socks and saddle shoes every day–or, say really want that glitter “GYMNASTICS OR BUST” shirt–I’ve figured out a shopping system that works for us: eclectic wardrobes. There’s a little bit of everything, and I try to embrace my kids’ personalities and individual styles when buying things while maintaining shopping standards that are important to our family–quality, versatility and price. Lainey’s older and makes most of her own selections that, yes, include “PIZZA IS MY LIFE” shirts and leggings that say JUSTICE in the largest font known to fashion, but she also still loves a lot of classics and shops where Mama’s been shopping for her since she was little.

Everybody shops for kids’ clothes differently, but I will say this. If you stand by the rule that kids grow too fast, no way are you wasting money on a $30 t-shirt, good for you. If you love Spanish brands, children’s fashion is your jam, and you stayed up until midnight for the new Bobo Choses line to drop so you could scoop up that $80 romper because you love it and can afford it, good for you. If your kid looks like she stepped out of a fashion editorial every day, good for you. If your kid is running around in a stained Ninja Turtles t-shirt and never takes off those amazing light-up Spiderman shoes because he thinks they give him super powers, good for you too. If you let your son wear whatever he wants and have zero influence on his closet because he’s an individual and you celebrate his creative choices, you are amazing. If you say no to the pink Dora decal shirt simply because you hate it, you know what? You’re amazing too. If you buy all your kids’ clothes at Goodwill so you can give more to charity, YES! I LOVE YOU! If you have so much fun playing dress-up with your kids and choose to support causes and buy brand new beautiful things for your littles, YES! I LOVE YOU TOO! You do you. I assume everyone’s momming as best as they can. And as long as no one’s holding their screaming kid down, demanding “DAMMIT, YOU WILL WEAR THIS HEIRLOOM BLOUSE!”, I think the kids will be alright.

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For us, there’s no doubt a lot of my kids’ clothes are a reflection of things I love–color and stripes, for one–just like my kids have picked up a lot of other things I love like crafting, Michigan and beautiful sunsets. The things I love are also reflection of my mom and the way she shopped for us, and I love that she passed down her love of handmade clothes, good cotton, floral prints and neck bows.

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Have I used my selling powers to make my kids want to wear things I love? Sure. (“I saw Taylor Swift wore this shirt once.” IN THE BAG. YOU’RE WELCOME.) But I also embrace the things they love that I don’t and make room for mismatched and glitter because I have a feeling if you resist too much, that’s all they’re going to want to wear. Plus, I love celebrating their bloomin’ little fashion senses.

I’ll stop rambling…other than to say, I love little people clothes, and I cannot lie. There wasn’t a day I woke up when they were babies that I didn’t get excited about carrying them into their rooms to pick out what they were going to wear, and I still cuddle up with my kids at night and think about silly things like, “I love these pajamas so damn much.”

With no further ado…shop faves

First of all, I follow my favorite brands on Instagram, and I shop when I see sales. I shop when Hanna Andersson offers 40% their entire site, when there’s a promo code for Mini Boden and when Janie & Jack clearances out their swimsuits. Following favorite brands on social media and taking advantage of sales and offers saves us a lot of money. We also cushion our closets with consignment buys (we love our local Once Upon a Child) and inexpensive fun finds and basics from Target (their Cat & Jack line!), Old Navy, H&M and ThredUp. I love some high end brands and European designers for kids, but I choose not to afford them. I do however splurge on quality classics that will get worn a lot, pass down to siblings and–if really remarkable–saved in the Cherish Bin for grandkids and/or keepsake quilts.

As for favorites, I’ll break it down to categories.

Quality Classics
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1. Mini BodenBy far, my favorite kids’ brand, full of bold color, fun prints and personality. That little rainbow dress above? We must have worn it once a week last year. And it still looks great. Their summer lines are always my favorite.
2. Hanna AnderssonComfy classics with Swedish style roots. I swear, Hanna clothes can go through 5 kids and still look the same as the day you bought it. Their playtime dresses are so versatile.
3. Mabo KidsI discovered Mabo Kids last year, and I’m obsessed with their organic cotton basics–amazing quality. The foundation of my kids’ wardrobes lies in the black and white stripe Mabo tee. We have one for each kid.
4. Osh Kosh B’Gosh: Classic overalls that never go out of style. When in doubt, go with Osh Kosh overalls.
5. Zara: I have a hard time going on their site because I want all their kids’ stuff. Cutting edge trends, super fashionable.
6. Alice & Ames: Classic, comfortable quality twirl dresses your daughter will never want to take off.

Gap and Crew Cuts also have great closet staples for kids and frequent sales.

Vintage Style/Unique Handmade
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1. Vindie Baby: Their dresses are so beautiful for little girls.
2. Hum Stitchery: The mini trouser skirt (in a variety of colors and patterns) is everything.
3. Berits Lila: I found this shop when I purchased Nella’s birthday dress from them one year–beautiful hand made pieces with retro style.
4. Lee Marie – Clothes only go up to 4T, but I couldn’t leave this one off. Her retro printed overalls are so much fun!
5. Muny Design – My favorite things in Dash’s dresser are from Muny. They’re keepsakes you’ll save forever.

Fun & Colorful All-Over Prints
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1Winter Water Factory
2. Duns Sweden
  (ships from Sweden, but gets here fast)
3. Izzy and Ferd 

Graphic Tees
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1. JollyGood Apparel: Love their camp shirt, “Happy Trails” and “Makin’ Memories” tees.
2. Savage Seeds: Powerful messages, simply stated.
3. Passive Juice Motel: I’ve been a Passive Juice fan for years now. Hilarious pop culture references, great art and fun throwbacks to the 80’s.
4. Wee Rascals: Historical heroes celebrated in a hip way
5. Hatch for Kids: From Bob Ross and Ferris Bueller to Biggie, Hatch has it. We love their “Read to Me” tee.
6. Out of Print: The classic children’s books you love, turned into tees. From Frog & Toad and Madeline to Corduroy and Harold & the Purple Crayon.
7. Peek Kids: Progressive, powerful messages celebrating kindness, love, art and science.
8. The Bee & The Fox: Simple design, classic font. Pair them with toddler bell bottoms for a nice 70’s flair.

Pajamas
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1. Shop Plain Jane: The softest, sweetest simple nightgown for your girls.
2. Hanna Andersson: Organic cotton long johns (and short johns) that stay soft wash after wash. 
3. Tea Collection: Amazing quality, cozy snug fit.
4. Hatley, particularly their Little Blue House brand which is our go-to pajamas for summers in Michigan. So many prints for cabin life–fishing lures, black bears and camping gear
5. Mini Boden: I watch for their nightgowns to go on sale and snatch them up when they do.

Swimsuits
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We wear swimsuits a lot in Florida, and it’s one of our favorite things to shop for. With pool chemicals, sand & saltwater and little butts that scoot across pavement, I love finding brands that hold up against the wear.

1. Mini Boden
2. Hanna Andersson
3. Janie & Jack
4. Kortni Jeane
5. Lolli Swim
6. Vindie Baby
7. Jessica Rey Swimwear
8. Zara Boys (love their euro short suits)

Jeans
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1. A&F Kids Watch for sales. Best flare jeans ever–they fit Nella like a glove.
2. Dudley Denim: Deconstructed edgy denim, frayed edges, cool
3. Old Navy Skinny Jeans (super slim for my beany kids and come in fun color pops) and Gap

Cool & Edgy Pieces
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1. Little Edge Threads
2. Forever 21 Girls

Socks & Tights
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1. Amazon–these retro stripe tube socks or our favorite rainbow stripe knee socks
2. Hanna Andersson
3. Mini Boden
4. Duns Sweden

Shoes
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My kids live in the first three, the Florida classics trifecta:

1. Saltwater Sandals: (we get ours on Amazon). My most favorite shoes of all. We wear them year round here. They’re classic, they go with EVERYTHING. They can get wet. They pass down from kid to kid in great condition. They’re timeless. My favorite are the original loop strap in red, but we’ve had every color, and Dash wears the single strap ones.
2. Keds: Let’s put it this way: If I were the mayor of Kidtown, I’d give every kid a pair of red Keds upon citizenship. Red Keds with dresses, red Keds with jeans, red Keds with popsicle-stained shorts and dirty skinned knees in the summer. The definition of childhood.
3. Native Jefferson Slip-ons: The key? No buckles, no straps. They can put them on by themselves. And they’re waterproof. Plus super cute with that little contrasted toe kick.
4. ZaraThey have beautiful leather sandals in unique designs in the summer and timeless leather boots in the winter. And everything else in between.
5. Livie and Luca
6. Converse high-tops
7.
For everything else in between, we love Zappos, Nordstrom & Amazon

Also, you can find the kids’ sneaker round-up I did last year here.

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Whew. Okay, that’s a lot. Did I miss a favorite shop you love? Tell me!

You know what the irony of this post is? All this time talking about kids’ clothes, and Dash just darted out the garage door NAKED. Gotta go.

Ahoy!: Nautical Style for the Entire Family (Also Known as: I Want to Live in a 1960’s Butterick Pattern)

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With summer approaching and school almost done, I’ve been dreaming of heading north and returning to our favorite summer spot in Michigan. This, of course, comes with fun “what will we pack?” lists which–while some things change every year–always end up taking a red, white and navy theme. Or as Heidi calls it, “your summer nautical obsession.” ‘Tis true. I want us all to dress like little sailors. For one, it’s classic American summer style. I mean, who doesn’t love a red stripe boat neck shirt or a perfect pair of linen sailor pants? Second, Florida style tends to be characterized by more jewel tones–Lily Pulitzer pinks and greens, bright florals and bold palm prints, and those, while lovely, aren’t my jam. Plus, subtlety has never been my specialty, and I bear the Literal Destination Fashion Interpretation gene which means I summarize the style of where we’re going and then take it to the moon. I dress like a first lady when visiting Washington D.C.; hippy it up in Ojai, California and get mistaken for a yacht club representative when I step on the ferry toward Mackinac Island. Ahoy, mateys! Lainey, you take port side! Nella, you take starboard!

And the kids? Well, sailor style is the holy grail of children’s fashion, and I take it very seriously.

Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B:

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Exhibit C:

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We go for Little Kennedys, circa 1962. The 60’s and 70’s clearly had nautical fashion in the bag. I want every outfit in these old patterns, please.

I mean, Nella and Dash would kill it in these:

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And don’t think I wouldn’t wear this palazzo jump suit, oh my God.

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Those pointed collar rompers! Get thee to a seamstress.

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Or how about the entire family in matching yacht club uniforms? YAAAAAAASSSSSS.

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I even found the exact equivalent to my favorite vintage sailor suit Dash wore, in a women’s version.

Would I wear it? Feck yeah, I would. I mean, maybe not with knee socks and pilgrim shoes, but with sandals, I’d totally take the pontoon boat for a spin around the lake in this.

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So, we’ve drifted away from The Good Ship Lollipop fashion over the years, but nautical style and good old red, white and blue have always served as classic summer staples, and whether you want to go full-on vintage sailor or include simple subtle hints of the sea, here’s a round-up of some favorite nautical fashions for girls, boys and mamas.

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1. Powell Craft Sailor Dress (in sizes 1-7!). This is it! Such a chic version of the classic knotted sailor dress. And it works for so many ages.
2. Freshly Picked (NEW!) Leather Sandals
3. H&M Stripe Sleeveless Bow Top
4. Mini Boden Wide Leg Sailor Pants
5. Hanna Andersson Cotton Stripe Tee. Nella has this tee and it is a top five staple of our summer wardrobe–super versatile, great quality and perfect for layering under overalls and jumpers.
6. Hum Stitchery Andi Mini Skirt with Suspenders
7. Gap Red Espadrilles. I cannot with these little espadrilles. Seriously.
8. Hanna Andersson Sailboat Tank
9. Herschel Heritage Kids Backpack
10. H&M Seersucker Knotted Blouse
11. Gap Stripe Eyelet Tank Dress
12. Navy Saltwater Sandals
13. Zara Red Jumpsuit with Frill. I wanted this one for Nella for Mackinac Island this summer and was super bummed that her size is the only one sold out.
14. H&M Stripe Jersey Top
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5. J Crew Factory Scallop Hem Shorts
16. Twisted Navy Boat Shoes. Classic nautical look…and only $15!

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1. Mabo Organic Cotton Red Stripe Tee
2. Janie and Jack Linen Suspender Shorts
3. Janie and Jack Linen Blend Cap (so dapper!). I feel like this little hat with the suspender shorts is a little bit more grown-up version of the classic sailor suit for boys.
4. Tan Saltwater Sandals
5. Sailboat Toy (really floats in water!)
6. J Crew Vintage Chest Stripe Tee. These J Crew vintage wash tees are heaven. The quality is unmatched–they wash up over and over still looking brand new.
7. H&M Navy Clam Diggers. I love the length of these and that they are slim-fitting. 
8. Sperry Boat Shoes
9. Old Navy White Tee
10. H&M Denim Shorts with Suspenders
11. Winter Water Factory Sailboat Tee. Dash had this print in a tank last summer, and I loved it so much.
12. Children’s Place Red Pull-On Shorts
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3. Osh Kosh Navy Sandals
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4. Lucy & Leo Organic Cotton and Hemp Mantauk Tank and Shorts. I’m obsessed with this little outfit for Dash. The quality is so great (the hemp makes it a bit more structured).

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1. Gap Vintage Wash V-Neck Tee
2. Gap Red Bandana Necktie. Well, you know how I feel about neck ties. GLAMOUR DO. And a perfect way to sailor up an otherwise ordinary outfit.
3. J Crew Factory Navy Shorts ($14.50!). These shorts are my secret summer staple. I have them in several colors–J Crew quality, but super inexpensive.
4. Women’s Saltwater Sandals
5. J Crew Factory Panama Hat
6. J Crew Factory Striped Off-the-Shoulder Boat Shirt. I love this shirt, especially with the sailor pants. It’s so I’ll-see-you-at-the-yacht-club.
7. J Crew Linen Sailor Pants
8. Modcloth Nautical One-Piece Suit but you’re totes going to need some…
9. Silicone Reusable Pasties for that white top.
10. Gap Stripe Crochet Tank. I love the retro feel of this tank.
11. Women’s Classic Red Keds (YASSS. All summer long.)
12, Modcloth Nautical Short-Sleeve Sweater. I’m going to have some fun in this baby this summer.

Time to practice my square knot.

I can hear my dad teasing me now: “Admiral McCarthy called. He needs his uniform back.”

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A Lesson from My Eyebrows

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Something shifted this year. Perhaps it’s climbing closer to 40 or teetering the fine line of almost having to shop for all three kids outside the toddler department, or maybe it’s the fact that nobody ever asks for my license anymore when I’m buying beer. But I feel like I’m stepping into another world, out of the young mom of babies one and into the middle-aged world where kids grow in triple time and moms can’t get away with shopping at Forever 21. In fact, last time I shopped there, I was with Heidi and two feet into the store–right past the first rack of crop tops and behind the size negative 4 mannequin dripping in Coachella style–she stopped.

“Wait, what are we doing here? We have, like, no f@&*ing business shopping here, Kelle. It’s called Forever 21. 21, okay? Not 37. We have to face it eventually.” She pointed to the closest article of clothing–a butt cheek-grazing pair of fringe shorts. “I mean, seriously. Are we going to wear that to the girls’ ballet class?”

“What are you suggesting?” I asked in horror. “That we walk down to Sears? Because I’m not going. I just want to look at their hats real quick.”

“Fine, look at the hats, but then we’re out of here.”

I found a hat with wearability that extended beyond the driver’s training crowd, but on the way back to our car, through the maze of kiosks and department store sales, I stopped at a makeup counter, lured by my current obsession and what I really wanted–another brow pencil.

“Jesus–you and your eyebrows,” Heidi laughed.

“No seriously, you have no idea,” I explained as I picked up a tiny brow kit with doll-sized brushes that promised to take your brows to “Wow!”–whatever that means. “It makes the hugest difference when you take time to fill them in.”

This brow thing is fairly new, but I admit I’ve had issues with my eyebrows ever since I was fifteen–when my cousin who had just returned from a nannying stint in New York City and was thus fully qualified as Knows All Stylish Things convinced me and my sister to pluck the motherloving heck out of our pretty little brows that had just finally grown into their natural shape.

“Thin is IN,” she told us. So we closed our eyes and winced as she tweezed every last hair, leaving nothing but a tiny line that arched high and left us looking permanently surprised. They never did grow back right, so now they’re a little crooked with some sparse spots, and I swear the left one is just half hanging there. I didn’t ever care or notice much until this brow craze started taking over fashion–oh, and that one time an Instagram commenter took the time to create a fake account to leave these eloquent words: simply “Your brows are F@*KED.”

And then I was Frida Kahlo for Halloween which gave me the excuse to really exaggerate my brows and play with penciling the heck out of them. I made them fat and bushy and realized just how little they are as the eye pencil tip grew flatter and flatter with all that space I had to fill. I looked so completely different–an amusing realization that got me hooked on this new eyebrow craze–and I admit, I took it too far.

I read up on brow techniques, started playing with products, hit the brow bar in Ulta. There are wands and waxes, powders and pencils, and I’ve tried them all–not without failure, of course. Texting before and after pictures of pre-filled and post-makeup eyebrows became a thing. I sent them to my sister (“What the hell? Too dark,” she texted back. “You might as well just use a Sharpie marker.”). I sent them to Heidi (“Wait–so are you looking at my brows every time you talk to me, thinking they look like shit?”). I sent them all the way to California to my friend Claire (“Did you send me a brow kit?” she recently texted me, “because one arrived with no note, and all I could think was ‘Kelle’s so obsessed with her eyebrows, I bet this is her way of telling me mine need help.'” I did not send the brow kit, by the way. And Claire’s brows are beautiful, just as they are.).

So what has all this brow fuss taught me? A few things, actually.

1.) Nobody cares about your damn eyebrows/face/body/parenting style/etc. except you.
2.) Don’t let temporary crazes consume you. Because THIN might be IN again soon.
3.) Find your middle. I know for me that moderation is where I find my happy. Still playing with youthful fashion? Fine–run in Forever 21 real quick to get a hat, but don’t leave looking like you’re headed to the Teen Choice Awards. Want to play with filling in your brows? Great, have fun, but go light–a little shaping and shading. You’re not Cara Delevingne for crying out loud.
4.) Face the music. Every year, things are changing and aging. So what, brows are f@*ked. And bodies morph. And babies turn into toddlers turn into children turn into sassy teens turn into adults standing in your kitchen someday, holding your age spot-speckled hands, asking for your advice because if you’re lucky, you’ve lived long enough to give it. And they’re still calling you mom.

There’s a playground of brow pencils and red lipsticks and morning exercises and slimming skirts and new recipes and home trends and fashion magazines with fun articles on how to fill in your arches and add more yellow to your wardrobe. I love that playground and am glad it’s there to accessorize our days, but the real heart of life that beats and keeps me alive is much bigger than that.

I returned to one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems recently–Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches? It was like reading it for the first time, and I typed a few lines, printed them and taped them above my desk, a closer reminder to keep for a little while:

Well, there is time left. Fields everywhere invite you into them…

Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?

…Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.
I climb, I backtrack.
I float,
I ramble my way home.”

Some bits from that beating heart lately:

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*I get asked about these Magna Tiles every time they show up in a post. An investment, but one you won’t regret. By far, the favorite toy in our home over the years and one that everyone plays with, from the littlest to me and Brett.

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Now don’t go staring at my eyebrows in all my pictures now.

Happy Tuesday! Don’t breathe just a little and call it a life…inhale deeply all that is good.