Clothing is a basic need. Although most kids would prefer just chillin' in their birthday suits all day long, it's our responsibility as parents to clothe these little buggers, and to do so in a way that's smart for our wallets and sustainable for the planet. But if you're like us, that goal quickly becomes buried underneath the heaps and heaps of clothing that we seem to amass the second these tiny humans enter the world (here's looking at you Grandmas, who can't stop buying those cute little outfits!)
Sure there are sustainable fashion brands and organic baby clothes that in the beginning of our parenting journey we just had to have. But as the days grow longer (and the years significantly shorter!) what ends up hanging in their closets -- or more likely, on the floor -- are piles of clothing that we know very little about and have little connection to.
How do we build a sustainable and simplified wardrobe that is intentional and mindful? Follow these 3 easy ways to start building a greener, cleaner baby and kids wardrobe that is one you can feel good about.
1. Strive for Organic Baby Clothes, but Mainly: just Read the Labels
One of the best parenting tips we've ever received is: "perfection is NEVER the key to success – 80% is good enough." Although we'd all love to adorn our babies in 100% organic fabrics from head to toe every single day of their lives, this level of perfection is almost impossible to achieve when sneaky synthetics lurk just about everywhere (hi there, polyester!) and sometimes putting your kid in non-wrinkle, stain resistant fabrics is literally the best thing since sliced bread.
A better "80%" solution is to simply read the labels of your child’s clothing to gain a general understanding of what's in them. Unlike the food we buy or even the skincare we use, our apparel is something we know very little about. Just consider how many times you've read the ingredient list of your child's favorite food versus the times you've read the label of his or her favorite outfit.
Made from 100% cotton in the USA - yay!
If we strive to know what's in our children's clothes, we can strive to make sure that more natural fibers are on that label - just as we use our knowledge of food ingredients to choose better meals (but sometimes, ice cream, ya know?).
"Go to a thrift store and hold in your hands a sweater or jacket made before 1990. Today's clothes by comparison feel like they're going to float away." ~Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed
We love vintage and preloved clothing for precisely this reason. Made before the rise of fast-fashion and off-shore production, vintage garments are made from more natural fabrics that are of higher-quality than the majority of clothes manufactured today. The workmanship, stitching, and attention to detail are also far superior to what goes into producing today's clothing - organic or not.
Most of Alleyoop's vintage clothing are made from 100% cottons, natural wools, and linens right here in the USA. Natural fibers are more biodegradable than today's synthetics and are much less taxing on our already full landfills. Lastly, these superior fabrics are made to last generations of loving wear. Our vintage pieces are all in impeccable condition, with detailed craftsmanship, vibrant colors, and such special stories to tell!
2. Made in the USA or Ethically Sourced
While you're busy checking the label for materials, have a peek at where the garment is made. Chances are you won't often find a "Made in the USA" label, since the United States now makes less than 2 percent of the clothing its consumers purchase. Off-shore production may create more affordable pricing of our clothing at a larger scale, but it also creates a decline in materials, a lack of quality control, a decrease in American jobs and wages, and a much larger carbon footprint.
Up until the early 1990s, more than half of the clothing we consumed was produced in the United States, most by skilled American workers for fair wages. Indeed, many of Alleyoop vintage garments are made by the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, one of the largest labor unions in the United States and one of the first unions to be run by women, for women.
Made by the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union in the USA
According to the EPA, the average American throws away over 81 pounds of clothing every year (that's more than three times our babies' body weight!). Building a baby wardrobe with vintage and pre-loved pieces extends the life cycle of these garments by keeping them out of our landfills, but it also breathes new life into an already produced garment. This ensures that we aren't placing even more demands on the resources used to make textiles, like energy, water, and non-renewable fossil fuels. When you consider that 95 percent of used textiles can be recycled, but 85 percent land in the trash, lending, mending, and buying pre-loved clothing makes sustainable sense.
3. Baby Budget: Less is More
"Here today; gone tomorrow" should be the motto for these budding little flowers who outgrow clothing in a blink of an eye. Bad for the budget, and even worse for the environment - how do we combat the fact that these kids wear things only a few times before needing an entire new wardrobe? The answer, my friends, is: buy less, but choose well.
Classic pieces can be mixed & matched to build a simplified wardrobe
Creating a small collection of well-made and versatile pieces is the best way to maximize their ever-changing wardrobe, and minimize your spending. Quality staples in classic colors can be worn over and over again. Our specially styled Alleyoop Outfits are perfect for building a sustainable collection for your little one. Meant to be mixed and matched, each look can be worn in so many different ways, for so many different days, depending on your babe's unique personality and style.
The Bottom Line
We may not be able to stop the oodles of outfits that are gifted to us or even the random ones we can't help but to snag ourselves (sometimes ya just need a little pink tutu in your life), but we can be more mindful of and informed about the materials, origins, and wearability of each of the pieces that comprise our children's wardrobe. This basic knowledge will enable us to make better and more intentional decisions about what goes onto their bodies, and in turn, back to our mother earth.