How I shop for toddler clothes

Red jodpursMost of my son Tavi's clothes are hand-me-downs, or come from our local Goodwill. I don't wear much vintage myself, so I've never really been a "dig through the racks" kind of person — but when it comes to finding clothes for my son that are uber-cheap but non-offensive to my aesthetic, I've developed a rack-hunting technique.

Here's what I do:

  1. Go to kids' section, starting at the boys racks and working into the girl's racks.
  2. Look for bright colors, mostly red, bright orange, true yellow, and grass green. Avoid pink (eliminating 90% of girl clothes), and dark shades of blue, brown/tan, and grey (eliminating 80% of boy clothes).
  3. Based on colors, start pulling things out to assess for text, sports, recognizable characters, or vehicles. Eliminate any items that include offending themes.
  4. Confirm item isn't blatantly designed for a girl (ruffles, flowers, hearts, ribbons, little straps). If it's not blatant, I don't care — and Tavi certainly doesn't.
  5. Confirm item is structurally sound and unstained
  6. Confirm item is at least one size too big
  7. Confirm item is less than $3

Using these methods, I'm developing a great stash of brightly colored, unbranded, gender-neutral stuff for Tavi to wear up until about age five. At that point, he'll have his own opinions about his clothing, and he can help me dig through the racks to find shirts with dump trucks and spider men barfed all over them, or princess dresses, or whatever else he might like. Until then, he's my brightly colored boy. (More on brightly colored boys next week … I've got a post brewing!)

Obviously, my tastes and techniques aren't everyone's — what methods do you use for finding cheap kid clothes that don't offend your fashion sensibilities?

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