baby/ toddler clothes – how much & what do you really need?

My Experience

Now that my daughter is almost two and has been in daycare full-time for a year I feel I have finally figured out what clothes I actually need for each season, and more importantly how many items of clothing I need.  For me space is an issue, I don’t physically have the luxury of storage in my house like I am used to in the US.  I only have a small dresser that you can see in her nursery.

Since I buy clothes on sale/ clearance only and often buy items in advance (I have clothes for her until she is 5!) I use one drawer in her dresser for everything that is the right size and season, and the drawer below is for the next size/ season.  This has worked well because it forces me to not over buy, but also allows me to instantly see what I already have for the next size/ season.  Even though the drawer is small, with my clever folding I am still able to fit a lot and probably too much to get good use out of things.

When buying baby clothes they change every three months with sizing so you tend not to buy more than one season for a size.  You also get used to changing their wardrobe every three months, so I found myself getting bored with seeing my daughter in the same clothes when the sizing went to a six month span at 12-18 months.

Daycare is another factor that adds another element of what to buy, and not buy, because you need items that are appropriate for daycare and not so nice that you will get upset if they come home ruined.

What I figured out

My daughter is and always has been average size and worn the size that corresponds with her age and she has a belly.  Here are some things I’ve figured out over the past year that I wish I knew before, and I will use in the future to prevent over buying.  It may or may not work for you but it is a good starting point that you can always add to if you feel like your lifestyle is different.

Not all Brands are Equal 

  • Osh Kosh – the smallest cut and never lasted the three months it was supposed to
  • Carters – slightly bigger but still runs small and doesn’t last the three months like the label states, we have had to buy the next size up to ensure longevity
  • Target Cat and Jack – similar to Carters sizing, buy the next size up
  • Gap – normal, has always lasted the stated time – however if you buy overalls (dungarees) they are cut slightly tighter and leggings are not as long as other brands which isn’t an issue unless your child has longer legs
  • Janie & Jack – I have found leggings and cardigans have been normal but they have really cute t-shirts for girls that are snug with my daughters belly so I buy a size up
  • Gymboree – tends to be generous than Janie & Jack with tops and lasts long
  • Next UK – normal/bigger so things last a long time which is good
  • Zara – normal lasted the correct amount of time

Sizes to Buy

My daughter wore: newborn for a month or less, 0-3 months for about two because I had newborn clothes first, 3-6/ 6-9/ 9-12 all for three months and then we moved to 12-18 which lasted for six but you have to make sure you have a lot more clothes as you will need more than one season.

In retrospect I would have skipped 18-24 months completely.  Because there is only 3 lbs difference between 18-24 and 2T so why not just buy 2T and have it potentially last for a whole year instead of just six months?

How much to Buy

Daycare only clothes – unless you don’t care about clothes getting ruined you will need a separate stash of daycare only clothes,  We have a wet/dry bag we keep all week at daycare and bring home on Fridays to replenish.  In the bag at all times we have three -five shirts, three -five pairs of pants, socks and a couple bandana bibs (this is without her learning to potty train).  There are a lot of cute socks out there and nicer ones have rubber on the bottom – we have wooden floors so the ones without the rubber are a slipping hazard so I save the cute ones without rubber for daycare since it is carpeted.

Ideally I would have t-shirts/ long sleeve shirts and pairs of shorts/ leggings at all times that you don’t care about.  I have instructed daycare to change her into one of these outfits if they are going to be doing messy play, but she also needs the spares in general for accidents, getting soaked with water, and spilling food etc.

  • Go-to brands – whatever is on sale/clearance that you don’t care about I buy Carters/Target/Next usually in dark colors so you don’t see staining
  • Spring/summer – 7 t-shirts, 7 pairs of shorts, 5 pairs ankle socks
  • Fall/winter – 7 long sleeve t-shirts, 7 pairs of leggings, 1 sweatshirt, 5 pairs regular socks

Weekends – I tend to put her in nicer clothes even when she wasn’t in daycare.  Usually because we went out of the house more often and saw friends etc.  This is where I get the most use out of my Janie & Jack bargains and some special Gap stuff.  However it is very easy to buy too many nice things and then end up only wearing them 2-3x before they don’t fit.

  • Go-to brands – Janie & Jack, Gymboree, Gap
  • Summer – 3 nicer tank tops, 3 nicer shorts, 5 T-shirts that you can wear in summer and with a cute cardigan in spring/fall, 2 casual dresses
  • Spring/ Fall – 5 long sleeve shirts/ elbow length, 2 cardigans, 3 pairs nice leggings/pants
  • Winter – 5 long sleeve shirts, 3 pairs nice leggings/pants

Pj’s – with leaks, food and drool I have it is best to have a bunch of pajamas to hand as sometimes a pair can last 3-4 nights and sometimes just one.

  • Go- to brands – Carters, Gap I buy the four piece mix and match Carters sets in snug fit only because they stay on when you have a wild sleeper and I’d like to think they keep her warmer since she always has bare feet and rarely stays covered
  • Summer – 5 t-shirts, 5 pairs of shorts
  • Spring/ Fall – 3 t-shirts, 3 pairs of leggings
  • Winter – 5 long sleeve shirts, 5 pairs of leggings

Shoes – summer rubber flip-flops for us have been key, along with a nicer pair of sandals, a pair of dress shoes that she can wear with dresses and some of the nicer weekend wear, sneakers, rain boots.  More info on which walking shoes are best and when to buy shoes for babies.

  • Go-to brands – Gap, New Balance, Carters, Hunter
  • Summer – 1 pair rubber flip-flops (Gap or Carters), 1 pair nicer sandals (Gap), 1 pair of slide on shoes (Gap)
  • Spring/ Fall/Winter – 2 pairs of sneakers (New Balance), 1 pair of dress shoes (Gap), 1 pair of rain boots (Hunter), 1 pair of dress boots (Zara)

Special occasions – like parties for us don’t come around that often and like I’ve said before dresses and skirts are a bad idea until your daughter is walking as they are dangerous.  I have always had a special dress for holidays and others for parties since she has been walking at one.

  • Go-to brands – Janie & Jack, Gymboree, Gap, Crew Cuts
  • Summer – 2 cotton dresses that are nice for going out at the beach or to a party
  • Spring – 1 dress for Easter
  • Fall – 1 dress that can be dressed up or down
  • Winter – 1 Christmas dress, 2 holiday skirts with matching holiday sweaters, 1 dressy coat

Everyday/ daycare clothes – these are my staples and the clothes that I get the most use out of and ones that I can send her to daycare in as well as use on the weekends.  A lot of the clothes will overlap across seasons so the seasons are a there to help figure out what you need in total – not to tell you to buy a whole new wardrobe for each season but keep in mind that sometimes the colors won’t work from fall to spring or you can buy warmer leggings for the fall/winter etc.

  • Go-to brands – Gap, Carters I find these brands are really good quality, last a long time and a great bargain when you get them on sale or at the outlets
  • Summer – 7 pairs of shorts, 10 t-shirts, 5 tank tops (no bare shoulders at daycare),  2 t-shirt dresses, 1 pair of short denim overalls
  • Spring – 2 pairs of jeans, 7 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of denim short overalls, 10 long sleeve shirts, 3 elbow length shirts, 1 cardigan, 1 spring jacket
  • Fall – 2 pairs of jeans, 7 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of denim overalls, 10 long sleeve shirts, 1 down puffer vest, 1 rain coat, 2 cardigans
  • Winter – 4 sweaters/ sweatshirts, 3 pairs of jeans, 7 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of denim overalls, 10 long sleeve shirts, 1 casual winter jacket

So hopefully this info will help you to avoid over buying and not getting enough use out of the cute clothes you want to use.  If you have any questions please let me know.


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