How to Get the Most Out of Your Child’s Clothes

We have been blessed by hand me downs and new clothes being gifted to us by grandparents. I really have had to buy very little for my daughter. But when I do, I am not only making sure to buy on sale, but I buy items that I know can transition from being a bit too big, fitting just right and being on the small end.

Picking clothes that can go the long haul through those three stages, gets me more than double the amount of use out of them.

Here are some ways that I do this, in how I style Penelope.

And might I just add, that picking out her outfits has to be my favorite thing in the whole world to do. It is becoming quite the hobby. I have no idea what I am going to do when she won’t let me pick out her outfits anymore.

It also has made me more conscious of the clothes I wear. I have started to take much more pride in what I wear and how I look.

But I digress.

So here is a classic example of how I dress Penelope when it is cold out. This pink jacket is from Mini Boden and is a size 18m to 2T. When she first got this jacket, at 11 months old, it was huge on her (you can see in the picture below), but she looks cute in anything, so we pulled it off. We are currently wearing this jacket in the fits-perfectly-stage. I don’t think we will get another winter out of it (that would make for three total) but if we go someplace cold this summer, it will still be great.

Her first layer is a long sleeve shirt I recently bought at Target, in size 4T. She is tall, so bigger shirts don’t hang too low on her, but the sleeves are too long. But I roll them up, or make a cuff like this. Pretty adorable to me.

The next layer is a  18m black cardigan. She first started wearing it at about 9 months old. All I did was roll up the sleeves then. We have passed the perfect fit stage and are in the almost too small to wear stage. But since it still fits in her chest, it looks cute as 3/4 sleeve, especially with a longer sleeve underneath.

toddler sleeves

Here she is in the black cardigan at 13 months. I miss that baby face!

black sweater

Here she is at 11 months when she first got her Mini Boden jacket. The tights she has on are also Mini Boden in size 2T. Again, she is on the taller size so I can pull off bigger clothes on her. The top of the tights just came way up her chest in the beginning.

This winter, the tights fit perfectly, and almost getting too small, but I am pleased we got two winters out of them.

pink jacket

The dress she is wearing, also from Mini Boden, is a classic jumper. So in the winter, I would layer a long sleeve shirt, her dress, then a cardigan. In the spring, she would wear it over a short sleeve shirt, and in the summer just bare.

She can still fit into some of the very first pillow case dresses I made her. I made them a little long, and at first they were longer dresses, then perfect length dresses, then tunics and now shirts. They also layer very well.

toddler shoes

For shoes, I buy as big as I can but that she is still able to walk in them and not look like a clown. This picture above (shoes by See Kai Run) is as big as I will go. These look a little goofy right now, but she is not wearing them much yet, since it hasn’t warmed up here enough for open toed shoes.

Her leggings in this picture are in the almost too small to wear stage. I first I bought them big and rolled the hem under. Then they were perfect and now they are still cute at cropped leggings. I also did this with her Gap skinny jeans (which are great for cloth diaper butts by the way). Other pants I will roll the cuff up and unroll it as she grows. I have gotten almost two full years out of most her pants this way.

toddler skirt

Skirts. I do the same thing. See a trend? I buy big, and as they get shorter, I add leggings.

The jean jacket she is wearing in this picture is a size 2T. Almost too small for her, but gonna get a little bit more wear out of it. The next jean jacket I bought for her to wear is a 4T, so we will start the whole process over again, of being a bit too bit at first.

So even though I bought this jean jacket from Gap at full price, getting two full years out of it, makes it more than worth it. And buying a staple like a jean jacket, that can go with anything, eliminates the need for several jackets.

jean jacket

Here is how the jean jacket fit when I first bought it. That is probably one of my favorite outfits she ever wore!

toddler skirt

One last picture for posterity. She was having so much fun running around and modeling for me.

So what do you do to extend the life of your children’s clothes and stretch your dollar as far as it will go?

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  • Amy @ All In A Day
    February 28, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    I love it! Miss Penelope is such a cutie pie and is always so stylish! I have started doing this with Em too since we have exhausted pretty much all of our gifted and hand me down clothes! xoxo

    • Stephanie
      February 28, 2012 at 8:48 PM

      Yeah, all our hand me down’s were baby and early toddler hood clothes too. Hopefully she will get another round soon!

  • Kim
    February 28, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    G’day~Darling Photos! I have always bought my Girls and now my grandsons clothing big in the beginning.I always buy on-sale off season which makes them even cheaper.Like right now I am buying for my grandson winter clothing that are all on clearance for next year.I then also use a store coupon to even save more, like Children’s Place and Gap outlet always has some kind of extra off coupon out.I do buy big and at times doesn’t always work for that next season.He is a lil on the thin side so jeans are hard to buy for him right now and he really only likes comfy pants, at close to two he knows what he wants to wear.Scary! I also buy at garage sales.
    Nice you have had hand me downs I never had anyone give me anything when my girls were lil, your so lucky.Nice with girls to cause you can buy leggings and lots of boots that also helps with short pants and skirts.
    Penelope looks darling and yes enjoy it until she wants to dress herself~Cheers Kim

    • Stephanie
      February 28, 2012 at 8:47 PM

      I am huge fan of buying clothes on-sale during an off season. That is pretty much the only time I shop for Penelope. Our neighborhood does a big garage sale twice a year that I love shopping at, but I am going to be out of town this year. 🙁

  • elizabeth
    February 28, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    wait! how do you get her cloth diapered bottom in skinny jeans? i can only get my little c in his skinny jeans when he’s going to day care in his seventh gen disposables. tell me your secret!

    • Stephanie
      February 28, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      I buy her skinny jeans at Gap and they have an elastic waist. I would buy them a little big to fit (and roll the bottoms under when they were too long), but the waist and the stretch in the jeans always made it comfortable for her and she could move in them. If I put a regular pair of jeans on, even if I could get them over her butt, she couldn’t move well.

  • Kendra
    February 28, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Your pictures are darling! That Penelope is one stylish little girl! I honestly would not have thought about buying a jacket that big for my 11 month old but if you got three winters out of it, that sounds like a steal! I might wait until they are all on clearance at Target and buy one dirt cheap. Thanks for the tips!

    • Stephanie
      February 28, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      Thank you!

  • Cassandra
    February 28, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    I had to laugh a bit at this. Addie is about the same size as Penelope and her summer clothes will not fit her this coming summer, even though they were really baggy when I got them. So for anyone with monster sized tots, a good tip is to buy a few plain colored long sleeved shirts and layer them under summer clothes for winter. You can usually reuse the long sleeves a couple days and just change the dirty top shirt. This stretches 1-2 season clothes into 3 season clothes before growing out of everything.

    • Stephanie
      February 28, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      That is a great tip. I do that too. I put long sleeve shirts under all her tank tops and a cardigan over and she has got three, good, warm layers.

  • Pip
    February 28, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    What I’ve done for the last couple of years (2-4yrs old) for my daughter is buy strapless shirts in the sizes for a 7-9yr old. She can wear them very comfortably over T-shirts (both long and short sleeved) and stockings or leggings (depending on season and where they’re coming up to). I’ve currently gotten 2 years out of the ones I’ve got and I expect to get a couple of more years out of them.
    The large shirts were cheap as well, because I got them at the end of summer clearance sale, so $5 for something to last for 4 years is something I can handle!

    • Stephanie
      February 29, 2012 at 2:26 AM

      That is such a cute idea! Where do you get the shirts?

      • Pip
        March 2, 2012 at 2:47 AM

        I’m in Australia, so for me Target, Big W and KMart are shops I frequent, but I originally found them by just randomly browsing through the older girls clothing section, instead of just sticking to the younger girls. I also picked some up from opportunity/2nd hand shops, as my girl loves dressing herself (and has since about 18months) and has a rather impressive wardrobe. If you find they’re a bit big around the chest as well, attaching two ribbons just under the arm pits, you can then tie the dress/shirt back to make it more fitting, and less billowy.

        • Stephanie
          March 2, 2012 at 4:17 AM

          Genius!!! Thank you!

  • Melissa
    February 29, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    My friend has a daughter born the same month as my Penelope, but 2 years earlier. So, we get most of her clothes handed down and return them when she outgrows them. When I have purchased clothes, I’ve gotten them from a consignment shop local to us. Last time I was there I purchased 3 pairs of pants, a cute little jean jumper dress (from the gap) and 2 onsies for under $19!

    • Stephanie
      February 29, 2012 at 2:19 AM

      NICE! A couple of times she has borrowed clothes from a friend of mine and I was so heartbroken when I had to return them that I vowed to never do it again, my little heart can’t bear it!

      • Melissa
        March 1, 2012 at 2:29 AM

        Ha ha! Yeah. There are definitely some pieces I wish I could keep. I just take lots of pictures of her in my favs so I can have a reminder of how cute she looked!

  • Amy @Deals For Dayton
    February 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Little Penelope prob won’t be as rough on her clothes as my boys, but we buy their shoes and jeans from Sears. I know it sounds funny, but they have a program that if your kids wear through their clothes before they outgrow them then the will replace them for free. Since they wear through everything quickly it’s a great deal. Especially with my rough on their clothes boys!

    • Stephanie
      February 29, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      Good ole, Sears. I love that place, good to know.

  • kate foster
    February 29, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    I began stocking up on clothes before I got pregnant. We tried for four years so there was quite the stockpile. I got a lot of clothes from goodwill and since most babies outgrow clothes before they get a chance to show any wear I found plenty of almost new outfits. I’ve found things from Janie and Jack, Tea and of course Gymboree and Carter’s. I also buy a lot at our local consignment sales. I have bought a few new things that were on sale/clearance and have a bunch of new things that were gifts. I almost prefer to buy used because then there is less of a chance of seeing other kids in the same clothes. The horror! 🙂

    • Stephanie
      March 1, 2012 at 4:27 AM

      Yes, we can’t have two matching kids running around!! 🙂

  • betsy
    March 2, 2012 at 5:11 AM

    my daughter has very long limbs, and i’ve found that boy’s shirts are cut longer in the arms for some reason. so i look for gender neutral shirts in the boy’s section, which means the sleeves will still be long enough by the time her body fills out the body of the shirt. it also means that if i have a boy baby in the future i’ll already have some clothes for him. once i started with the shirts, i now try to buy all the staples (onesies, shirts, coats, shoes) in gender neutral colors and prints and then just add girly accessories. that way whether future kids are boys or girls i will not have to re-buy. to accomodate cloth diaper butt, she wears almost all leggings instead of jeans because i can buy several sizes too big to fit the butt, and just scooch the legs up.

    • Stephanie
      March 2, 2012 at 9:04 PM

      Great idea!

  • Jennifer Crum
    March 4, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    I have 3 boys that are all close in age. We get a TON of hand-me-downs from friends and family. My oldest is skinny, he turned 3 this summer and I was still putting him in some shorts I got for him when he turned 1. He’s gotten 3 summers out of them and he may wear a few this summer as well! My middle son is a bit rounder and will share big shorts with his older brother as we start to put some new ones into their wardrobe. I don’t think we have any size 2T shorts (if we do they were hand me downs too) we went from 12 month to 3T!

  • Laurak
    May 7, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    I do this too! I have two little girls and found that after the baby nappy stage all the shorts and leggings fit perfectly again. They are 3 and nearly 5 and both wear 6 – 9 month baby stuff. They are tall and slim so it works for them and the leggings are a great layer under a party dress if we are going to a wedding and they need extra warmth that can’t be seen.
    I also by big girl jumpers (8-9yrs) which we use as jumper dresses, they look so cute with tights but will be lovely jumpers when they grow up.

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      March 24, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Sure. What would you like me to elaborate on?

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