Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
Before being a parent, I would never have imagined how challenging it would be to dress my children. I don’t mean putting little legs into leg holes, Im talking about that ominous collection of special circumstances that eliminate so many kinds of clothing items from the possible pile. Between the school dress code, my personal dress code for my children, my youngest’s sensory needs, my budget, and what’s on the market, there are a lot of limits on what I can buy for my kids to wear to school. Sometimes I look in envy at kids in their uniforms, but then again I know my own kids would fight me on the uniform every single school day if it were part of our curriculum. Shopping is complicated with two kids, a tight budget, special needs, and a lot of rules, but I do it! I am sharing my wisdom with other parents who are at their wits end trying to find quality clothes their kids can and will wear for school.
My top tip is to shop off season in the next size up. Kids are going to keep growing. They will fit in even the biggest clothes you buy, eventually. If a favorite online retailer is having a clearance on parkas and winter boots this month, that’s the time to buy! Get those things you know will be perfect next winter or even the winter after that.
My next tip for parents of girls, especially rowdy girls like mine, shop for jeans and shorts in the boys section. I can’t be the only parent who squirms at the length of most shorts in the girls department. But boys shorts come to the knee, and boys jeans are tougher and more durable. The boys department also has more to chose from in the shirt department for parents who, like me, have strict rules about characters, logos, extra distracting bits of flair on the clothing, and impractical sleeves and necklines. With a solid polo shirt and a denim scooter, and no one will be the wiser that the shirt came from the boys section.
My most utilized tool is definitely thrift stores, consignment stores, consignment apps, and other parents with older kids! Kids grow so fast sometimes they don’t have time to ruin an outfit before it is too small, and most parents I know have a pile in the garage of outgrown stuff. Get a bunch of families together, bring the piles, and it’s a free for all with everyone going home with new stuff and getting rid of the old. What doesn’t get taken can be donated to children in need within the community.
There are a few new online options for the thrifter crowd. Poshmark, Thread Up, and Tradesy are all consignment apps. If your kid loves a specific type of shirt and it’s discontinued or hard to find, these apps allow users to search by name brand and size for items. The discounts are huge and some items are even brand new with tags still on, most are very gently worn. I recently bought a whole summer’s worth of shorts and tees for sixty bucks!
Some parents need to touch and feel things before buying, and some kids need to have a choice in the clothes they wear or they may refuse them. In those instances, brick and mortar thrift stores are the best option. The Bay Area has quite a few, and they are clean, organized, and have quality gently used items. Here are some favorites:
Thrift Town — Richmond
El Sobrante boasts the best thrift stores in the Bay, because Thrift Town stores are kept meticulously organized. The prices are unbeatable, a dollar or less for many things. One drawback with these stores is that the merch is as-is. It can be pulled, stained, or missing buttons, or smell bad. Always check first, there are no returns! Sign up for their VIP program for even more discounts.
3645 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante. 510-222-8696.
Kelly’s Corner — Laurel Heights
This store has lots of great reviews online. In addition to the used kid’s clothing, they also carry some baby gear and toys, and do awesome gift wrapping! They carry local artist’s products too.
3901 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-531-6810
Bird and Bean — Berkeley
Bird and Bean is a little more upscale than other stores on this list, but they have a variety of price points, and lots of sample sale items from brand names that are usually too expensive for many families.This store has items that are more unique and stylized than the average kid’s clothing store. Elmwood is a cool neighborhood to stroll and this store also hosts a toddler music group.
3212 College Ave., Berkeley. 510-328-6485
Kids Are People Too —Castro Valley
This store is a gem, especially because the owner, Sharon, is great at her job. Meticulous about what consignment she accepts, shoppers can be sure they will not find items with rips, stains, or missing bits. Customer service at this spot is A++, and prices are right.
3326 Castro Valley Rd., Castro Valley. 510-247-1258
Monkei Miles —San Francisco
Monkei Miles is a refreshing burst of bargains in one of the most expensive cities in America. Here, guests will find brand names ranging in price from Old Navy to Mini Boden. This store is on trend yet affordable, and everything is EUC ( that means Excellent Used Condition!)
1523 Irving St., San Francisco. 415-650-3031
Bloom — San Rafael
This shop is not only a great place for shopping, they donate professional wardrobes to unemployed women so that they may interview and work with confidence. There isn’t much in the way of baby clothes or kids clothes, but there are on-trend and upscale brand items for teens, which is almost unheard of in the thrift world. Seriously, these are used items teens would actually be willing to wear! Everything is pressed and clean, the store is beautiful, and the customer service is great, plus parents might find treasures too.
1557 4th St., San Rafael., 415-453-1694, www.bloommarin.org
Haley Reen is an East Bay-based freelance writer.