Astrid was a Gap baby: their infant line – boys and girls – is tasteful but still cute and they were the only place I found reasonably priced pants for newborns. (I still don’t get why that’s so hard. We’re not raising a pants-less cartoon duck, for Pete’s sake.)

Anyway, the company’s been having some challenges in the last few years which meant that if something I liked (nothing with logos) wasn’t on sale right then, I’d just wait ten minutes and it would be. Basic, minimalist pieces that were still decently made and inexpensive.

That said, my early affection for them has cooled considerably since Astrid moved into their toddler department, with all its tacky appliques and bright pinks. Most of all, I’ve been sadly disappointed in their about-face on their baby and toddler jeans line. Last year, they cut away from their elastic-waist model and over to a skinny jeans pattern which, in my humble opinion, is ridiculous: kiddie pants should fit most kids for the maximum amount of time.

Gymboree’s Flower Cuff Jeans with Adjustable Waist

When your child is under a year, you assume you’ll be swapping out wardrobes every few months and can plan your budget and closet accordingly. At 18 months and up though, parents can finally buy clothing that will last for several months at least. The kids are still growing but the right brand makes pieces that flex to fit over that period of time. This means elastic or adjustable waistbands and pants not designed for Heidi Klum‘s offspring and no one else’s. I’m not alone in this: the positive reviews on Gap’s jeans pages are all from skinny kids’ moms, and they acknowledge that the jeans are too long even for them. (Gap’s “adjustable waist” only has two buttons, which helps not at all.)

I know it must be a challenge to find reasonable clothing for thin little ones, the same as it is for other-sized kids: I’m not scapegoating Gap for making great jeans for that set. I’m objecting to the fact that their entire line of jeans is now skinny-only. And why call them skinny jeans at all, even for the thinner kiddies? I find the skinny jeans phenom hitting toddlers and preferential fits for thin tots troubling, especially for girls, especially in a mass brand like Gap. (What’s next? Fixies and beards for underweight boys?) Obesity is absolutely a current and burgeoning childhood problem, but when your primary branded product only fits the thinnest children, you’ve swung too far in the other direction. (For the record, Astrid is right in the middle of her age group in weight but quite tall and Gap jeans don’t fit her even a little bit.)

My social opinions aside, what I found even more distressing was the practical issue that the jeans I’d been buying no longer fit. Cue Gymboree.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of them sooner. I pass the store all the time. They were having one of their frequent giant sales when I happened by and here’s what: most of their jeans have some stretch and all of them have either an elastic waist (up to 24 months) or a four-button adjustable waist. I scooped up a stack and Astrid can wear all of them: the 3Ts are too big, but the waist adjusts perfectly to her 2.5T and the cuffs are cute. The jeans don’t look too big and they aren’t: they fit when I bought them a few months ago and they fit now. If she’s not swimming in them when I buy a size too big, thin children should be all set too buying their actual size and looking good. Perfect: everyone’s happy, and kids can be kids a little longer.

So, so long Gap and your weird Twiggy hang-up and hello, Gymboree!

Gymboree boys and girls pants, from $10

San Francisco: H&M

February 15, 2012

Hooray for the Swedes! H&M has opened a big baby/kids section on the third floor of the Westfield Center, just outside Bloomingdales. (Borders’ old space, I think – sad to see them go…)

While I’ve loved their kids clothes (especially the pricing!), braving the Powell St. store’s crowds, disorder, and unbelievably cramped kids department has put a damper on my willingness to shop with them. You have to really want it to go over to Union Square at all, let alone join up with the tourists and lunchtime shoppers on H&M’s crowded floors.

The new space is the opposite of all of that: open, organized and well-folded, you can see everything they have and – amazing! – if they have your child’s size. This would seem like a basic store requirement, I know, but apparently not when you can get a tiny floral shirt for $4.95!

Enjoy!

Clothes: H&M

November 26, 2011

Ah, H&M, emporium of cheap, of-the-moment knock-off clothes! We love you Swedes! Here’s another reason to love them: they make baby clothes. Really, really cute ones too. And now that they’ve expanded beyond New York, you too can have their inexpensive tot togs for your little one.

For babies, they carry basics like onesies/bodysuits in fetching colors like light pink and burnt orange as well as a great selection of sweaters (mostly handy cardigans, some in cotton solids, more in heavier weights and seasonal patterns that I love: not loud but still colorful) and shirts (manly blue stripes for boys, peasant blouses for little girls in flowered prints – on Astrid in the photo). Some of the lighter weight clothes don’t look like the sturdiest – a few hanging threads to snip – but none of the ones I’ve had Astrid in for the last eight months have torn or disintegrated, so they’re tough enough.

A couple of caveats:

  • I haven’t had a lot of luck with their pants: the leggings are a little thin for San Francisco weather and there isn’t a wide selection of other bottoms.
  • Their socks are both synthetic and run small, so those were a no-go for us.
  • Their web site has nothing in their infant section. Well, something: one thing, to be exact. So you can’t buy online and you can’t get a sense of what they carry in-store, but take it from me: the baby clothes are great. Seriously. Go already.

And finally:

  1. Avoid disappointment: call your local H&M before you go to see if they carry baby (or kid) clothes. Not all of them do. (In San Francisco, only the store on Powell does – 2nd floor, back corner to the right of the checkout registers.)
  2. Go and shop to your heart’s delight (and your wallet’s) before Baby is a year old. Their largest baby size is 12-18 months, and then there’s an unfortunate gap. It’s almost impossible to find anything labeled, “18-24 months,” the smallest kid department size is 2-4 years, and the kids department’s buyer hasn’t got the same excellent taste as the baby department’s buyer. Loud colors, big appliques and inconsistent stock are the hallmarks of our local H&M kids department. So enjoy the cozy Nordic-print leggings while your little one is still under 2!

H&M Store Locator, infant and baby clothes from $4.95

Toasty Warm

November 21, 2011

If you get any kind of winter chill where you live, the Angel Dear Fleece Hoodie is a great addition to your little one’s wardrobe. A friend of ours got one as a gift and I envied it enough I tracked one down for Astrid: super soft, fluffy (and stays fluffy after washing – just don’t put it in the dryer), and warm.

It’s just fleece, so no wind or waterproofing, but it’s great for fall days at the park or just running errands. The only negative point is the zipper, which can be a little difficult to thread at the bottom, but it’s never gone off the track in the almost-year we’ve had it, and the fuzziness is worth an extra five seconds at the door.

Also the right price for a holiday gift for a playdate pal.

Angel Dear Fleece Zip Hoodie, 6 months – 4T, available in boy and girl colors, $25-$28 at Diapers.com

Gap Baby / Kids

October 20, 2011

Did you see Crazy, Stupid Love? You should. It was funny. It’s hard not to pull for Steve Carrell. Ryan Gosling (well, his character) takes Steve’s frumpy, middle-aged dad under his dashing wing, teaching him how to dress and act. On a shopping trip when Steve admits to wearing Gap on the weekends, Gosling takes his shoulders and says, “Be better than the Gap!”

When he said this, Ramon looked at me pointedly. OK, yes, I get a lot of Astrid’s clothes at the Gap, but here’s the thing: I don’t buy ALL her clothes, there, I don’t buy any of the ones that have the Gap logo visible (she’s not a billboard, my little darling!), and Gap corporate is having some serious inventory and design issues, so I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for anything there. Honestly, I get pretty much everything  I buy there for 30-40% off and it’s decent quality, so done deal. (Getting a Gap Visa card that I pay off immediately only helps: I get even more discounts on top of the ridiculous markdowns that arrive every week.)

They’re a great source of sweaters, leggings and pajamas. And I got her a black and white polka dot dress with a 1950’s crinoline built in for $29 for a wedding for Pete’s sake, so give it a try.

No, they’re not organic, but they’re also not trying to sell me a kimono shirt that she’ll fit into for 20 minutes for $40. Of course I wish I could buy her all cashmere or Tea Collection, but that’s just a silly investment for a baby or a toddler. Save that cash for the day when she has to have an iPhone or a college education. In the meantime, Gap Kids works just fine, thank you very much.

Mmm…shoes…

July 26, 2011

Baby Bobux whale shoes

I’m finally willing to concede that Astrid needs some shoes. She got a bunch as gifts when she was born, but a.) most of them won’t fit her until next year, and b.) what the hell does a newborn need shoes for??

But now it’s gotten cold and she likes standing up if you hold her arms, so shoes it is.

A lot of the girls shoes out there are mary janes which both don’t seem to fit her chubby little feet + aren’t that warm, so I went hunting for some day-to-day shoes and here’s what I found: unbelievably cute Bobux baby shoes, handmade in New Zealand and not that expensive.

They’re super soft and flexible, although I did have to size up because the small size felt too tight across the top of her foot. (She’s 7 months and in a medium now with a fair amount of room at the toes. But she won’t walk for a while, so no harm, right?)

I found Bobux through a post at Baby Zone – it’s a great list of what’s out there for tiny footwear.