By Sara Karnish
There is no question children’s apparel has a wide range of adorable, stylish looks. This encompasses several factors—cut, color, and of course, fabrics.When it comes to color, retailers interviewed for this story said the days of strictly pastel pink or blue seem to be over. “[Color trends] are more earth tones and neutrals, especially as we move into fall,” said Samantha Swanson, owner of Lily Valley Baby in Bismarck, N.D. “I think they match the aesthetic of a lot of people’s style. I’m seeing a lot of muted color in home décor, and I think people want it to match their personal style. I also think people want to dress their child in a way that’s similar to how they dress, rather than a cutesy, overly ‘baby’ look, with characters and bright colors.” Michele Maher, owner of Polliwogs and Petunias in Easton, Pa., is seeing a more sophisticated color palette beyond the traditional pink, blue, and long-favored gender-neutral pastel yellow and green. “The color story I’m seeing has more sophisticated colors—dusty rose, mustard, sage. A lot of earthy pastels,” she noted. Parents are also choosing to hold off on learning the baby’s gender, which makes shopping a little more challenging. “Soft muted gray is on trend for newborns,” said Rosemary Schneider, owner of The Pied Piper in Baltimore, Md. “We are deeply rooted in the classics—my customers all want the same things. So if there is any ‘trend’ right now, it’s ‘classic’ for our market. We have remained true to that in our 50 years of business—overalls for boys with Peter Pan collars, cardigans for girls. Our moms want to dress their children the way they were dressed.”
“[Color trends] are more earth tones and neutrals, especially as we move into fall. I think they match the aesthetic of a lot of people’s style. I’m seeing a lot of muted color in home décor, and I think people want it to match their personal style. I also think people want to dress their child in a way that’s similar to how they dress, rather than a cutesy, overly ‘baby’ look, with characters and bright colors.”
– Samantha Swanson, Lily Valley Baby,
Trends in cut vary depending on the brand, retailers noted. Maher said moms are looking for clothing that is “easy”: “Complex clothing that is difficult to get your child in and out of is really dated. Things with complicated snaps and closures are going out. I’m seeking to sell luxurious necessities—things parents love because it’s comfortable, easy to put on, and stylish. I’m seeing clothing that’s a little more flowy. Again, comfortable—a lot of muslin, gauzy-type overalls. We have a lot of embroidered linen overalls in these sophisticated pastel colors.” Similarly, Swanson said, “Knot gowns that tie at the bottom, rather than footie pajamas, are probably our single biggest seller right now. They’re nice because they stretch and can grow with baby. Anything in earth tones is just really popular. They show up well in hospital pictures, too.” For older babies and toddlers, Swanson said, “In boys’ clothes, baby joggers are really popular. Girls will wear maybe tight leggings and a flowing shirt. Dresses are probably still our most popular item, though we’re not doing the really big ruffle as much.” Schneider explained, “Moms like the clothing to fit their babies. They don’t buy up in size—they want the baby to wear it and it fits them right at that time.” She has noticed some new trends with closures, as well: “[The brand] MagneticMe uses magnets as closures. They have onesies with little feet, and the magnets are sewn into the fabric so they’re not right next to the skin. A baby jacket with Velcro closures by a company called Widgeon is still our most popular.”
Some parents still seek out clothing with appliques, a longtime fixture of baby and toddler fashion, although are not as common in the current styles. “I would say the latest trends for girls are anything to do with unicorns, llamas, hearts, metallic, and tie dye. And of course, the more sparkle or glitter, the better!” said Michelle Jacobs, owner of Snazzy Giraffe in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “Accessories such as hair bows, hats, purses, and bracelets are essential for the little fashionistas! Boys don’t quite have the same options available to them as girls, but they have come a long way over the years. They seem to be trending more on comfy stylish shirts, hats, sweatshirts, sweatpants with prints/graphics of dogs, skateboards, snowboards, and tie dye!” Schneider said because her customers prefer the more traditional styles for children, appliqued items are still selling well. Swanson said in her market, “Appliques are definitely still popular, although we’re moving away from it. We have some shirts with appliques, although we’re trying to move away from them as much as we can. There are some that are really cute without being too overly juvenile.” Swanson has also noticed more of a shift to organic fabrics that feel better next to little ones’ sensitive skin. “[Parents] probably know the item will be a little pricier, but that’s just because organic cotton is pricier,” she explained.
Trends are cyclical. Swanson said she is seeing fewer “things with appliques to some extent. Ruffles are fading a little bit—I’m not seeing as many in what I’m ordering. The earth tones are in and I feel the bright colors are going out, which is weird because last season, neons were so in.” Maher has seen less “’wordy’ onesies, the ones with sayings like ‘I Still Live with My Parents’. In my market, I’m seeing less of the stuff that’s hard to get on and off, and very overly-gendered clothing.” Jacobs added, “I have such a wide variety of customers and customer requests. For babies, parents definitely want something lighter—more pastel in color rather than bold, bright prints.”
One trend that has emerged over the past year was shift in holiday and special occasion apparel. Schneider noted, “Special occasion wear has taken a back seat. Our store is rooted in special occasion wear, but we’ve seen a big uptick in playwear. We’re in an affluent area, but over the past year there haven’t been as many big celebrations for special occasions. Getting that special outfit for special baby milestones is still important, however. Parents still want kids to look cute in Christmas pictures and first birthday pictures.” Maher said, “I love stuff you can get a little more time out of. Designers are doing a great job of understanding children’s clothes. It’s not just about style, it’s about functionality. I want to sell things that kids will want to wear and parents will want to buy. For instance, holiday clothing—I like seasonal, but it’s not so ‘holiday’ they only wear it once.”
Whether stocking for babies, children, tweens, or adults, comfortable clothing that looks and feels good will never go out of style. Customers’ color and cut preferences may change, but there are certain aspects that will always be important when buying apparel.