Good morning! Hope everyone is off to a great start this week. Well, it’s officially August now, which means it’s Back to School time! Parents all over the country are either rejoicing or crying as they begin supply and clothing shopping for their little ones. If you’re still looking for a First Day of School outfit, need to spruce up your child’s wardrobe or are looking for phenomenal gifts for a friend, look no further than today’s post. I don’t think words on a page can adequately describe the excitement I have over today’s guest post by my very talented friend, Erin Nowak! A self-described “Closet Mom,” Erin walks us through the ins and outs and ABC’s of the children’s boutique fashion world and their Buy/Sell/Trade (BST) pages on Facebook, where millions of mamas are making deals over second-hand clothing.
As a child, I didn’t know how lucky I had it that my mom made gorgeous handmade smocked clothing for my siblings and me. Dress after dress, each with their own unique patterns and subjects seemed ordinary because I had so many! Now as an adult, and with a child of my own, I clearly understand just how special it was to have a mom who could make such beautiful creations! Sadly, I do not have a smocking bone in my body, but I do carry on the love for the style and frequently dress my daughter in it for church, special outings, or heck, even everyday trips to the mall! You’re only young once, right? Well, celebrating and embracing a little one’s childhood is exactly what prompted our guest blogger, Erin, to become a Closet Mom. Her desire to keep her little ones in unique, well-made and age appropriate clothing sparked a new lifestyle for her family.
It should really never surprise me at how talented and diverse my Kappa sisters are and Erin is no exception. Let’s rewind back to 2008 or so when Brent and I moved back to Houston. Many of you know my love for my sorority, KKG. I’ve always tried to maintain some sort of volunteer position or be an active alumna in every city I’ve lived in post-graduation. What can I say? Kappa gave me so many lifelong friendships, cherished values, leadership opportunities, and FUN, that it made no sense to abandon my involvement once I graduated. Well, the same must have been true for Erin, as we both met as advisers for a local chapter.
I’ve always admired Erin for many reasons, but especially because she is a wonderful mother, has a big and generous heart, and, wait for it…..has the best sense of style and well-dressed children in the country. <– I totes stand by this statement. A wife and mother of two young girls, this San Antonio native and proud Texas A&M grad balances her busy days with her kids as both a substitute teacher and a small business social media manager. Once you read the post, you’ll soon understand why Erin is truly a wizard at finding the best deals on the sweetest and most darling clothing in the land. I’m not sure how she does it all, but I’m guessing her love for Diet Coke helps keep her going. And I can’t introduce Erin without mentioning her love and enthusiasm for all things Australian Shepherd! If she had 25 hours in a day, you can be sure she would spend that extra time rescuing all of the Australian Shepherds in Texas!
I do have to mention that Jillian’s bluebonnet pictures (a Texas tradition) earlier this year, would have never happened without Erin’s help. She was able to help me find this darling dress from Jonah Grace Clothing and it was absolutely perfect. She also lent her magical talents to me when I was searching for a special dress for a dear cause for one of my friend’s battling a serious disease. I will never forget her kindness at “rallying the troops” for something special that would brighten my friend’s day. Thank you, Erin, for everything!
Please join me in welcoming her to I Dream of Pretty Things! And, ladies, get those credit cards out. I don’t think you’ll be getting out of here without buying something from one of the dozens of brands she recommends! 😉
I Dream of Pretty Things
Buy, Sell, Trade (B/S/T) Boutique Fashion: Keeping little ones…LITTLE!
by Erin Nowak
So the other day, one of my friends was shopping for her 5-year-old little girl at JCPenney’s last week and she came across this shirt:
She snapped a picture and called upon her friends to contact JCPenney’s through social media, like Facebook and Twitter, regarding the inappropriate message on this shirt, and I happily obliged. I mean, come on! In case you’re not familiar, this is a PORN MUSIC reference on a child’s shirt ( “Bow Chicka Wow Wow”). Who thought this was a good idea? What happened to keeping our little ones LITTLE and dressed for their age? Shirts like this are one of the many reasons why I am a Closet Mom.
I have been a “closet mom” for almost two years now. Yes, it’s a thing! My girls’ closets are full of timeless, special, unique and fun pieces made from small boutiques around the country. Most are second hand, but some are new. Closet moms buy, sell and trade unique and fun children’s pieces partly because we have a slight obsession, and partly to keep our babies looking sweet, age appropriate and special.
Boutique clothing is often known for having detailed designs and made of high quality fabrics, so it’s a no-brainer that the price tag reflects the craftsmanship. I don’t know about you, but paying retail for everything is not something most mamas can or want to do! This is where being a savvy shopping Closet Mom comes in handy. When my girls outgrow a piece or prefers something different, I sell it! There’s an entire BST (buy sell trade) world on Facebook for children’s boutique clothing. Each boutique has its own resale page, and if they’re high quality, you can make most of your money back which is an amazing win-win for everyone! Recycled funds! (I can sense my husband’s eyes rolling back in his head.) 🙂
Here are some BST terms you’ll need to be familiar with before you start searching for or selling some of your children’s items on Facebook.
EUC – excellent used condition
GUC – good used condition
IRL– in real life
ISO -in search of
NWT – new with tags
NWOT– new without tags
PLAY- stains-fade-color bleed or fade pilling wash wear
PP – PayPal (closet mom’s choice of payment)
TTS – true to size
VGUC – very good used condition
WW – wash and wear
Now that you know the lingo, let’s go and find your style. The gateway into the closet world is usually smocks! Smocked dresses, bubbles and Jon Jons are a classic and southern style that our parents and grandparents have passed down. Chances are, you probably sported a smocked look back in the day! The smocked style isn’t for everyone, but it exudes innocence and is perfect for the holidays, picture day and special occasions. There’s nothing sweeter to me than a little baby girl crawling around in a smocked bubble. Of course not everyone is a fan. I still remember my friend Amy’s husband asking her “Why is Caden in a dress??” upon seeing his son dressed up in his precious Jon Jon. Ugh, MEN!
My Favorite Smocked Clothing Shops
For wonderful quality and customer service, I recommend Smocked Auctions, Smocked by StellyBelly, and Shrimp & Grits Kids. They have large selections of smocked clothing for both boys and girls and add new inventory regularly. If you’d prefer to buy secondhand, there are plenty of smocking resale pages on Facebook. One of the biggest and most well known groups is Smocking Hot Mamas (search “Smocking Hot Mamas” on Facebook)! With almost 72,000 members from all over the country, you can only imagine how many bst transactions take place on a daily basis!
Shop Small and Shop Local!
Personally, I love shopping local and supporting other Texas mamas doing their thing. Blue Dove Children’s Clothing Co. out of Austin, Texas has smocked designs that capture childhood sweetness beautifully. The owner, Emily, is one of the nicest people you’ll meet and she is always helping others.
Life After Smocked Clothing
After you’ve explored the smocking world, decided smocked isn’t your thing, or your little one starts to push back, you start to shop big boutiques like Eleanor Rose (owned by Kelly’s Kids) and Matilda Jane. These brands also hold their resale value, which is very important to us Closet Moms! In fact, I run the Eleanor Rose Resale page on Facebook which boasts over 13,000 members! Matilda Jane has their own BST pages as well. Check them out (and their corresponding BST Facebook pages) to see what they’re all about. I think you’ll agree that these brands carry high quality clothing that’s FUN!
Sibling Sets Made Easy
The best part about the larger companies is that it is very easy to find coordinating sibling sets, like the ones you see here. I tell anyone and everyone who asks, “I will match these girls as long as they’ll let me!” Brothers are NOT left out either. Matching polos, shorts or bowties are readily available for your little men. Perfect for family pictures! Yes, you need to start planning your matching Christmas card outfit in the summer…kidding! Kinda!
Dressing for Cooler Weather
Back to School time is upon us and the boutiques’ fall lines are already being released or sneaked! Now is the best time to buy and sell those fall and holiday items. As for moms here in Texas though, I don’t put much stock into a lot of “winter weather” clothing. Let’s face it, our winter is like 2 weeks. If you live in Texas or places with similar weather, I recommend that you invest in “layering” pieces when you shop boutique clothing. No one wants to cover up all that cuteness with jackets! Check out the pictures below to see how this mama took her Eleanor Rose dress from summer to fall with layering pieces from Adorable Essentials!
Support Small Businesses!
Let’s talk small businesses. If you’re like me, you probably enjoy supporting small or locally owned businesses and appreciate all of the talents and quality that come with small operations. Luckily for us, the children’s boutique world is filled with small business talent! I know some moms have an eye for design and a talent for sewing, and can whip up handmade clothing for their little ones. That’s not me. I’m a buyer and admirer! There are so many boutiques that I love and trust, and I am proud to give them my business. When my oldest decided that she wanted to grow up to be a cat (really) I decided to go with it. I saw this perfect dress from Fleur L’Enfant and added a cat headband and necklace (from My Little Sugarbug Boutique). I think she wore this outfit for a week straight!
Twirl, Twirl, Twirl!
Then, when both sisters said they wanted to twirl all day long, I started looking at Nelly Madison Clothing. After swooning over her Instagram sneaks, I became friends with the designer, Camille, and helped launch her resale page. She’s a true artist. Her designs are so girly and sweet; the sisters can twirl for days! Nelly Madison is also a Made in America company which I loved! USA! USA!
Locally, Texas is not lacking for amazing boutiques! Caroline Kate is a Texas boutique owned by a mama, who after 3 boys, finally had her little princess. Dressing her Caroline Kate turned into a full-fledged small business after everyone wanted what she made! Olive Mae Children’s Boutique out of Plano, has a super girly and vintage feel. Also, Texas based OFC Boutique has amazing layering pieces, basics, and originals.
If your child enjoys wearing character clothing (Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, etc.), you’ll want to check out Chris N Missy Original. My kids love everything Disney and I’m not sure they will ever be able to “Let it Go” if you know what I mean. Missy asks her customers what themes or characters they’d love to see in a dress and she makes it happen! From PacMan to the Hungry Caterpillar, Chris N Missy carry whimsical character dresses and outfits that are always in high demand with little ones. If the fabric is out there, she’ll find it!
With so many boutiques out there, how will you know where your money is best spent? First of all, great customer service goes a long way and sets companies apart! Secondly, I suggest joining the Facebook BST boards for the individual brands and reading the chatter. You’ll get a feel for quality, fit and resale potential. Are you nervous about buying dresses from a random person off the internet? Who isn’t?? Luckily, the closet moms have created a “Buyer Beware” board with people and companies to avoid. Your BST reputation is on the line every time you buy or sell! If you’re selling something, be honest about the condition of the piece and disclose if there is a spot or hole and price it accordingly. If you’re a buyer, ask your questions in a timely manner and pay your invoice quickly. Once you add a few fun pieces to your closet (um, I mean, your kid’s) then you’re on your way to be a full-fledged Closet Mom where designers and brands become part of your everyday lingo!
Let Kids be Kids and Enjoy this Time
My girls will only be little for a short time. As they say, “The days are long but the years are short!” If they’re still happy, I’ll continue dressing them this way. I feel a little sense pride when other moms ask me where I get their clothing (or, more often, ‘did you make that??’ haha. I had to YouTube “how to sew a button this year). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shopping at Walmart or Old Navy, and not all store options are as bad as my JCPenney’s example. (We have tons of Target t-shirts!) Dressing my girls this way is just something I love doing! Once they see everyone else in elementary in Under Amour or jeans (we have yet to own jeans, gasp!), I’ll accept it and buy what makes them happy. Until then it’s ruffles and bows until they say no more! Luckily, I’ll always have the Christmas Cards every year, and you better believe we will be matching and in theme! Enjoy and happy shopping!
Index of Boutiques, Brands, and Stores
IDOPT thanks Erin for sharing her expertise and beautiful photos with us this week. I am so excited to start shopping from her recommended brands and I’m sure you are, too. Do you have any favorite brands you’d like to recommend to IDOPT readers? Comment below and share!
I Dream of Pretty Things