Today I bring you a topic that I’ve promised since the beginning of my blog, Boutique on a Budget! The minute you find out you’re expecting, the urge to buy things for your new little one is immediately present—even more so once you find you’re having a GIRL! The adorable clothing options for little girls are absolutely endless. There aren't QUITE as many for boys, but there are great, unique options for them too—I'm already working on that blog post—Let's Hear it for the Boys! So Mamas of boys, rest assured, I’ll have some new ideas for you very soon!
My baby fashion obsession started innocently enough—picking up a few cute things at Target here and there. Shopping around at all of the normal places—Carter’s, Gymboree, BabyGAP, Janie and Jack. Soon enough, I got turned on to Mud Pie and by the time Holiday was 6 months old, I think we owned every single outfit Mud Pie made that year! I loved that they were made well and extra cute.
Before I was even expecting I had seen an ad for Persnickety Clothing—it was this ad to be exact and I was instantly in love… until I saw the price tags and swore I’d never pay that much for children’s clothing!
Well fast forward a year and a half. Holiday is 18 months old-ish and I was looking for an outfit for her for a late summer wedding. As I started weeding through all of the online specialty boutiques, I saw that some of the Persnickety pieces that I had previously drooled over were now 60% off, which was affordable for me and not more than what I would have paid elsewhere for a “special” outfit. Of course I had to look around a LOT to find all 3 pieces in her size and wasn’t entirely sure what sizes TO order, but alas I figured it out and our very first Persnickety outfit was debuted.
From the moment I first opened the package, I was sold. Completely and totally sold. The fabrics, details and workmanship that I saw online didn’t even kind of compare to how beautiful the pieces were in real life. Once you put them on and see how they drape and how the skirts perfectly twirl—you'll be as addicted as I am.
After a little more investigating, I soon started to figure out the logistics and hidden secrets of the kid fashion boutique world! It’s an entire underground, 24/7 world that never sleeps. It is FULL of Mamas who are VERY passionate about these beautiful clothes. It’s a little crazy and chaotic at times. You have to have tough skin and be willing to follow the rules—there are a lot of them. But if you want to learn how to get these gorgeous clothes without the hefty price tags, grab your pen and paper and get ready to take some notes!
MY TOP BOUTIQUE BRANDS
First of all, let me introduce you to the boutique brands that I purchase most. While the majority of what I'm buying right now is a mix of the brands listed below, I also buy a few pieces here and there from Paper Wings, Dollcake & Misha Lulu. I fill in with some other mainstream or mall brands, and then will also have a number of pieces from specialty handmade boutiques (I will cover those individually at the bottom).
Persnickety Clothing Company
Matilda Jane Clothing
Mustard Pie (not to be confused with MudPie)
Livie and Luca
WHERE TO BUY
Aside from Matilda Jane, I generally purchase all of Holiday's clothing online and pretty much exclusively from a company called One Good Thread. They have a Facebook page as well as a website. They are a small company and have gotten quite popular very quickly and are always growing and changing to keep up with demand and offer quality customer service. OGT is among the top retailers of some of the most sought after brands and consequently have the best inventory and selection—which is important with brands and pieces that often sell out in the pre-order phase before items are even in stock. But there are THREE more things that will make you love One Good Thread as much as I do: (UPDATE 09/30/15: I now purchase all of my boutique items from a My Little Jules. OGT seems to be making some changes within their company and doesn't seem to be very reliable as of late. I just want to make sure you all receive the beautiful pretties you've worked hard to purchase!)
1. They always offer free shipping, every time, no matter how big your order is. And furthermore, they're not padding their prices to cover the cost of shipping. (UPDATE: 09/30/15: OGT no longer offers free shipping)
2. They do Layaway. This is the way a majority of people are able to afford these high price tag items. You can pay as little as 25% down and have up to 3 months to pay off your balance—I will talk about this more in depth below! (UPDATE: 09/30/15 My Little Jules also does layaway plans for orders $150 or more).
Now that you know where to buy, let me get into HOW to afford to buy:
1. PRE-ORDERS & LAYAWAY
Pre-ordering is the main way many mamas afford expensive boutique brands (or can get away with purchasing before husbands see massive charges coming through all at one time—hey, I'm just keeping it real)!
Persnickety is currently one of the top boutique brands, so I will use them to explain this process—but it's pretty much applicable across the board for the brands I have listed above except for Matilda Jane which I will cover at the end of this post.
Right around Christmas, we started seeing "sneak peaks" of the first phase of Persnickety Spring and Summer 2014. There will be three total phases or unique collections that will be released individually over the next few months. While some pieces will mix and match between the three phases, each individual collection will have a distinct color story and look. During the first week of January, Persnickety released a full album showcasing their entire first collection called Sail Away. Within a few days of releasing those images, the clothing became available to pre-order, exclusively through their online retailers. Pre-orders generally happen at midnight so you stay up late and try to "cart" all of your items in the sizes you need. For the bigger boutique brands, you can usually get all of the items you want within the first few days of pre-sales. Eventually, very popular items will begin to sell out in certain sizes. So if you KNOW that you really want an item, you will want to order it as quickly as you can at the start of a pre-order.
Now the beauty of pre-orders is that places like One Good Thread offer layaway! America is in the middle of a polar vortex while all of the crazy boutique shopping mamas are loading up closets with summer clothes! It's a whole new way to think about building a wardrobe. You buy Christmas dresses in August and Easter dresses before the ball drops on New Years Eve! ALL of that to say that the pre-orders are generally happening months before your child will be able to wear the clothes—which makes layaway glorious! At One Good Thread, you can secure your pre-orders for as little as 25% down and then take up to three months to pay them off. Often it will take a month or longer from the time you pre-order until the clothing even comes into stock to be able to ship. Depending on the brand, it may take as long as three months from the time you pre-order until you receive your items—so you're not missing out on anything by putting the clothes on layaway. I know this doesn't technically help you SAVE money on the clothes themselves, but it is a way to stretch out the payments which makes it more affordable for many—or make it possible to buy a lot more—whichever way you want to look at it!
If you want to know when pre-orders are taking place and also see the "sneak peaks" of clothing and the full collections once they are debuted, it is important to follow the Facebook pages of the brands you are interested in. Be sure to find their direct company pages because, as you will see below, there are many fan generated pages associated with each brand as well. These brands also have websites and blogs, but Facebook is a GREAT way to stay connected with each of the brands and always be in the know for what's coming up next. Also, following online retailers, such as One Good Thread will always keep you in the loop for upcoming releases and sales. They also offer WEEKLY competitions in which you can win all sorts of great prizes!
2. RESALE VALUE
Besides Layaway, the second most popular way mamas afford these expensive clothes is that they sell them at the end of each season and re-invest the money into new clothes the following season. I quickly picked up on this trend as soon as I was introduced to the baby boutique fashion world and at first, I thought it was crazy! These clothes are so beautiful and I really hope to have another girl some day, so I was hoarding everything as Holiday outgrew it! The one thing you will find is that the most popular boutique brands (Persnickety, Matilda Jane & MustardPie) will resale for 50-75% of what you paid for them—and some items, as they get more popular, will sell for even more. There are hard to find Matilda Jane "Pearl" dresses selling for $250-300 right now that retailed around $54. Once I got into the habit of selling, it became addictive! The picture I posted in Holiday's first Persnickety outfit was from the Spring 2012 collections. In fall/winter of 2012, I took advantage of pre-orders and bought 6-7 high end boutique outfits. I resold all of those pieces at the end of last summer and re-invested that money and was able to purchase an entire high end wardrobe for fall and winter 2013. Again, as I'm selling some of those pieces now, I've been able to pay for much of what I'm currently pre-ordering for this upcoming spring and summer. My husband and I budget every dollar that we have coming in and we have a certain amount dedicated to Holiday's clothing—since it is one of my favorite hobbies! So this budgeted money along with my reselling is how I personally am able to do a full, head to toe, wardrobe every season. Once you make the initial investment (or do so slowly over time) it's much easier to stay in the game.
There is definitely a lot of ins and outs to learn about selling—a lot more than I can cover in detail here, but I'll give you some insight. Most basically, you will get more for the clothes if you are selling for the appropriate season. For example, trying to move Christmas clothing (even bargained price) at this time of year is a hard sell. In general, this is not a good time of year to sell for many reasons: 1- many people are still recuperating financially from Christmas; 2- selling is hard when you're competing with all of the new spring & summer pre-orders that are happening right now; 3- many people are trying to sell fall and winter (as their children are growing out of it), but many online retailers are currently trying to clear out their fall & winter inventory of those same items at deeply discounted prices. Of course a buyer would prefer a NWT (new with tags) item over your secondhand item if the prices are comparable. BUT, if you hold onto those items and wait until the end of the summer, you can THEN get top resale dollar for them! Retailers will be long sold out of those items, there is also a lull in boutique pre-orders from around May to July/August. Also once the end of the summer starts approaching, there's a strong back to school/ load up on new clothes mind-set that kicks in for many people—very advantageous for sellers.
While you might not have been ready for ALL of those details, I took time to spell them out because it offers a few keys for buyers to get AWESOME DISCOUNTS!
3. SALE CYCLES
One of the benefits of these brands pre-ordering and selling months beforehand is that they start to go on sale right around the time the seasons change when your child can actually start to wear the clothes! Generally within a few months of items being released you will see the prices start to drop. With the bigger boutique brands, their sales are dictated by the company and the retailers are all required to offer the same sales at the same time. By mid to late May you will start to see Persnickety's Spring and Summer collections go 25% off. It will then increase to 35% and eventually later in the summer to 50% off and sometimes even as much as 60% off. So while it sounds great to wait for everything... popular items WILL have sold out long before then and especially in many (if not most) of the smaller sizes. But you can still pick up some amazing deals during the sales and this leads me to my next huge cost-savings tactic...
4. WEAR A SEASON BEHIND
These boutique children's clothes are TIMELESS. They are just as gorgeous this spring as they will be next spring! And for many mamas, the only way they can afford or justify the expense is to wear them a season behind! Even in a fashion forward city like Dallas, it is very rare for me to see another little girl dressed in Persnickety—in fact it's only ever happened once while we were out at the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular last year! All of that to say that I find most mamas are completely clueless to the fact that Persnickety even exists, let alone that you're wearing pieces from a previous season. All they know is that your little one is wearing some of the most adorable clothing she has ever seen and she wants to know what it is and where to get it! Seriously, a little PSA if you have never worn these brands before, you will not be able to get 5 feet in the mall without nonstop "ooh's" and "ahhh's" and people stopping to ask you what your little one is wearing.
I took the time to cover all of the reasons above on why it's not the best season to sell your boutique clothing, but those reasons are all of the reasons it is THE BEST TIME TO BUY! Seriously, you can get rock bottom pricing right now on items for every season. Online retailers are really looking to unload their remaining fall and winter inventory—most of it is at least 50% off right now. In addition to buying directly from online retailers, there is the whole world of Buy Sell Trade (BST) pages and they are some of THE best places to buy boutique clothing. And that brings me to my next savings hint...
5. BUY, SELL, TRADE PAGES
I recently read an article in the Huffington Post predicting the demise of Facebook over the next several years. I thought to myself, "these guys are obviously not into the boutique kids fashion world!" These pages aren't going anywhere, any time soon!" There is an underground phenomenon and entire culture most Facebook users are unaware of and it is the kids boutique B/S/T groups. For each of these popular boutique brands there are at least 3 or more Secret or Closed Facebook Groups dedicated exclusively to the buying, selling and trading of that one brand. As stated above, these groups are "Closed" or "Secret" so you have to know about them to find them—or at least be looking for them on purpose. Also when you post within these groups, none of your Facebook friends can see any of those posts or interactions unless they too are a member of the group. You will have to request to join and wait to be approved (although if you know someone already in the group and they add you, it can greatly speed up the process).
These pages are crucial if you want to resell these brands without being a slave to eBay and often the only place you'll be able to find sold out or HTF (hard to find) items. These pages are also the number one way you can get these beautiful clothes, secondhand, at greatly discounted rates.
Before you turn your nose up at buying secondhand (if that is somehow beneath you), let me explain a few things. With children's clothing in this price range, people tend to take REALLY good care of them. These are generally not clothes that get played in—they are often bought for special occasions and MANY times worn only for pictures and then re-sold. Once people get sucked into the habit of reselling their clothing, it is not at all uncommon for items to have been worn once or twice and then resold for a fraction of what they were purchased for. I've even re-sold many items that were still NWT (new with tags) that we just never got around to wearing for some reason or another. Also, all of these transactions happen through PayPal and as a buyer, there is a lot of protection in place for the clothing to arrive as described by the seller and they are required to disclose any issues with the garments. Yes, there are scammers and liars, BUT they are quickly found out and removed from the boards and fortunately in most cases, if you are following the rules, you shouldn't ever be out any money even if you run into a situation that has to be resolved. Sellers even disclose whether or not the items have been exposed to cigarette smoke or if they have pets in the home. I have yet to have a bad experience buying off these boards and I'm someone who has interactions with these boards on a daily basis!
Now that I've told you how wonderful these boards are, let me tell you a few other things! People that are on these boards are usually VERY familiar and VERY passionate about these clothes. Once you join the boards, it's really best to sit back for a month or two and just become familiar with how the boards operate—each page can be a little different and have its own set of rules so it's important to take time and actually read through the information. Do your research in advance—you need to know what pieces you're looking for and what size you will need. For Persnickety there are some really great Facebook resources, one is a page called Persnickety IRL (In Real Life)—this page isn't for buying or selling, but Mamas post pictures of their little ones wearing the clothing along with their stats (weight, height) and what sizes they're wearing in each piece. It helps to give you an idea of what size to look for. Sizing can vary—Holiday has everything from size 18 months (in skirts) to 4's in a LouLou top hanging in her closet right now, but I find more often than not that MOST pieces run pretty true to size. But there are variations in sizing between brands and certain pieces within brands, but if you sit back, watch and listen for a bit you'll get in the loop very quickly. Persnickety also has another page called All Things Persnickety. This is a GREAT resource where they will answer any of your questions about sizing and specifics regarding individual pieces—they will even give you advice on how to mix and match pieces for sister looks, photo shoots, etc.
Mamas selling on these board can get quickly annoyed by the newbie who just asks a lot of questions about a piece and isn't seriously interested in purchasing. A question here and there is perfectly acceptable, but again, it's important to do research in advance of trying to buy and already know what size you are looking for. Usually to purchase, you simply just comment "Sold" along with your PayPal address and then expect to receive (and pay) your invoice within 24 hours. On most of the boards, it is generally against the rules to offer the seller less than asking price. If ever you DO decide to go that route, it's important to send it to them in a private message and not make an offer directly on the picture of the item. But beware, on some boards, offering less than asking price is against the rules and you can get "kicked off" a board pretty quickly for violating the rules—even if your only offense is that you're new and didn't know any better! I'm not exaggerating when I say that there's an expectation that you know the game and the rules before playing!
There are more ins and outs of using these boards, but most of it can be picked up through observation and seeing how the boards work first hand.
The B/S/T boards that I most often use are:
Persnickety Steals Under $30
Matilda Jane Crazies
Matilda Jane Addicts
Matilda Jane Mania
Gigglemoon, MustardPie, Za Za Couture, MudPie and much more
Mud Pie, Mustard Pie, Giggle Moon and Much Much More
Giggle Moon Buy - Sell - Trade
Livie and Luca Lover's Resell
Livie and Luca BST
All things JOYFOLIE - Buy, Sell, Trade, ISO
Mustard Pie BST
6. BUY HANDMADE
Another consideration, if you're looking for the boutique look, is to buy from handmade boutiques. Facebook has opened up major commerce highways in which ladies who are super skilled at crafting beautiful clothing now have a captive audience to buy their creations. At any given time, probably around 30 - 50% of Holiday's wardrobe has been comprised of handmade boutique items. I love that they are usually produced in such small quantities and are truly unique. They aren't "cheap", but they're still much more affordable than some of the high end boutique brands. I have tried out many boutiques and have kind of settled into the ones that I really like. You can also read reviews and ratings to see user feedback about quality, fit, customer service, etc. I will share some pictures with the shops listed. Most all of these have Facebook pages and also an Etsy shop. Following their Facebook pages will keep you in the loop on what sales they may have coming up and how to purchase. Beware, the craze for some of these items is over the top. You have to be on your toes and often have a strategy for how you're going to "cart" your items. One very popular boutique I follow just had a sale this week and sold out of 1500 dresses within 4 minutes!
While I tend to keep an eye on a LOT of handmade boutiques, Quinn's Closet is certainly the one boutique I have bought the most from. They are some of THE most beautiful outfits that I couldn't imagine parting with! The fit and quality are always top notch and I am always finding pieces I can't live without!
There are quite a few more boutiques that I like and buy from including Well Dressed Wolf, SweetHoney, Adelaide's Boutique, Annie's Classics and I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting, but there are endless beautiful options out there. If you look around you're sure to find something that's right up your alley!
Even if your little one is wearing Target or whatever brand you happen to have—they look so much more pulled together if you take time to fix their hair and add a bow and other accessories! Even beautiful boutique clothes don't always live up to their potential if the little one wearing them looks like a ragamuffin or has dirty mismatched shoes on! Take a few minutes before you walk out the door to pull their look together if it's important to you!
I wanted to share this one last picture of Holiday from last Easter wearing a $25 dress with all of the right accessories!
If you have a good eye for style, you can easily mix and match boutique pieces with mall or discount brands and still get a great high-end boutique look! There are several key Persnickety pieces that I've layered and added to SO many outfits to make them look extra special. I can't tell you how many outfits we have worn this cream mesh tee and cuffs with. Also, the Persnickety brown Lilly Skirt is an amazing piece to mix with other outfits as well as the Persnickety Denim Ruffle Jeans. I did a lot more mixing and matching of these pieces in this post: Dressed in Holiday Style
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT MATILDA JANE
Most all of the information I've described above applies to Matilda Jane as well, however the way for ordering new pieces is a bit different. You will want to follow Matilda Jane Clothing on Facebook to see when all of their releases are so you can order, but all of their ordering is done through Trunk Keepers. If you happen to live close to me, I am having a Trunk Show in early March where my Trunk Keeper will be coming to my home and you'll be able to see all of the gorgeous clothes in person and place your order. Feel free to email me for details! We will have both of the first and second collections available to order at the party! If you're too far away to attend, you can order online (I can send you a direct link to my Trunk Show) or find a trunk keeper in your area by visiting Matilda Jane Clothing online!
I hope this post has inspired you to play around with the clothes you already have for your little one or maybe venture into picking up some discounted boutique threads of your own! There's so much more I could say on the topic, but keep coming back to get more tips and tricks to keep your child well styled!