04 May 2008

A onesie for all seasons

Having just yesterday packed to the gills a 22-gallon tub with baby clothes M- has outgrown, I can promise you that I have quite a few issues with the children's clothing industry. Let me further clarify that, as a man, and in fact at least in this respect a super-man, when I pack a tub, you can be sure there's no need to worry about moths because there isn't more than a cubic centimeter of air left inside that thing.

That's a lot of clothes. And I'm not quite done yet.

Like most corporations, the clothing makers in this country (and now worldwide, as the virus spread long ago) have discovered that with fiendishly effective planning, they can make sure most of their products are functionally useless to anyone shortly after their purchase. If they play their cards right and things last just long enough that people forget exactly when they bought them, no one will be surprised or even upset by their deterioration. It's a fine line to tread.

For instance, people have forgotten by now that cars used to last for decades without fatal problems-- you could easily be driving a car today from the '50s in roughly the same condition as a car from the '90s (I can personally vouch for the low quality of American cars from the '90s). Anyway, that's a separate rant.

As I packed away clothes, some of which M- never got a chance to wear, I saw things marked 9 months that were smaller than things marked 3-6 months, and on down the line. I mean, I expect shoes to vary a bit by maker-- I wear a size 13 in Nikes, Reeboks, and most dress shoes, but I can get by with a 12 in New Balance and some other more generously-sized shoes. With baby clothes, I'm talking about M- still wearing 3-9 months onesies, while we pack away 12-month-sized pants and shirts.

The stated size on clothes is nearly meaningless except in relation to other clothes of the exact same type made by that particular company. I say this because even within a single company, you can have absolutely no faith in the actual size of a piece of clothing or the way it will fit. This leaves people (like me 4 years ago) who have no idea what a baby looks like at a certain age, or what is appropriate for one to wear, to just guess at what they should buy for a gift and to be wrong most of the time. Out of guilt, the parents will put the kid in it once and take a picture, then it's off to a consignment shop at best, or a garbage dump in most cases.

The same happens often when parents themselves buy something and find out one maker prewashes clothes for a more accurate sizing gauge while most others do not, and some of them make clothes so primed to shrink to half their size at the slightest touch of moisture that I'm surprised boxes don't violently implode on loading docks across the country whenever it rains a little.

The worst of all wasted kids' clothes are the holiday or season-specific clothes. Granted, it may be cute to have a timely piece of clothing on a baby, but do you know how maddening it is to later have a perfectly good onesie sitting in the drawer unavailable for selection on laundry day just because it says, "Bee Mine" or "SomeBunny Loves Me"? I'll answer that rhetorical question for you-- it's quite maddening.

I can promise you that you and your child will not be greeted with quite the same amusement or adoration when people see the same whimsical clothing they loved so much earlier in the year out of that season. I can also promise you that your significant other will not appreciate your efforts to "Fight The Man" by taking her kid outside the house wearing a shirt with a kitten in a witch's hat popping out of a pumpkin anytime outside of October.

I saw pieces of clothing yesterday I would have thought were meant for dolls had I not seen them only lightly stretched across a much larger baby not that many months ago. I saw several shirts wider than they are long, and if you think I'm exaggerating, I encourage you to double-check the name of this blog and then be assured that I did in fact take out my tape measure so I could report to anyone who cares that at least one of these shirts was eight inches long and TEN AND A HALF INCHES wide from seam to seam. The visual effect of this differential is hard to capture in words, but unfortunately I don't have a picture for you because this particular shirt is currently gasping for breath somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned tub.

My answer to this problem is for more clothing manufacturers to remember that just like there is a finite number of customers for their products(hence the crappy quality of most merchandise), there is also a finite amount of space on this planet for useless products. Make more timeless clothing, more unisex clothing, and more clothing that allows for differently-shaped and -sized children, as well as the constant growth of said children.

Right now, the accommodation for this "startling phenomenon" is a niche market, catering to those who care, but it shows that it can be done. Someone even came up with a shoe that can expand to cross over (I think) two full shoe sizes, which means it's one pair taking the place of four. I saw it quite awhile ago so I don't have a link for you all, but if you're interested, I'm sure you may either already know of them or know where to find them.

I'm breaking off the end of this post into a new one for tomorrow, since this is already so long, but rest assured I'm spent and tomorrow's post is much more fun.


TerriRainer said...

I was one of those moms who dressed her son in pink hand-me-down onesies, it was cute...had little cows on it (I even have a picture to torture him when he brings home his first girlfriend)...

I have given away more clothes than I can count, and received just as many.

Sizes are like that all the way up through to women's...TRUST me!

As for your mountain of clothes that is only the beginning, I would recommend Ebay. It might at least help pay for more outfits that they will only wear once!

:) Terri

SherE1 said...

I have a ton of clothes in our upstairs hallway that are waiting to get thrown in the trash or donated and I had the same frustration as I sorted through them.

With the weather being so weird lately (one weekend we're in the 100's, three days later highs are at mid 60's), it's been hard to dress the kids appropriately. I am determined not to buy any new fleece sleepers being this close to summer, which leaves the only one left that fits him... which happens to have little snowmen all over it. Eh, who cares. It keeps him warm.

LiteralDan said...

TerriRainer: Good for you for recycling-- I hope that comforts your son when he sees those pictures. :-)

My mom said the same thing about women's clothes.

I've thought about eBay, but I'm probably too lazy even for that. lol

SherE1: We should box up all the clothes and mail them to Gerber or Osh-Kosh or something, in protest. I think the snowman sleeper is fine-- my kids wear stuff with Santa on it as long as they aren't leaving the house. They don't care, so I don't care.

One of my favorite (and generously-sized) onesies for M- says "Happy Christ-moose!" on it, with a big picture of a moose with a red nose. So we can stand together in solidarity!

Andrea said...

So true. I didn't realize that I had fallen victim until I was three kids under. And then the mommy guilt set in--- so and so had more selection...it never ends.

We wear those Christmas, Valentines, Halloween onesies again and again. It's fun to revisit the past, isn't it?

Funny-I am working on a post with a "The Man" twist. It's still a work in progress.

Thanks for the comments, btw. I don't always look back in the comments.

LiteralDan said...

Yeah you have to balance the hand-me-downs with some original stuff.

I'll keep my out for your attack on The Man. It's about time someone stuck it to him! lol