Experiments In Domesticity

Marriage, Motherhood & Modern Housewifery


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First World Problem?

In the wake of the Bangladeshi garment factory plaza collapse, which killed over 950 people, I have been struggling with guilt and searching (once again) for alternatives to inexpensive, manufactured-in-Asia goods. As anyone who has bought children’s clothing, books, and toys can attest, it is not easy to find consumer goods manufactured in North America and Europe. I was shocked at the amount of made in China merchandise available in France last year.

Because we are so addicted to cheap and to quantity, it is easy to ignore where our goods come from until a thousand people die making our sneakers and it becomes international news. Sometimes we feel momentary outrage when we read about unsafe lead levels in toys manufactured in China, we send our lead-infused Polly Pocket to the landfill, wash our hands and move on to the next must-have. The consumerist memory is brief, unfortunately.

There is the argument that manufacturing our shoddy, cheap goods is providing jobs for women in countries such as Bangladesh. If we stop buying, many families will go hungry. However, until there is a third way (providing those working in manufacturing with proper wages and safe working conditions, and ensuring that the goods manufactured are safe), we are stuck either supporting inhumane working conditions and endangering our own children or abstaining from purchasing anything manufactured in Southeast Asian countries. In the last few years, I have chosen the last option whenever possible. The large, glaring exception has been baby clothing.

It is very difficult to find inexpensive clothing for kids that has been made in North America. I posted awhile back about the search for shoes. I have since ordered a couple pairs from Soft Star Shoes and can attest to their all-round awesomeness. I have also purchased some Robeez lookalikes from Lil Jo’s that are made in Vancouver and are very cute.

Recycling is a good way to keep clothing costs down (beware of used footwear though). I happily accept any and all used clothing that people are willing to give Ladybug. While much of what we get is made in Bangladesh and China, we are not contributing any new funds to the manufacturing world. Plus, we are helping to reuse clothing before it ends up in the landfill. Lately, however, we have begun to exhaust some of our clothing suppliers because our mighty Ladybug is gaining on their children. Plus, it is nice to get something new once in a while. To further complicate life, distribution in the off-line world is often a bit spotty for made in North America clothing but the Internet is your friend in this instance. There is always the American Apparel at your local shopping complex but that store’s owner has a past that may be unethical and one that is most definitely murky.

The North American made kids’ clothing companies below manufacture beautiful, quality goods that come with a reasonable price tag. Part of the whole shift in our thinking needs to be a reduction in quantity – does my 1.5 year old really need 10 dresses? – in favour of quality.
Boské Kids
Small Potatoes
Redfish Kids
Red Thread
Stella Industries
Mini Mioche

This list is by no means exhaustive. I have also discovered lovely handmade goods at local seniors’ centres, and farmer’s markets. I can easily spend hours in the children’s clothing section of Etsy.

What are some of your favourite children’s clothing companies? Paper Doll by ana_ng via Flickr Paper Doll by ana_ng via Flickr


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If the Shoe Fits …

Since Ladybug started walking last month, I have been searching for appropriate footwear for her. Because of my requirements, this is not an easy task. I want a soft, flexible shoe; made from natural materials; and made in North America. If I weren’t so picky, I could waltz into any children’s store in town and pick up a pair of Robeez but, alas, they are made in China.

I have managed to purchase a wonderful pair of indoor shoes that fit the bill. While indoor shoes and socks are not necessary, and it is recommended that toddlers go barefoot in the house, our hardwood floors coupled with the fact that it is winter in Canada make for some cold tootsies. Enter the lovely Padraig slippers. I am obsessed with these natural, flexible, warm, and machine washable gems. They are artisan-made in Vancouver, Canada, and come in loads of fun colours. I’ve been giving them as gifts to all our toddler friends.

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Last year, I received the gift of a great pair of boots for Ladybug called STONZ. They are weather-proof, soft, flexible, and cute. They even fit over Padraigs, for extra warmth, if you buy a size up. Sadly, as the company has grown, they no longer make their product in Canada. This year I chose to go with a Quebec-made boot that is virtually identical in design, with the addition of some poly-fill and without the cute appliqués. The Sherpa Chic-Choc boot is an easy on and off, and keeps Ladybug’s feet toasty down to -25 degrees.

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The snow, however, will not last forever, and my daughter’s feet continue to grow at a rapid rate. Because children under two go up an average of a half shoe size every two months, it is important to replace shoes and socks frequently. Improper fit can lead to a lifetime of foot problems. Measuring your child’s foot is recommended before purchasing any new shoe. Toddlers are meant to wear shoes that are breathable and as close to the barefoot experience as possible to ensure healthy musculoskeletal development. Shoes should never be handed down because they conform to the feet of the first wearer.

So, what is a fashion-interested, budget-minded, eco-conscious mama to do? Fret no more, dear reader, for I have found two lovely solutions. Both are made in the USA and fit all my requirements. The first, Soft Star Shoes hails from Oregon, is made from American-sourced leather, dyed with food-grade dyes, available in vegan styles, and is handcrafted and customizable.

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The other, Bear Feet Shoes is of Texan provenance, boasts beautiful styling, and is made from American and European materials (some of which are also organic).

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While neither company is giving their product away, considering the time, effort and materials employed, I think they are very well-priced. A child’s footwear is certainly not the place to scrimp or sacrifice quality, as my mother reminded me the other day. We do, after all, spend many years on our feet.

For a more in depth exploration of footwear for kids, please read the excellent article from Runner’s World Running Times here.

The children’s foot facts were sourced from:
Foot Health – Children

Learn About Feet – Children’s Footwear

How to Select Children’s Shoes

Buying Shoes for Toddlers