If you're like us, you can't help but splurge on cute, well-made clothes and shoes for your little ones, but don't want to spend a fortune to keep them looking great. Unfortunately, there's no one store that offers the best gear at the best prices. The best way to get the most for your money is to know what to buy and what to skip at each of the major retailers. Here we take the guesswork out of shopping for children's clothes with our cheat sheet.
Gap Kids, Baby Gap
Gap Kids and Baby Gap clothes are cute, on trend, and durable. They also tend to be expensive. Not so for the sale racks. Shop them regularly and buy a couple of seasons-or even a year-ahead and you'll get great tee-shirts, pants, dresses, sweats, and jackets for 50 percent or more off.
Best bests: jeans, shirts, sweats, flip-flops
Worst bets: new, trendy items, which cost a fortune
Well-made and the epitome of cute, Gymboree clothes are a hit with style-savvy moms. Price tags tend to be expensive, but smart shoppers know the best way to do Gymboree is to frequent the sale racks and accessories bins, where 60 percent or more off is standard. Sign up with them to regularly receive discount coupons, and join their rewards program, which affords you 50% off entire purchases and other bonuses and you'll be shocked at how much you can get for less.
Best bets: Socks, T-shirts, skirts, jammies, underwear, tights, leggings
Worst bets: Shoes, which tend to be expensive, unpractical, and not particularly durable
The Children's Place
Known for their riotously colorful and often shockingly affordable everyday wear and glamorous special-occasion toddler and tween clothing, The Children's Place offers amazing deals all year long. They also have insane sales where you can easily leave the store with hauls that would put Santa to shame for under $100. Accessories aren't cheap, so skip those, and come with a plan on what you intend to buy, lest you get distracted by whimsical tutus and jammies. Finally, beware of falling prey to scooping up discounted items and their matching accessories only to find the latter are not on sale.
Best bets: Jeans, lounge wear, special occasion wear, colorful Tees, dress shoes
Worst bets: Accessories, trendy items
Image by PCMD
Many moms swear by Kohl's. While it might not be the trendiest of places, its selection of staples (onesies, shirts, skirts, lightweight cotton pants, sweats, and dresses) is plentiful and inexpensive. While you will have to dig through the schlock to find the gems, the deals are worth it-especially if you leverage the frequent discount cards the company mails out to shoppers who have signed up for their mailing list. Buy wisely and you'll practically feel like they're paying you to take clothes off their hands! But be warned: The shoes tend to be cheap and fall apart quickly, which makes them worthless at any price.
Best bets: Kids basics, including shirts, shorts, skirts, and dresses
Worst bets: Shoes
When was the last time you were in Macy's and there wasn't a sale? Luckily for moms, this trend toward discounting extends into the children's clothing department. There are plenty of cute selections, too, as well as affordable must-haves. Got a preppy kid? This is the best place to get Ralph Lauren polo shirts and madras pants on sale.
Best bets: Socks, T-shirts, polo shirts
Worst bets: Accessories, jammies, nighties
Image by j.reed
Not surprisingly, the superstore with something for everyone antes up with plenty of children's options. Interestingly, they're not necessarily cheaper than other stores, especially when you factor in sales and discounts, which you're less likely to find at Target. Still, one thing they've got serious market share, especially in the shoe department.
Best bets: Shoes (which are cheap and varied) slippers, underwear, holiday outfits, socks, jammies
Worst bets: T-shirts (not great quality), jeans, bathing suits
The best children's clothing flash-sale site won't give you the deepest discounts around, but Zulily will offer you opportunities to buy expensive stuff for less. Like what? Think rain gear, tutus, frilly girl clothing, brand name shoes, and even toys and stuff for mom.
Best bets: Raincoats, rain boots, special-occasion outfits
Worst bets: Dresses (still expensive!), everyday gear, which is cute but pricy
When it comes to low prices, it's pretty hard to beat Crazy 8. Their clothes are super trendy too. They won't last more than one season and the fabrics aren't the best, so stop here only for items that you'll feel good about buying even if they're worn only a few times (fancy dresses are case in point). Shop sales here too for the ultimate value.
Best bets: Trendy items, dresses
Worst bets: Shoes, school clothes
Image by tychai
Kids aren't left out by this inexpensive fashion haven, and anyone with a penchant with Hello Kitty won't be disappointed here. And per usual the prices tend to be super low, too. But you do get what you pay for, meaning that much of the garb sold here are flimsily made and won't stand up to serious wear. Another downside: With all the cute accessories they have, it's easy to end up buying a bunch of stuff you don't need.
Best bets: Trendy on-sale items, leggings, lightweight shirts and dresses
Worst bets: Flimsy hair accessories, expensive sweaters, jeans
Janie and Jack
With sweaters averaging $50 and blazers coming in around $99, Janie and Jack isn't the place for the faint of heart. With prices this high, even the occasional sale can't justify spending money here-especially since they cater to babies and toddlers, who grow out of their gear practically every other week.
Best bets: Baby shower gifts
Worst bets: Everything that isn't on sale
Aside from cute vintage T-shirts and girls dresses, the clothes at Old Navy aren't the greatest quality. Poorly constructed and ill fitting, often it looks better on the hangar than the child and is not worth the time or money. Even the bathing suits don't stand up to a whole season.
Best bets: Lightweight dresses, flip-flops
Worst bets: Most everything else
Its return policy-which is pretty much anytime for any reason-is argument enough to add Nordstrom to the list. Its great shoe selection brings parents who would never shop here otherwise. But skip the designer clothes. No one needs to be dropping $150 on a sweater.
Best bets: Shoes, both for school or special occasions
Worst bets: Socks (expensive and don't hold up), tights, everyday clothing
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