Monday, October 09, 2006

Shopping for Children's Clothes in London



Years ago, my husband visited a Gap store in Washington, D.C. while in the US on a business trip with an arm long shopping list. He proceeded to buy dozens of pairs of pants and t-shirts in different little boy sizes. The sales girl had seen it all before. “So, you must be from Europe. You’re the fourth guy in here today buying like that. Hey, don’t they have kids’ clothes in Europe?”

Well of course they did, but at the time, European children’s clothes cost at least twice what was on offer at Gap, were not as durable and could not match the peerless informality which became Gap’s trademark.

But the tables have turned and now I am often asked by both continental and American friends visiting London where to go for low cost, high fashion children’s clothes. It’s not that London is an inexpensive town, perish the thought, but it has become a great place to pick up some cutting edge children’s fashion at bargain basement prices as well the more expensive English classics.

Top Ten Stores for Childrens’ Clothes in London

H&M

Fast-forward fashion at rock bottom prices. Everything from ski wear to party dresses and accessories. Don’t expect great quality but children tend to grow out of their clothes before they wear out anyway. My nine year old daughter found most of her favourite things here this autumn. We bought bags and bags of stuff for £50. With outlets throughout London, the nicest children’s branch is at High Street Kensington. Alas, it is always crowded.

Zara

Similar to H&M but with better made and nicer things at slightly higher prices. Zara is famous for getting copies of high fashion designs from the runway to the shops at lightening speed. If you want the latest trends for very competitive prices, Zara is hard to beat. Nicest children’s branch just opened off the King’s Road at the Duke of York Square and was completely empty when I was there last week.

Marks & Spencer

Always good for staples such as jumpers (sweaters), underwear and socks and well worth checking out because occasionally M&S has something that is so good you can’t believe it. For example, Eloise and I recently found a £34 faux sheepskin fur coat that is so glamorous, the lady at the till (cash register), told Eloise she would look just like a movie star, and typical of M&S, its machine washable as well. Best children’s branch is either at the main Oxford Street store or High Street Kensington.


Gap

Similar inventory as in the US and the look does get tiring but if the sales are on, and to compete with the likes of H&M and Zara they often are, 50% to 70% discounts are common and it is hard to argue with the quality.

Next

Trendy to the point of tacky, but when they get it right, the clothes can deliver good value.


Trotters

Well made, good looking classic clothes for the aspiring middle classes at prices that are high enough to be reassuring. No bargains here but nice stuff if you need it. More selection in smaller sizes. A good shoe department where we were able to buy a perfect pair of trainers (sneakers) that no one else had in stock. They also have a children’s hair salon. Stores can be found on the King’s Road and Kensington High Street

Monsoon

For pint sized bohemians. Lots of sequins, silks, fancy knits and bright colours. Good party dresses at reasonable, but certainly not cheap, High Street prices.

Jigsaw

Similar to Monsoon but a bit more conservative. Best children’s branch is on the Fulham Road near the Brompton Cross and Bibendum.

Rachel Riley

If price is no object, but romance is, then this is my favourite children’s shop in London. Sadly, Eloise won’t touch the stuff. Too tasteful. Beautiful smocked dresses and pinafores, round collared shirts, Fair Isle sweaters and smart night clothes. Stores in Knightsbridge and Marylebone.


Boden

And finally, this is the catalogue retailer who has become a one-stop shop for the British middle classes. The clothes are well made, fun, smart and sensibly priced. What they are not is trendy, cutting edge or complicated. Perfect for holidays in Cornwall or Martha’s Vineyard. If you, like me, hate to shop from catalogues, then you can visit their only shop (in London) which is on Hanger Lane and next door to the Park Royal tube stop on the Piccadilly Line.

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