Updated: December 2023,
Like your shirt, Junior? It used to belong to your sister!
Purchasing clothes for babies and older children can put a financial drain on families to the point that the parents often wonder where the money will come from each year to purchase new school clothes, special occasion wear, and other such items for their kids. For this reason, the tradition of using “hand-me-downs” became popular, with the younger child wearing the clothing that an older sibling wore previously. It’s an imperfect system (it doesn’t work well if one child is male and the other female, for example, or if one is tall and thin and the other short and chubby), but can save quite a bit of money for those families that are feeling the financial crunch associated with these aspects of child-raising.
Aside from the potential flaws mentioned above (differences in gender and relative size between siblings) there are some other problems that can make using hand-me-downs impractical. These mostly include wear and tear on the clothing itself. Kids can be very tough on their clothes and clothing that is too worn can not usually be handed down to a younger child. There is one situation where the system works rather well, however, and that is with baby clothes.
Baby clothes naturally avoid the pitfalls associated with wear and tear because few items are worn for very long at all. Babies grow very quickly, especially between infancy and two years, and don’t stay in one piece of clothing long enough to wear it out. Also until they start to crawl around quite a bit, babies are largely inactive. Their usual routine of eating, sleeping, eating, and sleeping again doesn’t do anything to the clothes that they wear in order for them to become worn.
The gender difference can be a little harder to overcome because parents love to dress their boys in cute little blue suits and their girls in adorable little pink dresses. This is a strong argument for the purchase of unisex or gender-indifferent baby clothing. When you can get three or four kids’ worth of wear from one baby outfit it makes sense to make sure that any future children you have will be able to wear the item. It’s much easier to accomplish this by choosing unisex clothing instead of trying to pre-select the sex of your child, which is a costly and unsure medical procedure. While many fathers would love the idea of producing only boys, mothers may take issue with it.
If you think that you’ll have additional children in the future, the best advice that one can give today is that you purchase unisex clothing whenever possible and so not throw away or donate your baby’s clothes once little Burt or Loni has outgrown them. This way you can start preparing for a hand-me-down chain early on and save yourself some money in the future.