Sustainable Kids’ Clothes: How and Where to Shop

sustainable kids' clothes - how and where to shop

My life is more and more kid-adjacent these days. I have a new niece and most of my friends have young children now. But without kids of my own, I don’t always pay a lot of attention to what’s happening in the kids’ product market. That’s why I haven’t written a dedicated post on sustainable kids’ clothes until now.

That being said, I do have a background in thrift shop management. That gives me more brand awareness than many. And it has also shown me which kids’ clothes brands last, and which ones aren’t worth buying.

The Ethics of Kids’ Clothes

Like any other consumer good, the supply chain for kids’ clothes contains numerous kinds of exploitation. Companies like The Children’s Place have been involved in numerous factory complaints, including one just last year.

They also failed to pay for already-produced orders in 2020. Big box stores like Walmart and TJ Maxx, and department stores like JC Penney and Kohls, have also been implicated in failures to pay their garment workers for abruptly-cancelled orders.

When it comes to shopping for kids, a balance needs to be struck between many factors. It’s not as accessible as shopping for adult clothing, because kids grow!

With that in mind, price becomes a really significant factor. I suspect that’s why so many people shop ├╝ber-cheap brands like Old Navy. But it’s also great to look for quality items that can be handed down to younger kids when the time comes.

In this post, I’m sharing a range of brands and options that factor in:

  • Labor Ethics
  • Sustainable Fibers
  • Quality of goods
  • Price Point
  • Versatility

Finding Hand-Me-Downs

Parents and caregivers already know how to find clothes for their kids from a variety of sources. But just in case you haven’t thought about it, I definitely recommend a few platforms to discover hand-me-downs…

  1. Buy Nothing Project: The Buy Nothing Project has a mission to build community through the sharing economy. Volunteers organize towns into Facebook groups by geographical neighborhood (with care to ensure that class and racial diversities are represented in each group). Members then ask for and offer items to one another at no charge. You can find your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook, or learn more here.
  2. Ebay and Poshmark Lots: You can shop reduced-price secondhand clothing sold in bulk (or lots) on sites like Ebay and Poshmark. Sellers often organize by size, brand, color, and style.
  3. Thredup: Thredup has a virtually limitless inventory of secondhand kids’ clothing and accessories. You can shop by brand, style, material, condition, size, and more. Learn more about how I shop Thredup here.
  4. Local thrift shops and community groups: Local thrift shops can be a great place to find quality kids’ clothes. Also make sure to check local ads and flyer boards for swap meets organized by nonprofits, neighborhoods, and religious organizations.

5 Places to Buy Sustainable and Ethical Kids’ Clothes

If you need to shop new, I also have some recommendations. As in all things ethical and sustainable fashion, there is no perfect solution. But there are many ways to shop a little bit better…

This post contains affiliate links

sustainable kids' clothes and secondhand options - PACT Apparel

1 | PACT Apparel

PACT is first on the list because they sell organic, fair trade clothing for babies and kids with a B-Corp certification and reasonable pricing. I own several adult clothing items from PACT and can attest to the high quality. These are items that can definitely be passed down.


sustainable kids' clothes and secondhand options - hanna andersson

2 | Hanna Andersson

Hanna Andersson was a fan favorite at the thrift shop I managed. Extraordinary quality and very cute, this brand uses organic cotton in most of their products and claims that they offer fair wages. I mention them here because their clothing holds up very well and can easily be handed down.


sustainable kids' clothes and secondhand options - primary

3 | Primary

Primary offers simple, gender-neutral kids’ clothing in fun colors. They use organic cotton, GOTS-certified factories, and recycled textiles in many of their products, with an objective to continue to improve. I have also seen them highly recommended by parents.


fair trade kids' clothes - tea collection

4 | Tea Collection

Tea Collection offers a wide range of kids’ and baby clothing produced with fair trade standards. They use third-party auditors to ensure that factories comply, and have worked with many factories for over a decade. Learn more about their standards here.


carbon neutral kids' clothes - tentree

5 | Tentree

Tentree is a climate-neutral company that prioritizes sustainable materials, fair trade production, and a comprehensive, sustainable business model. They’re a B-Corp, and they plant trees with every purchase. They sell t-shirts and sweats for kids.


where to shop sustainable kids clothes

More Resources:

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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  1. I have two kids (5 and 9) and before the pandemic, I shopped for them almost exclusively at secondhand stores, primarily Unique Thrift (which is part of Savers), which we have many locations of in the D.C. area. I feel lucky to have so much choice–there are tons of high-quality pieces in secondhand stores, especially if you can devote the time to stop in frequently. Kids grow so fast that I feel much better about buying them stuff (especially stuff with limited wear potential, such as dressy clothes) when I know it’s having a second life. Some stuff is in such good shape when I buy it that I can give it to others after my kids are done with it!

    1. It’s also such a good choice for caregivers who are worried about toxic off-gassing from dye in children’s clothes, because the garment has already been washed several times in most cases!

  2. Thanks for this! A couple new brands for me to check out for my 18-mo. I do like buying in lots from eBay, it can also save some decision fatigue if you need a whole set of summer or winter clothes! The only thing is I wish sellers were better about listing fabric content. eBay is great for high quality second hand winter coats too.

    1. Glad to hear it. That irks me with resell sites, as well. And with adult clothing, they rarely put measurements and it takes so much extra effort to figure out what will work.

  3. I totally vouch for Hanna Andersson. We’ve bought their stuff new and second-hand and it is TOP NOTCH. We can almost always pass them down to our friends. So good.

    1. That’s very good to hear! People always went wild for it at the thrift shop. The fabric feels more substantial than other kids’ brands.

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