Oct 17, 2012

Beginning Preschool in France: A Starter Wardrobe

In case the cliches about French kids' fashion are justified. I may be overthinking this, but I’m starting to wonder if T will look mighty incongruous at her new (international but French) school wearing the clothes she prefers now that it’s colder: boys’ tracksuit bottoms with cartoon character T shirts (over long-sleeved tees) and sneakers, topped off with her beloved purple Gap logo zip hoody for extra warmth.

So I’m a bit torn about it: on the one hand, I’m all for individual style and standing against the mediocrity of conformity – that’s why I write this blog, after all. At the same time…what T wears really can’t be called "fashion." Her outfits are comfortable leisure clothes and now that she’s getting older and school is getting more structured, wearing clothes that are clearly distinguishable from her pyjamas seems like a necessary part of growing up. Plus, wearing clothes generally similar to those worn by the other kids may help her adjust more easily.

So I’ve started introducing her to the fact that her school in France is a “big kids’ school” where the kids dress up a bit more, and she’s been fairly receptive towards the idea. Inspired by my clich├ęs of how French kids dress – and by stores like Petit Bateau and JojoMamanBebe which are specifically geared towards promulgating the stereotype – here are some non-bank-busting* items I plan to get for T for starting her new school.


Cardigans – anything woollen that isn’t cashmere gives me hives (and even some cashmere), so I’m sticking with cotton for the little one. Pictured: H&M (100% cotton). In theory I would like to replace the buttons of these with prettier ones (e.g. star-shaped mother of pearl), but that may be a pipe-dream.

One or two thicker zip-up jackets for when the cardigan isn’t enough indoors (and to replace the Gap hoody – I don’t think large logos are permitted). I’m actually not the biggest fan of hoods on sweaters, so this version looks great. Pictured: Petit Bateau.

Long-sleeved tees – perfect for wearing under sweaters or dresses. Pictured: H&M. Disclaimer: I don't actually have many H&M items for T (expect for a hand-me-down cardigan), but their clothes on the website always look cute. And relatively cheap.


T hates skirts, so for her, shorter dresses are going to be the best option. I think pinafores look especially cute. Pictured: elephant pinafore, JoJoMamanBebe (unfortunately stocks are running low and T's size is already sold out!); paisley dress, JoJoMamanBebe; and the classic "French cord pinafore" (thus described on the website), also JoJoMamanBebe.


T also has a strong opinion on tights (and it's not a good one), so we stick to leggings / footless tights with socks.

Leggings - H&M has a great selection of thicker leggings, like these spotted blue and cerise pairs on each side of the row.

Footless tights - not quite as thick as leggings but better for warm classrooms. Pictured: 2-packs from Boden and H&M.

Shoes, boots, and socks

Shoes - T’s Toms are starting to look worn, so a new pair of Mary Janes is in order. Pictured: Start Rite navy "delphine." And a more substantial pair for especially cold days. Pictured: Timberland.

Boots - my mother has warned me that kids’ winter boots in France are generally quite thin, so I’m probably going to get a pair before we’re off. Here are some cute options which aren't suitable for the salty slush of Britain’s streets but should work in Paris (though I’ll also get a pair of harder-wearing boots for stomping through the woods). Pictured: "Vintage rose" short suede boots with faux fur lining, Boden; leather / sude lined short boots, Clarks.

Socks - I'll get thermal socks for going outside, but for the classroom, the classic Gap triple-rolls (previously discussed here) should be fine.


As for buying kids’ clothes in France...the Gap and H&M will definitely be there for basics, and Petit Bateau when items are on sale (or uniquely well-made and hard-wearing). My mother used to get a lot of my younger sisters’ clothes at their local Monoprix. They’re cute and of good quality, and definitely not "supermarket clothes" – though this also means that they’re comparatively expensive.

Concerning stores like Bonpoint and Jacadi – I’m sure the quality of the clothes is great, but the prices seem overinflated. Most things, like the plain gray skirts, just don't seem like anything special, and with toddlers' rapid growth spurts and inherent tendency (or need?) to get mucky, it seems somewhat profilgate to me. But who knows...my opinions may well change after a few weeks on-site. Updates on the expected vs. actual outcome will follow.

* The downside of this is that the clothes aren’t ethically sourced.

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