About five minutes after I found out I was pregnant with a little girl I started shopping for her, and it was awesome. I'd go to the Gap and buy entire collections of tutu-topped leggings, seersucker pinafores, and striped and flowered onesies with little Peter Pan collars. I'd go online and order dozens of headbands and tiny, soft-soled shoes. I hung a perfect Sarah Louise white dress, embroidered with tiny red roses, at the front of her closet as an homage to her middle name, Rose. Sometimes, I would lie her whole wardrobe on my bed and imagine the outfits I'd dress her up in. Of course, then she was born and spent most of her first year in onesies and pajamas, but still, I shopped.
Throughout her baby and toddler years, finding adorable, affordable clothes was never a problem (though, as she got older, getting her to wear some of them became more of one). Sometimes the issue was having too many places to find cute clothing. Target's toddler section was often just as appealing as the clothes I'd order in bulk when Mini Boden and Tea Collection were having sales. I'd find sweet dresses at Old Navy and little Ralph Lauren quilted jackets at TJ Maxx. It was a constant deluge of tiny style wherever I looked.
Then she outgrew toddler sizes, and I found myself in a strange, way less sartorially appealing world: the big-girl section.
Not only was this new land full of inappropriate landmines (crop tops can wait until long after she's hit puberty, thank you very much), but in general, it was just plain ugly. Mostly gone were the ruffles, the sweet embroidered details, the linen, seersucker, and chambray. Instead, I was facing a sea of glitter-embellished emoji t-shirts, skinny jeans that my comfort-prioritizing daughter would never wear, and for some reason, a ton of active wear, as if the monkey bars now required a wardrobe of yoga pants and sweat-wicking tops in neon colors.
All those years of easy retail fun, it would seem, were over. Shopping for my almost 6-year-old daughter now requires work, research, and planning. I regularly search the Gap's latest big-girl collections, wait until they're 40 or 50 percent off, then buy anything with a bit of style. I still troll Crewcuts, Mini Boden, Hanna Andersson, and Tea Collection for sales, and I appreciate that at those shops, the same dress styles I bought my daughter when she was 3 and 4 also come in a size 7.
Why so many other brands have cut off the cuteness at age 5, I have no idea. Is kindergarten really when we should be telling our daughters it's time to dress like a tween? That crinoline-lined dresses and brightly colored tunics with matching leggings are no longer age appropriate?
I don't think I'm out of touch when I hope for a big-girl shop that would put more influence on the "girl" and less on the "big." My daughter is not big. She's not even 6. And I'd like to continue to dress her in the sweet outfits that I so easily found in the smaller sections, which I still occasionally roam, wishing I could upsize their wares.
Retailers, build me a store where I still want to buy her everything I see instead of having to search for one or two sorta-cute pieces, and believe me, I will come.