This guest post is from Joanna Dreifus, who writes My Mom Shops. She lives in NYC with her two kids and is on the Board of YAI's New York League for Early Learning. She is all kinds of awesome.
One recent afternoon, I showed my 7-year-old daughter a couple of dresses and jackets that I had worn at her age. For the most part, these clothes are loud, psychedelic (I grew up in the 70s, after all), and not very attractive. They're made from cheap itchy fabrics and they boast tricky buttons, rusty zippers, and scratchy tags. No wonder my daughter said, "Blech." Of course, "Blech" is also her response to any dress that isn't made of jersey cotton and doesn't slip easily over her head. When it comes to clothing, both she and her four-year-old brother are "tactile defensive."
In each child's case, I noticed this trait during toddlerhood. It was particularly apparent with my son. Diagnosed with apraxia (a motor-speech disorder), he could not yet speak. But he screamed each time I attempted to dress him in a shirt with a tag inside it, or, for that matter, in any fabric that wasn't plain, soft cotton. No wool blends for my kids. They'd scratch their skin off—or mine.
I suspect that that many of you can relate. Lots of kids with special needs demonstrate sensitivity to certain clothing, even if they haven't been officially diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Which makes getting (them) dressed a constant, major concern.
As someone who blogs about products for children, I've found it perplexing that although many companies tout the softness and gentleness of their clothing for newborns and infants, these same businesses don't seem to recognize that significant numbers of those babies are growing up with sensory issues. These days, more and more children are unable to wear the same "big kid" outfits—replete with tags, zippers, and buttons—as their peers can (or their parents once did).
Here's the good news: In the past year or so, some smart designers have stepped in to meet our children's needs. These (mainly small) companies produce clothing that will not only feel good to your kids, but will also look stylish.
The first one I'd like to share is Soft Clothing. I've met founder/designer Jessica Ralli several times, and she conveys a keen, compassionate awareness of what tactile-defensive kids require with their clothing. Soft Clothing not only features flat seaming, tagless necks, encased elastic waistbands (and an absence of zippers, buttons, or itchy trims), but also maintains a collection that spans stylish outfits and everyday "mix 'n match" basics.
At the ENK Children's Show (an apparel trade show) recently, Soft's upcoming offerings included these sweet dropped-waist dresses (I love the one with the Peter-Pan collar, below). Available on Soft's website right now, my personal favorites are the Parisian-inspired Shift Dress with Bow ($28) and Long Sleeve Moped Tee ($18.50). Bonus: Sizes run all the way up to 12 years, recognizing the clothing needs of older kids.
Next is Teres Kids, a newer company which offers a smaller selection of "happy active clothing" for children with tactile sensitivities. Each piece is 100% organic cotton (which means the items cost a bit more, too).
I liked the new designs I saw at ENK Children's Show, too (especially that black long-sleeved tee and ruffled skirt above). Sizes run from 18 months to 8 years. On Teres Kid's website right now, my top picks are the girly ruffled shorts ($32) and the sporty unisex hoodie ($40).
Finally, I've only recently discovered By Kids Only!, a really cool site where kids themselves can draw and submit clothing designs. Each season, readers can vote online for the best designs, and the company then produces the winning outfits and makes them available for sale. Every finished product is guaranteed seamless and tagless. And shirts, for example, are designed with organic cotton spandex blend to give kids close-fitting, all-day sensory input. A great idea! My picks: Boys' Airplane Shirt ($16.99, below), Boys' Paratrooper Pants ($32.50) and Girls' Candy Dresses ($39.50).
Of course, a few big-name companies have done an admirable job of making comfortable clothing for sensory-sensitive kids. One that comes to mind is Hanna Andersson, where I buy organic underwear and PJs for my kids (again, you pay a premium). I'd love to hear what other brands or websites all of you have found helpful for your children's clothing sensitivities or needs!