I have a confession…for the most part, I don’t like Singaporean kids clothes. Sure, there’s the occasional “event” outfit (like E’s CNY dresses) or the E spilled all over her “spare” set of clothing so I need an emergency outfit….but I almost never buy clothing for her here in Singapore.
To be fair, my first experience with Singaporean clothing for tots was last February, when we came for our look-see visit. I stepped into a store called Cerise, and was shocked to see the EXACT same fabric pattern that Gymboree was using in its spring lines. Since then I’ve seen a LOT of local stores ripping off patterns and cloth from American stores like Old Navy, GAP (even though we have GAP here) and Gymboree. Other stores outright sell those brands (and items from Wal-mart) at ridiculous mark-ups when I can identify a clothing line that they bought on clearance (as it’s a year or more out of date or where, under their price stickers you can find a clearance sticker with the low US price). When I’ve bought clothes at stores like FOX kids, I’ve found the quality to be fairly poor.
My other issue with local clothing is sizing. I had thought US sizing was confusing, but here you’ll deal with a mix of American, Euro and Asian sizing and unless you have a child willing to try on things in the store, you’re taking your fate in your own hands with sizing. With most stores refusing returns, it becomes far too much hassle to deal with.
It does seem like clothing for kids here falls into 1 of 3 categories…
- Poor quality (aka Wal-Mart quality) clothes at mid-level prices
- Mid-level quality (aka GAP quality) clothes at 15% or more above sticker in the US (with sales so infrequent that they practically don’t exist)
- High-end designer (aka Baby Armani) clothes at prices that could fund a trip back to the US.
I don’t really like any of those options.
There ARE some American kids clothiers who have a presence here–GAP, Pumpkin Patch and Osh Kosh are here…but they sell seasonal clothing. Handy, if you’re going back to the US and don’t have any winter clothes, but less so if you have a child who went up a size and needs summer clothing in December.
Which has led to my finding ways to keep E in American clothes at what I consider reasonable prices.
When visiting home
- Consignment Stores–I’ve always been a consignment store junkie. I often find Baby Gap and Gymboree apparel at less than $5 an item, which is quite the bargain. There’s a national American chain of decent stores called “Children’s Orchard.” In Massachusetts, I’m also a huge fan of Kid2Kid in Natick.
- Outlets–Sadly, outlets have no online presence (or at least Gymboree, Gap, and Old Navy don’t) so there’s no way to shop them when you’re not home.
- Talk to the manager about last year’s/seasons stock—I found this a particularly good way to get new clothes at rock bottom prices. When we visited the US in November, I hit about 5 different Gymborees and asked about back stock from the summer, explaining that we lived in Singapore–it’s always hot here, blah blah bah. All of them had items (some more than others, not always things I wanted, but they had stuff) and I didn’t pay more than $7 for a single item…all normally priced in the 20-35 dollar range.
- Shop the store online, but don’t pay for international shipping–I have no idea why, but international shipping is ridiculously overpriced. I shop all my favorites, and ship things to my parents/in-laws home. When there’s a large priority mail box full, they send it on to us (btw, this is also the way I stay stocked in US DVDs). You can shop at American clearance prices, stay loyal to your favorite stores, and pay far less (even after you re-imburse your friend/family member for shipping) than you would for inferior quality clothes here in SG.
- Ebay–Yes, there’s local Ebay, but the selection sucks. Use American Ebay and follow the same shipping instructions as above.
- Participate in things like Gymboree Gymbucks–Gymboree, in particular has a program where if you spend 50 dollars, you earn 25 in “gymbucks” to redeem during a specific 10 day period later in the year. I always spend in 50 dollar increments so that during earning periods I earn gymbucks and during redemption, I save further money (as I generally try to shop sale priced items only during both).
If you’re moving here with kids, I strongly advise you to buy at least 1-2 sizes ahead. Same thing with shoes. Stride Rite recently opened its first store in Singapore, but the prices are higher than back home. There’s New Balance here, but they tend to carry a microscopic selection of kids shoes. I haven’t loved any shoes I’ve bought for myself or for E here, so I tend to add in shoes with the clothing orders.
It requires a bit more effort to shop this way, and the patience required to get things (shipping to your family, and then 2 weeks if a box is sent priority mail for it to arrive in Singapore) means you have to think ahead, but I’m far happier with Elanor’s wardrobe having done so.
Top/Shorts–Gymboree bought on eBay–$10 with shipping. Matching hairclip-we already owned, but I think is also an eBay purchase. Shoes-New Balance from Zappos for $15 on clearance –Total outfit $25, which would buy you the shirt at Baby Gap here.