How to put together a runway-look outfit for your girl or boy – on a discount store budget

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How to put together a runway-look outfit for your child on a discount store budget

It is possible to get a put-together runway-style outfit for your child on a discount store budget. Find out here what makes the look, and how you can pull it together at a cheap price point (yes, with well-known US brands).

I was taking a look at videos of runway-level children’s clothing brands for this winter from CPM (Collection Premiere Moscow) – basically Fashion Week in Moscow. Obviously, there is no way I can afford these labels: Mama Noel, Treapi, Byblos and others.  But what gets you that couture look is not all down to money. It’s imagination and creativity: the knowledge of how to put together pieces – even budget-friendly pieces – to create that truly exclusive look you desire. And even if you’re not starting with a lot of creativity, that’s OK – I’ll let you in on a secret: I didn’t either. You don’t have to be a creative person to do this. You just have to be willing to know what to look for and where to look. Let me show you.

First, we’ll visit – in a virtual sense! – CPM in Moscow to look at modeled examples of one of these exclusive brands for winter 2015-2016, Mama Noel. Be aware there is sound/music with this video shown below.

[if you’re reading this via email and can’t see the video, the YouTube link to it is here]

See how the colors went well together, and items were accessorized beautifully?

We can do the same, but at a lower price point. “I can’t do this with what’s in Target!” I hear you wail. Actually, you’re right. The separates at Target don’t always work well together, and equally importantly, they just don’t look as classy as the Mama Noel items we saw. But for similar sorts of price points as in Target, you can get that utterly pulled-together, upscale runway look for your child.

I’m going to show you how to do this with girl’s fashion, but the concepts apply equally to boys. I hear you, moms of boys; I’m a mom of boys myself, but the reason we’re doing it with girl’s fashion is that the girl’s outfits are actually harder to do. This is because the difference between wearing random separates versus a properly co-ordinated outfit is actually much less forgiving in girl’s fashion. With boys you probably could, at a pinch, get your boy looking comparatively classy with less effort. But the overall concepts apply equally whether you have a boy or a girl.

There are 3 different approaches you can use for this. We’ll start with the easiest and move on to the other two – the latter ones are for those of you who don’t want to stick to just one store or brand.

Option 1: Shop at a children’s clothing store that offers collections of color coordinated separates.

Pre-made collections where you have a range of color-coordinated separates to choose from are the ideal. You can’t go wrong there.

Two US stores who do this very well indeed at budget-friendly price points are Gymboree and Crazy 8, and I’ll illustrate this below. Of the two, Gymboree has the higher prices, but also the more textural interest that creates a look that’s far more upscale than its pricing reflects. It also has more collections on offer at any one time. Occasional sales and coupons bring Gymboree’s pricing closer into line with a discount store budget.

If you can’t afford Gymboree, don’t worry: Crazy 8 offers pricing that is almost exactly comparable to discount store pricing – sometimes even lower. My kids’ nicest-looking shirts come from there. Crazy 8 is actually the lower-price sibling store of Gymboree, so you get the same trustworthiness and brand reliability.

EXAMPLE 1: Gymboree – Olivia Collection

EXAMPLE 2: Crazy 8 - Best Dressed Collection

Option 2: Make an upscale outfit by carefully piecing together lower-priced brands

If you'd rather not stick with just one or two brands like we did with the pre-made collections, why not create your own color-coordinated outfit for your child? It's basically making your own collection. The good news is that you can shop around different stores for this, so you have a little more variety. The downside is that it's harder to do: it requires more work and effort to find pieces from different stores that will work well together.

My top recommendations for hunting down separates if you go this route are:

1. The Children's Place. Why? Because you'll find a wide variety of different colors and styles at rock-bottom prices.

2. French Toast. Although it actually specializes in school uniforms, I've bought good quality items for regular outfits from there, at low prices. In particular, to complete an otherwise-busy outfit you may be seeking a plain white or one-color top that still offers added interest.

For girls, you get to choose from a variety of detailing options, like gather-front tucks, Peter Pan collar, or ribbon bow short sleeves.  For boys, there are also eye-catching patterned non-uniform shirts at prices lower than what you would pay at discount stores.

3. Old Navy. Similarly to The Children's Place, you'll get a wide variety of colors and styles without breaking the bank. Some of their items don't always look as high-quality as the other stores I mentioned, so I would use them mainly for accent pieces or accessories.

Of course you can also pair any of these with pieces you find on sale at discount stores.

Don't ignore pieces your child may already own! You might find that instead of building an outfit from scratch, you can add, say, a shirt and a jacket to a great pair of pants that your child already has. So long as you can create a cohesive color-coordinated themed look, it doesn't matter how you do it.

Remember, think from the point of view that you're building up an outfit, a 'look'. When considering a piece - any piece - ask yourself "What items would this go with?" and "Would it contribute to an overall look or theme that I want to create, like City Snappy, or Inspired by Nature?" You probably do that for your own fashion already, but the concept applies equally well to your children's clothing.

Tip: Avoid this mistake! Even if you have your child's outfit perfectly color-coordinated, you won't get that upscale runway look unless you add some textural interest. In other words, if the entire outfit is made of jersey knit, it's just not going to look as upscale as something where each piece is made of different types and weights of fabrics that are pulled together with a central look or theme. Take a look at the pics of the Gymboree and Crazy 8 collections above for an example of textural interest done correctly.

Option 3: Create that couture look by taking advantage of top brands at ultra-low prices

Many of the top brands incorporate detailing and textural interest within individual pieces, giving them a high-end look right off the bat. When you put pieces like these together, it definitely makes it easier for you to showcase that runway-style quality.

To get these sorts of brand name clothes at rock-bottom prices, I recommend Cookie's Kids - it's basically an Overstock-style of store, but for kids' fashion only, and I shop from there at least once a season.

Last winter I put together a tough, snappy look for my oldest son from Cookie's Kids with 3 pieces for less than $50 total - and this included a stunning gray wool-blend jacket which will safely last him two winters.

Combine any of these methods - and have fun with it!

These 3 methods we covered today can happily be combined - they're not mutually exclusive. You want your kids to be on point on a tight budget - and you can do it! Not only that, I've found it can be a lot of fun to do, too. So, enjoy!