Every mother in my 1-year-old’s play group has a different approach to dressing her kid. One dresses her son in a new outfit every day (train conductor, Polo prepster, cowboy). One frets that she dresses her son in colors that are too “girly” (she doesn’t, but people keep stopping her on the street to admire her “daughter,” and that can get to a mom). Another does dress her daughter in bright, colorful girly attire, the exact opposite of her own wardrobe. And me, I’m accused of dressing my daughter like a boy.
However you dress your tyke, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the children’s stores below. Enjoy them while you can. After all, during the layette-toddler stage, it’s all about us: The kids have yet to build their own fashion sense, and once they do, the fun is over.
46 East 21st Street; 212-420-9878.
Cynthia Radoczy has run this boutique for twenty years, but it has remained so hip and fun you’d think it had just opened. Check out the faux-fur jackets for girls, sleeveless beaded dresses ($130), sparkly shoes, and all the most covetable brands – Petit Bateau, Lili Gaufrette, Charlie Rocket, and IKKS. The sales help are quick to offer their assistance, and you’ll need it because there’s so much eye candy here that it’s easy to forget what you came to shop for.
280 and 284 Mulberry Street; 212-965-8910.
This small downtown boutique makes shopping a breeze. It carries Bu and the Duck sweaters and pants, Patrizia Novelli coats and sweaters, wooden Montgomery Schoolhouse toys made in Vermont ($10-$25), and Malina coveralls in silk and cashmere in a divine brown ($95), but the real find is the hand-crocheted booties ($35) and hats ($35-$55) in wonderful bright colors made by the store manager, Ana Torres. For summer she crotchets sandals, sun hats, and bathing suits, all one-of-a-kind; they make wonderful gifts if you can resist keeping them for your own child.
969 Madison Avenue, near 76th Street; 212-737-2037.
You know it as a pharmacy, but on the second floor it has a comprehensive children’s clothing section. The store’s been around for 45 years and used to be housed in the nearby Carlyle Hotel, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about it. A real mix of traditional and hip, the shop knows its market. Start in the layette department, which carries everything from Carter’s to designers like Versace and Nicole Miller. Check out the delicious Boule de lait cashmere cardigans in a variety of colors ($140), or the Joan Calabrese flower-girl outfits ($380) – they also make stellar party dresses.
Bu and the Duck
106 Franklin Street; 212-431-9226.
Susan Lane’s clothing is designed by her and unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. Scattered throughout in little nooks and crannies are outfits, sweaters, dolls, furniture, and separates. We loved the silky cotton leggings ($26-$32) and the side-button shirts ($32-$36); the patch-pocket pants (think Ali Baba) in silky rayon ($60), cotton, or flannel are so adorable, you’re going to want them in every color for your boy or girl. Look for the handmade Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls ($200) made exclusively for the store. The dolls serve as a great gift, and they are not so raggedy – you could learn a thing or two from their fashion sense.
Ibiza New York
42 University Place; 212-533-4614.
Pass through the adult section, go up a step, and enter this quiet children’s boutique where Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, and Susan Sarandon shop for their kids. European brands for boys and girls, ranging from practical but fun Zutano leggings ($10) to a Kenzo girl’s coat ($116), are the stock in trade. But don’t miss the Pamela & Co. tutus ($38), wands ($16), and wings ($20).
Talbots Kids & Babies
1523 Second Avenue, at 79th Street; 212-570-1630.
Not quite as dry as you remember: The preppy style is still their signature, and the the layette department is small, but for toddler basics like boys’ Izod-type shirts (two for $29.50), you can’t go wrong. In the girls’ department, florals are big (blue denim jacket with little flowers, $58).
1522 Second Avenue, at 79th Street; 212-734-9292.
This place is not at all what you’d expect to find across the street from Talbots Kids. True, it has a “cruisewear” section, but otherwise it feels much more downtown than uptown. The Tangled tees that sparkle little diva ($17.90) and the red leather pants complete with white stitching ($129.50) draw hip moms who don’t want to spend Scoop prices for their mini-me.
964 Lexington Avenue, near 70th Street; 212-772-6455.
You may find yourself wishing you dressed as well as these kids. A small store, with loyal customers, Small Change offers beautiful European brands for uptown tastes. There is no layette department, but the shop outfits newborns up to size 14 and its coat selection is awesome – highlights include an Italian Magli wool girl’s coat for a toddler ($220) and an adorable raincoat with a Dalmatian print on the inside by Wippettes ($38-$64).
10 East 14th Street; 212-243-1301.
It’s that place that pours out onto 14th Street with the $1 sunglasses for kids and bins full of jellies, the store you’ve avoided for fear of never escaping. Well, it’s actually worth a visit, sans enfant, to shop for supplies and some basics. (The layette department is upstairs and the boys’ department is downstairs and there’s no elevator.) It’s a discount store, so you’ll have to do some rummaging, but Fuji jeans ($9.99), tights ($.99-$1.99), PJ’s, Carter’s onesies, and bottles at rock-bottom prices are worth the effort.
La Petite Etoile
746 Madison Avenue, near 65th Street; 212-744-0975.
This small Upper East Side shop is as quiet, calm, and subtle as the clothes, which include layettes and outfits from one month to size 14. Sleeveless silk dress sets, fully lined with hand-embroidered piping for your sophisticated girl at a mere $294, are perfect for evening affairs. It also has Sonia Rykiel, Cacharel, and European labels, like Pomme d’amour boys’ cotton and alpaca sweaters ($89).
Julian & Sara
103 Mercer Street; 212-226-1989.
A tiny space in SoHo with fun European clothes that stocks well for both girls and boys, which can’t be said of everyone. As the saleswoman notes, “You’re not allowed to dress boys in America, but Europeans do.” In the window is a fake-mink coat for girls ($355); it looks real. Two great discoveries: boys’ PJ’s by Arthur that look and feel just like Dad’s, complete with piping – except that they’re adorably decorated with penguins and polar bears; and Jean Bourget’s linen outfits, a white dress for girls ($54) and boys’ matching pants and shirt ($96) – sweet, subtle, and yet hip.
235 Mulberry Street; 646-613-1825.
This is the owners’ first retail store, but they’ve been designing and selling to maternity and baby stores for four years. The maternity clothes are all designed in-house (and there’s hardly anything maternal about them – they’re hip, colorful, and sexy), but about half of the children’s collection is by Molli. Try five-ply-cashmere stroller blankets ($550) and, for the matching chic mother and daughter, two-ply-cashmere tieback dresses for girls ($125) and Mom ($190). For spring, don’t miss the fantastic tennis-sweater dresses ($65) for girls and tennis-sweater vests for boys ($59), and, yes, there’s a matching dress for Mom.
870 Madison Avenue, near 71st Street; 212-628-0100.
These Dutch designs are unique and recognizable – bright, playful, patterned clothing meant to be mixed and matched. There’s a girl’s pink poncho raincoat with a bug motif ($43) and a matching umbrella on a strap ($44), and crazy-patterned tights ($40-$50) and socks ($16). The riot of colors and patterns make these truly “play” clothes.
265 Lafayette Street; 212-965-9201.
This store needed more space, so the owners built an extension across the street, at 240 Lafayette. Both shops are packed with clothes for newborns and toddlers up to size 18. We liked a pair of first booties by Bobux ($25-$35), red sequined girls’ shoes (think Dorothy – there’s no place like home; $50-$60), and sea-themed ottomans ($170). When it comes to colorful play clothes, whether cashmere or cotton, you’ll find it for your little one here.
ABC Carpet & Home
888 Broadway, near 19th Street; 212-473-3000.
On the third floor, there’s a baby boutique complete with cribs and Designers Guild bedding. But it’s the knits that pull you in. Here, you’ll find more beautiful, luxurious knits than you’d ever need for your little angel. Sweaters, blankets, mitts, and hats from makers like Flora and Henri, Malina, Le Guignol, and Fifi & Romeo (cashmere blankets, $360) are stacked throughout the store.
610 Sixth Avenue, at 18th Street; 212-645-0663.
This is warehouse shopping at its best. The inventory at Baby Gap’s discount sister store is well-made, inexpensive, and frequently updated. Blue-striped cotton receiving blankets are only $12.50, onesies $10, and the “Item of the Week” is always a steal.
Lord & Taylor
424 Fifth Avenue, at 38th Street; 212-391-3344.
Most people think of Grandma when they think of this store – and you do see a lot of them here – but on the seventh floor there’s a big kids’ selection. It’s traditional and a bit staid, but don’t be dissuaded, because besides the usual brands, it also has quality house labels. We liked a two-piece ensemble made up of a chenille jacket and velour pants ($36); a reversible hooded spring jacket, with a floral motif on the outside, plain denim on the inside ($26). For boys and girls, the 100 percent cotton sweaters ($38) look just like the ones Grandma used to knit.
111 Fifth Avenue, at 18th Street; 212-529-4477.
Troll the racks at Daffy’s and you’ll find brands like Little Me, Absorba, and a whole section devoted to Italian imports that includes boys’ linen suits by Zuchero Filati ($35.99). The girls’ department is sizable, and a great place to pick up trendy handbags and backpacks like the Trendz sparkle bag ($5.99). But it’s the shoe department that needs to be discovered, filled as it is with Italian-made Naturinos at great prices (leopard-print girl’s shoe, $21.99).