Where to Find Vintage Children’s Clothing: Your Ultimate Guide

Vintage children’s clothing offers a charming glimpse into the past, where each garment tells a story and exudes timeless style. Parents and collectors alike seek out these unique pieces for their quality, history, and the nostalgic aesthetic they provide.

From classic smocked dresses to hand-crocheted items, vintage clothing for children can be a beautiful and distinctive choice for special occasions, family portraits, or everyday wear.

A quaint shop filled with racks of colorful vintage children's clothing, displayed neatly on hangers and shelves, with soft lighting adding a warm and inviting atmosphere

When choosing an outfit for a child, one may consider the event, comfort, and authenticity of the period style. It’s essential to think about the practicality of vintage clothing as well, ensuring that the child can move freely and feel at ease. The perfect outfit not only looks good but also feels comfortable for the young wearer, allowing their personality to shine through.

Seekers of children’s vintage clothing can explore various avenues to find the right pieces. Online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy often have a wide range of options spanning different eras, whether looking for a 1950s poodle skirt or a 1960s mod dress.

Specialty boutiques like Feltman Brothers continue to produce classic designs reminiscent of vintage styles, and niche retailers like Ballyhoo Vintage offer curated selections, providing a plethora of choices for those on the hunt for that special garment.

Historical Significance of Vintage Clothing

A rack of vintage children's clothing displayed in a historic setting, with signage highlighting the historical significance of the garments

Vintage children’s clothing not only reflects the styles and social mores of bygone eras but also charts the evolution of childhood itself through fabric and design.

Selecting the Perfect Vintage Outfit


When choosing vintage clothing for children, one must consider both style and practicality, aiming to capture the essence of the era with authentic pieces that also satisfy current comfort standards.

Key Vintage Clothing Pieces

For girls, a classic gown from the desired decade can serve as the centerpiece of the outfit. Starting with the 1920s, one might find drop-waist dresses, while pinafore styles become more common for the 1940s and 1950s. Boys’ outfits can be centered around sweater vests or a period-appropriate jacket, with styles varying greatly across decades.


  • 1920s-1950s: Gowns (appropriate to the era)
  • 1940s-1950s: Pinafore dresses


  • Sweater Vests
  • Period-specific Jackets (from 1920s tweed to 1950s bomber styles)

For footwear, oxfords, mary janes, and saddle shoes are timeless options that can complement most outfits. For example, saddle shoes capture the quintessential 1950s look, while mary janes are suitable for a broader range of decades, depending on their design.

A child browses through racks of colorful vintage clothes in a cozy, well-lit boutique filled with retro charm


  • Oxfords: Suited for boys, versatile
  • Mary Janes: Classic for girls, decade-spanning
  • Saddle Shoes: Iconic 1950s style, unisex option

Completing the Ensemble with Accessories

Accessories like baby bonnets and booties are essential for infants, completing a classic layette set that transports one back in time while providing today’s standards of comfort for the littlest wearers.


  • Layette: Selection of coordinating vintage clothing
  • Baby Bonnets: Essential for an authentic look
  • Booties: Soft and complementary to the layette

For girls, accessorizing with a matching bonnet can enhance the charm of a vintage dress, while boys’ looks are often completed with era-specific hats or caps. These details are the finishing touches that fully bring a vintage children’s outfit together.

Occasions and Themes

A vintage clothing store with racks of children's clothing from different eras. A sign reads "Occasions and Themes" with a variety of styles and patterns

When sourcing vintage children’s clothing, certain occasions and themes stand out for their popularity and demand for authentic attire. Specific events often inspire the search for period-specific pieces that capture the essence of the time.

Seasonal and Holiday Attire

Christmas and Easter are two holidays where vintage children’s clothing can add a nostalgic touch to family celebrations. For Christmas, parents often seek out traditional velvet dresses or classic suits with suspenders for boys. Easter calls for pastel colors and light fabrics, with vintage girls’ dresses often featuring smocking or lace detailing to reflect the freshness of spring.

  • Christmas:
    • Girls: Red or green velvet dresses, white tights, black patent shoes
    • Boys: Suits with suspenders, white shirts, bow ties
  • Easter:
    • Girls: Pastel-colored dresses with smocking, lace, or floral prints
    • Boys: Light-colored suits, seersucker blazers, straw hats

Special Events and Milestones

Events such as weddings and christenings are milestone ceremonies where vintage clothing is cherished for its traditional elegance.

A wedding may see a young flower girl adorned in a 1950s pinafore dress or a ring bearer in a classic suit, capturing the timeless nature of the celebration. For christenings, the vintage christening gown is a centerpiece, often an heirloom passed down through generations, with intricate embroidery and made from fine fabrics like silk or cotton batiste.

  • Weddings:
    • Flower Girls: Vintage pinafore dresses, white Mary Janes, floral headpieces
    • Ring Bearers: Knickerbocker suits, pageboy caps, bow ties
  • Christenings:
    • Babies: Heirloom christening gowns, usually white with delicate embellishments, matching bonnets

Sourcing and Authenticating Vintage Wear

A vintage clothing store with racks of children's wear, a sign reading "authentic vintage," and a seller inspecting a garment for authenticity

When seeking vintage children’s clothing, it is crucial to identify reputable sources and ascertain the authenticity and quality of the garments to ensure that one is purchasing genuine vintage pieces.

Where to Find Vintage Children’s Clothing

Etsy and eBay are primary online platforms where one can find a wide array of vintage children’s clothing. These marketplaces host a variety of sellers specializing in garments from different eras.

Specific stores known for their extensive collections include Feltman Brothers, known for their meticulously crafted vintage-style children’s clothing, and Carriage Boutique, offering a selection of classic children’s wear.

For those looking for mid-century and retro styles, shops like Petit Ami provide a range that encompasses styles from previous decades.

In addition to these online markets, physical thrift stores and vintage boutiques should not be overlooked, as they can be treasure troves for one-of-a-kind items. While modern retailers like Boden and Mini Boden offer vintage-inspired clothing, their items are not authentically vintage but do mimic the style.

Larger retailers such as Nordstrom and Zulily may carry lines like Hannah Anderson, which occasionally includes vintage-inspired pieces, though again, these are new garments styled to appear vintage.

Verifying Authenticity and Quality

To verify the authenticity of vintage children’s clothing, one should:

  • Examine labels for dates or period-specific designs and logos.
  • Check the construction techniques and fabrics, as older pieces have unique stitching and materials not commonly used in modern manufacturing.
  • Research the brand’s history for design changes over the years; authentic vintage will align with the era-specific details.

Quality is equally important when assessing vintage children’s clothing. Look for:

  • Durability: Vintage clothing should have stood the test of time. Sturdy seams and dense fabrics are good indicators of well-made pieces.
  • Condition: Items should be free from significant damage. However, some wear might be acceptable depending on the garment’s age.
  • Cleanliness: Ensure the garment is clean or can be cleaned, as the integrity of older fabrics can be compromised by stains and odors.

By carefully selecting sources and thoroughly checking authenticity and quality, one can curate a collection of vintage children’s clothing that is both timeless and charming.

Caring for Vintage Children’s Clothing

Vintage children's clothing neatly organized on shelves in a quaint boutique. A soft light illuminates the delicate fabrics and intricate details

When handling vintage children’s clothing, individuals should consider the unique needs of these pieces, especially when dealing with delicate items like those with embroidery, a diaper cover, or a slip. Proper care maximizes garment life and retains its timeless appeal.

Preservation Techniques

Storage: One should store vintage clothing in a cool, dark, and dry place to prevent fading and fiber degradation. Acid-free tissue paper can be used to stuff garments to help maintain their shape.

  • Hangers: Use padded hangers for items like dresses and slips to avoid stretching.
  • Containers: Opt for breathable storage such as cotton garment bags or acid-free boxes for items like embroidered dresses and delicate diaper covers.

Cleaning: It is crucial to follow specific cleaning methods suitable for vintage fabrics. Dry cleaning is often recommended for intricate pieces; however, one can also hand wash some items using a gentle, pH-neutral detergent.

  • Dry Cleaning: Ideal for fragile items with embroidery or complex construction.
  • Hand Washing: Suitable for less delicate items; one should use lukewarm water and press out water gently rather than wringing.

Climate Control: Keep the environment consistent in temperature and humidity to prevent fabric stress and deterioration.

Repair and Restoration

Assessment: First, examine the garment carefully to determine the type, extent of wear or damage, and the appropriate restoration method.

Materials: Use period-appropriate materials for repair where possible to maintain the garment’s integrity. For instance, if restoring a vintage diaper cover with lace detailing, one should try to find a lace of a similar pattern and age.

  • Thread: Opt for a color-matched thread of a similar weight and composition to the original.
  • Fabric: For patches or reinforcements, source vintage fabric that matches or closely resembles the original material.

Professional Help: For extensive restorations or particularly valuable items, consult a professional who specializes in vintage clothing restoration to ensure that repairs are made with care and precision. This is especially crucial for garments with intricate embroidery or those requiring structural repair.

Modern Vintage: Blending Old with New

A vintage clothing store with racks of children's clothing from different eras. Mannequins model outfits, while modern décor complements the nostalgic ambiance

In the quest for unique and charming children’s outfits, combining vintage styles with contemporary fashion creates timelessly appealing looks. Key players in this niche are brands that offer new arrivals with vintage-inspired designs and the careful selection of authentic vintage pieces that complement today’s style.

Contemporary Brands with a Vintage Twist

Several brands have successfully bridged the gap between past and present by offering new collections reminiscent of bygone eras with a contemporary edge.

Boden and its children’s line, Mini Boden, are quintessential examples where new arrivals often feature floral patterns and classic cuts updated for today’s young wearers. Their seasonal collections frequently showcase a vintage aesthetic through modern lens, making them accessible and appealing for parents and children alike.

  • Amazon: The global marketplace frequently stocks a variety of brands that cater to modern vintage tastes.
  • Floral Designs: Bold and colorful floral prints often feature in these modern-vintage collections, capturing the essence of past decades.
  • Shoes: Classic styles like Mary Janes and saddle shoes from various brands can be found on Amazon, blending traditional design with modern comfort.

Incorporating Vintage Pieces into Todays Style

Parents interested in authentic vintage pieces can look to curated second-hand stores or explore online platforms dedicated to vintage children’s clothing. When integrating vintage shirts, dresses, or accessories, consider pairing them with clean and simple modern garments to allow the vintage item to stand as a statement piece.

For instance, a 1950s ruffled blouse could be coupled with plain contemporary trousers or skirts for a balanced outfit.

  • Shoes: Vintage shoes can be a distinctive addition to a child’s wardrobe, but ensure they meet modern standards for comfort and fit.
  • Floral Patterns: Dresses and tops adorned with timeless floral patterns are a hallmark of vintage design and can be mixed and matched with today’s styles for a fresh look.

Size and Fit Guide for Children’s Vintage Clothing

A vintage clothing store with a sign reading "Size and Fit Guide for Children's Vintage Clothing" and racks of colorful, retro garments

When shopping for vintage children’s clothing, understanding the sizing and making necessary alterations are essential for finding pieces that fit well and look great on your child.

Understanding Vintage Sizing

Vintage clothing sizes for children are notably different from modern sizes. They tend to run smaller and can vary widely between decades and brands. Particularly, sizes for newborns and toddlers might not be labeled in the familiar ‘months’ or ‘T’ system seen today.

For example, a toddler dress from the 1950s may be labeled a size 2 but might fit more like a modern 18-month size. Additionally, garments like bloomers and baby dresses did not adhere to a universal sizing chart, making it crucial to compare actual measurements rather than relying solely on size labels.

Measurements and Alterations

To ensure a proper fit, shoppers should measure the child’s chest, waist, and height, and compare these dimensions to the garment’s measurements. Here’s a basic table for measuring:

Measurement Method
Chest Measure under the child’s arms at the fullest part of the chest.
Waist Measure around the natural waistline.
Height Measure from the top of the head to the ground without shoes.

Once correct measurements are understood, alterations may be necessary to get a custom fit. Many vintage pieces can be adjusted by a tailor who understands how to work with older fabrics and construction techniques, preserving the integrity of the vintage piece. When shopping by decade, note that a 1940s baby dress might be more structured and less stretchy than one from the 1970s, which can affect both the fit for your child and the approach to any needed alterations.

Stephanie Creek