When Summer Starts In February

During the course of our weekend errands, we thought it would be a good idea to pick up a couple more pairs of mittens for Lillian — the ones we had were okay, but it seemed like we were always misplacing them and ending up with mismatched pairs, and a few were starting to look worse for wear after being used all winter. So, we decided to grab some when we went into Babies R Us for a couple of things.

When we walked into the store, we were greeted by an interesting sight: rack after rack of sundresses and swimsuits. I joked about this a little as we were walking in — a bit early to have those out in February, wasn’t it? We went about our shopping, picking up the other supplies we needed, and then started looking for the mittens. Only, we couldn’t seem to find any.

The clothing selection in Babies R Us on February 17, 2013.

The clothing selection in Babies R Us on February 17, 2013.

After searching around the store for a bit, we finally decided to ask an employee about the mittens. But she apologized and informed us that they didn’t have any in stock. Because they were out of season.

For anyone who may be reading from a different region or hemisphere — here in Chicago, selling swimwear in February while claiming mittens are out of season seems to be getting it exactly backwards.¬†They’re forecasting the temperature to be in the twenties for most of this week, and last year, we were still wearing light jackets well into the latter half of April. If we can start dressing Lillian in sundresses and swimsuits three months from now, I’ll consider it a lucky thing.

I guess that’s just the silly way the clothing industry works, though, and the episode was a reminder of how badly out of sync the fashion calendar is with the one the rest of the world uses.

To any current or former parents of babies or toddlers, how far in advance do/did you typically shop for your child’s clothing for the summer? Our experience with Lillian has been to buy clothes about a day in advance of when we expert her to start wearing it, but maybe we’re in the minority with that.


  1. The clothing industry is not so much silly as complicated. Consider the history of that pair of mittens. There’s the yarn mills, the knitting mills, the wholesale buyers, the storage space for the finished mittens, delivery to merchants, and so on. Factor in the numbers of pairs of mittens sold across the US in a year’s time, the weak economy, and the vagaries of weather. Then consider marketing — people who are tired of winter are more inclined to impulse buying of a sundress in February than more mittens!

    Planning ahead does help. Sometimes stores have pre-season sales, and of course post-season sales. I remember getting our winter coats a size too large on sale in March, to wear the next winter! My Mom worried about this, thinking it like tempting fate, but my Dad, ever practical, was enthusiastic!

    One solution to the mitten problem would be to get some fleece at JoAnn’s, and cut and sew several pairs! Very easy!

    Love you, and stay warm!

    • Thanks for the comment, and that’s a good point about the complexity of the clothing industry and the impulses that make people buy things! I just have to wonder at how those same factors might apply to other seasonal products that don’t seem to be quite this far out of sync with the calendar — it’d be pretty weird to go shopping for Halloween stuff in mid-September and find nothing but Christmas decorations (although, since they do seem to be putting out the holiday stuff earlier and earlier each year, that may well be the case before long — I probably shouldn’t jinx it!)

      In any case, I think the mittens we have will do fine, we’ll just have to be extra careful not to lose any more of them — and next year I think we’ll definitely plan ahead to stock up on these little things instead of expecting to be able to easily replace them mid-season. Thanks for reading and lots of love to everyone down there in Florida! :)

  2. It’s also a sign of the times, and national chain stores vs. local or at least regional. The buyer for that store probably stocks for the entire state, or even several – and sometimes those “regions” are based on dollars spent, nothing to do with weather or culture. At Lillian’s age, it IS frustrating that stores do this, as buying ahead can result in wrong sized clothing when she needs it. So mom is right, learn to sew your own, or get the really stretchy stuff if you are buying ahead of time.

    • We actually wondered about the regional thing, and whether maybe Babies R Us was headquartered in some tropical place based on the selection ;) But yeah, I think the age is really the big thing, since a season can make a big and not necessarily predictable difference when you’re dealing with a baby or toddler. I guess it’s good motivation to get better at sewing — thanks for the comment!

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