Let's face it, babies can't dress themselves, and if they care what they're wearing, they're not saying. Baby dresses are for the parents, grandparents, and everyone else who loves Baby. They're a way for family members to express themselves -- their tastes, their hopes for the child, and the impression they hope to give. Baby dresses are a statement.
But when it comes to making that statement, you have to keep a few things in mind. It's not enough for an outfit to be cute -- in your opinion. What you find irresistible might mortally offend a new parent's sleep-deprived sensibilities. Truth be told, a lot of parents care a lot less about making a statement than they do about whether an outfit is practical, comfortable, safe, and, most importantly, washable. And when you're talking toddlers, you're going to have to consider the child's tastes as well. And toddlers' tastes can be...different.
- Set includes organic dresses
- Set includes dress, cardigan and shoes
- Set includes organic dress and cardigan
If you're looking at baby dresses for the baby in your life, it's not enough to think about the statement you want the dress to make. There are a lot of other things to consider as well.
What Do You Mean by Baby Dresses?
It sounds like it should be obvious -- they're dresses for babies. But friends and family members who don't spend a lot of time around children might not know what sorts of clothes are appropriate for which age groups. When I was working in retail, for example, I once sold a pair of $100 toddler Nikes to a well-meaning friend of the family who didn't know that most six-month-old children don't walk yet. And I can't count the number of breathtakingly expensive princess dresses my daughter received when she was going through her tree-climbing and mud-sculpture phase. And as for infants, any seasoned parent can tell you that their main concerns regarding clothing are how easy it is to put on and take off and whether you can chuck it in the washer in case of a toxic waste leak.
You also need to consider the age of the child. Infants (ages zero to six months) can lie there and look pretty. But older babies, say six to twelve months, may be crawling and walking. And kids between one and three are getting into everything and getting filthy. Before you start shopping, you need to know how old the child is.
Who Are You Calling Baby?
What's a baby, and which baby dresses will make you a star with the parents?
Infant: zero to six months
You might think this age is easy. Most babies under six months aren't crawling yet. The youngest ones don't even turn over by themselves. But they also depend on their parents for everything. So consider the parents' convenience when you're looking at baby dresses for this age. Specifically, does the dress come on and off easily? Is it machine washable? Does it have any scratchy lace or ribbon that might bother sensitive skin? Remember, tiny babies can't adjust their clothing if it's uncomfortable. And they can't tell their parents what the problem is. You should also be careful about buttons or other decorations that a baby could accidentally pull off and swallow.
Ages six to twelve months
Many babies this age have begun to crawl. Some have even begun to walk. Some, like my daughter, run their parents ragged by the time they're a year old. Baby dresses for this age group shouldn't get in the way. If the dress is to be worn for any length of time, make sure it won't get caught under a crawler's knees, or trip up a new walker. Also, keep in mind that crawlers and new walkers spend a lot of time on the floor, so parents will appreciate something that doesn't show the dirt.
Toddlers are children who are learning to walk. Or perhaps they've mastered walking and are learning to run. Toddlers get into everything. They run, climb, and get dirty. And they definitely have their own ideas about what they like to wear. If you're buying baby dresses for kids between the ages of one-and-a-half and three, you're going to have to consider their tastes as well as your own. Talk to them. Notice how they dress themselves. Make sure you buy something that will allow them to engage in their favorite activities. This way, you can give your gift a fighting chance at becoming a favorite, rather than something that sits at the back of the closet.
Baby Dress: FAQs
No matter what the age of the child you're buying for, there are a few things to keep in mind.
What's it made of?
This is probably the most important question. The fabric baby dresses feature determine those dresses' washability, durability, and comfort. Here are a few common materials baby dresses typically use.
This is "t-shirt" material, and it's typically a mix of cotton and a synthetic fiber like polyester. The synthetic fibers give it stretch and keep the fabric from shrinking during machine washing. This fabric is a good choice for baby dresses as it's comfortable, machine washable, and inexpensive. You can also find it in a number of cute colors and patterns.
Velvet is a soft, luxurious fabric often used in fancy dresses. Velour is a velvety fabric that often has a bit of stretch. In the past, velvet was an expensive fabric that required dry-cleaning and gentle treatment. Many modern velvets, however, are made from synthetic fibers. This means that they're not only less expensive but are also often machine washable. When in doubt, though, always check the care instructions.
Cotton broadcloth is a woven cotton that may or may not contain synthetic fibers. Quilter's cotton is an example of broadcloth. The synthetic fibers help the fabric to keep its shape and keep the fabric from wrinkling. It's generally machine washable and comes in a variety of fun prints.
Rayon, the first artificial fiber, dates from the 19th century. It's known for its softness and stretch. It's also machine-washable. Originally, rayon was a substitute for silk. Rayon is generally thin and supple.
Linen is a woven fabric made from flax fibers. It's durable, cool in hot weather, and it holds its shape well. On the other hand, it can be expensive and wrinkles easily. Some linen is not machine washable, so make sure to check the care instructions of any garment you plan to buy.
If you're looking for princess-style baby dresses, you're looking at satin. This soft, shiny fabric makes any garment look elegant. But be careful. It's not machine-washable, and, depending on the quality, this material can be expensive.
Can you take it on and off easily?
For most baby dresses, the answer is yes. However, some clothing, especially when made to mimic adult clothing, can be an unexpected nightmare for parents. First, young babies (under three to four months) don't have a lot of muscle tone. This means that parents will have to manipulate their head, arms, and legs into garments. On the contrary, older babies may put up quite a fight! Look for large holes for the arms and head, preferably with some means of making the holes larger, such as a button, elastic, or stretchy fabric. Also, for very small babies, avoid masses of fabric that may trap tiny limbs.
Is it washable?
Accidents and diaper leaks happen at the most inopportune times. And they can be messy. For this reason, baby dresses should not only allow for a quick change, but they should be machine washable. Buying a washable dress will give your present the best chance of being used, rather than left in the closet.
Does it fit the child's needs right now?
Different ages mean different stages. If you're buying a dress for an infant, it's important that the dress be comfortable, washable, and not too voluminous. Crawlers and beginning walkers need baby dresses that won't trip or trap them. And toddlers will appreciate a dress that will allow them to run, walk, and climb freely.
What are the parents' -- and the child's -- tastes?
Everyone seemed determined to put my daughter in sequins, frills, bows, and lace. But she hated it all. And so the fluffy stuff would go straight to the back of the closet and stay there. If you're buying for a toddler or older child, try to think about who they are, what they like to do, and what they like to wear. Then you'll find that your gift will get a lot of use.
Likewise, if you're buying for a younger child, consider the parents' tastes carefully. A saying that you find clever might offend. Most parents also have definite preferences as far as colors and designs. And political statements are better left to grownups.
How We Reviewed
We looked at a number of baby dresses from a variety of sources, from mass-produced to handmade. We considered materials, design, and age-appropriateness. And from our favorites, we chose a shortlist of those with the highest customer ratings.
How much do baby dresses cost? You'd be surprised! But because we know how quickly babies grow, and that most parents aren't made of money, we stuck with baby dresses that cost less than $50.
Our Favorite Baby Dresses
Here's a short list of our favorite baby dresses, in no particular order.
Handmade baby dresses
Etsy is a fantastic place to find handmade gifts for all tastes. Unsurprisingly, it's an excellent place to find baby clothing as well. Be careful, though, many of these dresses are made to order, so they may take a little longer to arrive.
Lincoln & Grace Deer Baby Dress
This adorable dress ticks all the right boxes. First, it's made of soft, comfortable cotton jersey fabric. This means it's light and machine washable. With three-quarter sleeves, it's a good choice for spring or summer. The woodland print will also please parents looking for a break from pink and purple. This dress comes in seven different sizes, to fit babies aged zero to two.
Doxie Print Dress by Studio Little Miss
This sweet dress comes in a large size range, from newborn to seven years. It, too, is made from comfortable, washable cotton jersey. And what a cute print! Little dachshunds carrying valentines. One downside is that the fabric's background color is white, so it will show dirt. However, the design is easy-on, easy-off. And over 600 Etsy buyers gave this seller five stars out of five.
Champagne Pink Bows dress by Think Pink Bows
If you're looking for something for a party, you might consider this handmade lace dress. Not only is it adorable, but its large neck and strap-sleeves make it easy to take on and off. This is definitely a dress for special occasions, though. And, with all the lace, there's some potential for scratchiness. Still, this dressmaker has over 48,000 satisfied customers, so it's definitely worth a look.
Velvet Holiday Dress by Lovely Littles Baby Co.
This gorgeous, simply designed velvet baby dress comes in two colors: burgundy and ink. We really like the easy-on easy-off design, as well as the fact that it's machine washable. It's available in a wide range of sizes, from zero months to two years. And you can't beat the price, depending on size.
Department store baby dresses
If you just want to nip down to the store and buy a dress, you're in luck. Retailers like Target and Walmart have plenty of choices to fit your tastes as well as your budget. Here are a few of our favorites.
Cat and Jack Fair Isle Sweater Dress
This soft, cuddly winter dress from Target will keep your baby warm in style. It's made from comfy, machine-washable cotton-polyester knit. It has a simple, long-sleeved design that won't give parents any trouble. It comes in sizes ranging from newborn to 18 months. It's a winter winner.
Luvable Friends two-piece dress set
This dress plus cardigan set from Walmart is an excellent choice for spring, summer, and fall. Constructed from sturdy, comfortable, machine washable fabric, it comes sized for children aged zero to one year, in your choice of a pink or yellow motif.
Our Favorite Baby Dress
Our favorite baby dress has to be the Velvet Holiday Dress from Lovely Littles. Its simple design combined with sumptuous -- yet machine washable -- velvet make it a winner for parties as well as for every day. It's pretty, but not cloying. It's available in a wide size range, and, at less than twenty dollars, the price is right.
Do you have a favorite baby dress that didn't make this list? Tell us about it in the comments!