The Best Sustainable Kids' Clothing of 2021

We found cute, comfortable, and sustainable clothes for children.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Kids’ clothing really is different from adults’—for one thing, kids are much tougher on their clothes. So clothing for children needs to be extra-durable, not only to stand up to skidding into second-base at lunchtime kickball games, but also needs to be made from materials from which dirt and food can be washed out easily. They (hopefully) spend plenty of time outside and need outerwear that will keep the rain off and the heat conserved next to their body when it’s cold. 

At the same time, you may want to avoid clothes made with environmentally concerning chemicals. “Many mainstream brands have been shown to have hazardous chemicals in their clothing that can be absorbed through our skin," says Nadine Maffre, the editor of Zero Waste Memoirs. "Some of these chemicals have been proven to be hormone disruptors, are carcinogenic, or are damaging to your nervous system.” To top it all off, kids outgrow their clothing quickly, rendering investment pieces tricky. 

With all this in mind, designers who make kids’ clothing—and do it sustainably—often put a tremendous amount of thought and care into their products. Of course they want to make it cute and comfortable, so kids will pick it out of the drawer first, but they also want to ensure that it will last through normal wear-and-tear as well as staying in good-enough shape to pass it down to other children to use.

Ahead, you'll find our recommendations for the best sustainable kids clothing.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
ThredUp at Thredup.com
Buying previously worn clothing from sustainable brands is possible with this large retailer of pre-loved garments.
Best for Organic Cotton:
Pact Apparel at Wearpact.com
PACT makes their clothing at a Fair-Trade and GOTS-certified factory in India and their pesticide-free cotton uses less water.
Best for Maximalist Kids:
Ace & Jig at Aceandjig.com
The two women behind Ace & Jig bring the same festive, colorful, pattern-rich textiles to their kids’ line.
A member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the designer brings her signature flair and ethical stance to her children’s line.
Best Made in the USA:
Mini MATE at Matethelabel.com
All of the knitting, cutting, and sewing for the collection is done in Los Angeles.
Best Swimwear:
Reima at Reima.com
Reima makes a variety of swimsuits for babies, toddlers, and kids up to age 14.
Best for Hand-Me-Downs:
Hanna Andersson at Hannaandersson.com
Not only are these clothes designed to be worn by multiple kids, they even provide special name tags to promote the idea.
This PETA-approved German brand offers fashion-forward, vegan clothing for babies and kids.
Best Gender Neutral:
Finn + Emma at Finnandemma.com
This brand offers a Gender Neutral section for those who aren’t looking for clothes that scream pretty princess or tough guy.
Best for Winter Gear:
Patagonia Kids at Patagonia.com
This Treehugger favorite even has sizing for babies, so the littlest ones in your life can still hit the trail in the winter.

Best Overall: ThredUp

ThredUp Logo

Reuse of good-quality clothing is always going to be more sustainable than buying new. For those who don’t live near a good thrift store and have already looked through the neighborhood or parent group, the next best place to find those items is on a large platform that allows you all the convenience of online shopping (like searching by a specific brand, age of child, price, or type of item) combined with reuse.

ThredUp is our top pick for easy second-hand shopping online, and also allows you to sell any clothes your child has outgrown. You can also find new clothing on the platform, from sustainably-minded brands like Hanna Anderson.

Best for Organic Cotton: Pact Apparel

Pact Footie Sleeper

This organic-cotton basics brand has a great kids’ collection, which includes underwear and socks in a variety of colors as well as cargo pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, leggings, pajamas, and hoodies.

PACT makes its clothing at a Fair-Trade and GOTS-certified factory in India and its pesticide-free cotton uses less water, and creates little to no water pollution.

Best for Maximalist Kids: Ace & Jig

Kids pieced balloon pant

The two women behind Ace & Jig make clothing for adults too, and they bring the same festive, colorful, pattern-rich textiles to their kids’ line. The brand’s custom-made textiles are woven in India, where employees get fair wages, paid time off, and childcare.

The company uses AZO-free dyes, and is dedicated to minimizing waste, using sewing-room floor materials in all kinds of projects, including creating clothing, masks and scrunchies made from smaller offcuts, to entire initiatives like quilts and throws that use them as patchwork pieces. Ace & Jig works with Project Thrive which employs at-risk women for special projects, and donates to a host of environmental and human-rights organizations each year. 

Best Designer: Stella Mccartney Kids

Stella Mccartney Kids

A member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the designer brings her signature flair and ethical stance to her children’s line, which is filled with graphic, but still appealing-to-kids pieces. Many items are made from organic cotton and tencel, while coats and pants are made from a recycled polyester that’s fully windproof and waterproof (via a fluorocarbon-free coating).

The company has a strategy to reduce waste across the whole supply chain, and has signed a code that defines a living wage for those who work for the company.

Best Made in the USA: Mini MATE

Mini MATE

Mate is founded by women, and also mostly employs women. All of the knitting, cutting, and sewing for the collection is done in Los Angeles. The low-impact-dyed collection of basics all comes in GOTS-certified organic cotton. Made with supersoft materials, the Mini MATE collection includes sweatshirts, sweatpants, tees, and boxy baby tees.

Best Swimwear: Reima

Unisex SunProof One-Piece Swimsuit with UPF 50+ Protection

Reima makes a variety of swimsuits for babies, toddlers, and kids up to age 14. Each age category has a few different coverage choices, most made with SPF 50+ fabrics, with plenty of unisex styles. The fabric used in many of the styles is made with recycled water bottles, and the design, materials, and craftsmanship are all focused on durability. All the factories Reima works with are subject to third-party compliance for human rights. 

Best for Hand-Me-Downs: Hanna Andersson

Hanna Andersson Romper

Hanna Andersson touts that sustainability has been part of the brand’s identity since its founding in 1983. It has long used organic cotton, and not only are clothes designed to be worn by multiple kids, the company even provides name tags with several lines to promote and normalize the idea of hand-me-downs.

The brand has the highest level of Oeko-Tex standards and is also GOTS-certified. As of this year, all outerwear including fleece and ripstop, is made from recycled materials.

Best Splurge: Infantium Victoria

Infantium Victoria T-Shirt

This PETA-approved German brand offers fashion-forward, vegan clothing for babies and kids. Each item has information about what fabric it’s made from (there’s a lot of GOTS certified cotton, but also a vegan wool too), as well as where accessories like buttons come from too.

As part of the brand’s transparency commitment, the company also discloses where materials were grown and woven, as well as sewn and sold. There are also details about how much time each piece takes to make, in terms of paid work, and in which countries that work is done. The brand even has its own Preloved section for used items.

Best Gender Neutral: Finn + Emma

Finn + Emma Graphic Bodysuit

This brand offers a whole Gender Neutral section for those who aren’t looking for baby or toddler clothes that scream pretty princess or tough guy. Prices are reasonable for the GOTS certified 100% cotton pieces in fun colors and prints via eco-friendly dyes. Even snaps are lead and nickel free, and all items are “heirloom quality” and meant to be passed down.

Finn & Emma also carries fun, ethical accessories like a macrame swing, and stroller toys made from wood. 

Best for Winter Gear: Patagonia Kids

Patagonia Kids

You'll find Patagonia on a number of Treehugger's lists of recommended products thanks to the gear company's efforts to manufacture sustainably and make clothing that lasts.

Patagonia's gear for kids is no different, with durable designs often made with recycled materials and fewer "forever chemicals" that are often used to make outdoor waterproof. Some of jackets are insulated with recycled down, which isn't vegan, but does divert down feathers from ended up in landfill. Many of the garments are sewed in Fair Trade certified facilities. The company has sizing for babies and toddlers, so the littlest ones in your life can still hit the trail in the winter.

Final Verdict

We think the most sustainable option for kid's clothing is shop second hand, either locally or via an online retailer like thredUp. However, if you're looking to sock up on organic basics like socks and underwear, check out PACT Apparel's kids line (view on WearPact.com).

What to Look for in Sustainable Kids' Clothing

As Nadine Maffre says, there are many factors involved when it comes to classifying clothing as 'sustainable.' “We need to look at where the fabrics are coming from, how they're grown/made, where the clothes are constructed (and who is making them), transportation, how they're packaged, and of course, how well they're made,” Maffre says. Yes, this is a lot of things to consider and can seem overwhelming at first, but there are some short-cuts.

Certifications

There are some labels you can look for: When it comes to textiles, Fair Trade Certified; GOTS-, Organic, Cradle to Cradle, or Oeko-Tek certified; organic cottons, and wools; and recycled materials. Keep labor standards in mind too—kids in another country with poor labor laws and enforcement shouldn’t be making your childs’ clothing. “If clothing is very cheap, it's normally because someone is working for very little—often a long way from where you call home,” says Maffre. 

Quality

“Focus on buying quality locally made clothing that's created out of organic fibers—do this and you'll be well on your way to supporting sustainable clothing brands,” Maffre advises. Because children will outgrow clothing so quickly and budget is a concern for most parents, consider “quality over quantity.”

It’s easy to buy a five-pack of t-shirts, but does your child need five new shirts? What if you spent the same amount on two better-quality shirts or got t-shirts second-hand and put the money towards a good-quality jacket (that could be passed along and worn by others) instead? 

If you aren’t getting hand-me-downs from friends, checking out the kids’ clothes at a local thrift store or online group, and you do buy new clothing, avoid synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic and nylon. “While these fabrics are cheaper to produce, they're polluting our environment at an alarming rate, they use up non-renewable resources, and they're not biodegradable at end-of-life,” says Maffre. 

Of course, kids might not understand why they are not getting a haul of new clothes, especially if they see that behavior online or from friends. But a few more memorable and fun pieces will be more satisfying in the long run. “One of the main reasons we all need to have more of a focus on sustainability is to look after the planet that our kids are going to grow up in," Maffre points out. "That's a pretty motivating factor in itself!”

Why Trust Treehugger?

To create this list Treehugger tapped the expertise of sustainability writer Nadine Maffre about what to look for in sustainable clothes for kids. We then researched the manufacturing practices, ethics policies, and materials used by many kids' clothing brands to make a list of top recommendations.

This article is by Starre Vartan, who covers science and the environment. She is also the author of "The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green."

View Article Sources