My name is Katherine and I am indefensibly in love with baby clothes.
I realized this recently, when a friend mentioned that all the baby clothes in her hospital bag for the new baby were from me, although the evidence has been around me for sometime.
I’m not really sure how this happened. I know you can make a baby warm and happy in a pack of white onesies, and yet I find myself going to way too much trouble to sift and thrift and wash and store all kinds of tiny sartorial confections.
They’re just so small! I mean, that appeal can’t be underestimated. TINY DENIM JACKET, I LOVE YOU.
But what’s more, they feel like a way, in those early, wretched weeks of pregnancy, those last, bone-weary weeks of pregnancy, to prepare for the unpreparable, for sheer mystery. Even once the baby is here, dark-haired or bald, colicky or easy, a cute wardrobe lets you imagine different paths for your baby as you peer into that unfathomable face.
Also, you can spend them down. There’s no strategy about only wearing that wool cardigan when you won’t get it dirty; with your favorite outfit for your kid you just get in as many wears as possible. This is the exact opposite of my approach to my own wardrobe, which I save up for special occasions. (Please tell me this is normal.) With my kids’ clothes, as a season comes to its end, I stuff them in that beloved button down, that lovely summertime dress, just as often as laundry cycles allow, difficult stains be damned. This season won’t come again, baby clothes remind me on the slowest, weariest of afternoons with a baby.
Perhaps most importantly, and I’ve talked about this before, they’re a concrete sign of others’ love for you and your love for your baby. Friends and even casual acquaintances form a long-reaching bridge with me, one formed by safari-print onesies and gossamer tutus. The outfit below is composed of tights my mom bought Scout new, shoes from my friend’s five-year-old twins, a dress from my godson’s two-year-old sister and a cardigan of unknown provenance.
I used to hold on to heaps of clothes as my kids outgrew them, probably from years of training in grad school scarcity. In the last year or so, though, as J has gained economic security for us and I’ve established a network of friends here in Virginia, it’s been such a joy to let those hoarded baby clothes go. I’ve been at this motherhood thing long enough to know that anything we need will come back to us, and anyway, and who’s to say I’ll ever have another truck-obsessed two-year-old, a baby in size six months at Halloween, another girl at all? In collecting and releasing so many bags and stacks and piles of baby clothes, my years of early motherhood are transformed, made sweet and fleeting and manageable, a single season spent with this baby in a dear red wool coat.