What do French kids wear these days? Although children’s fashion is always evolving, no matter the year, you’ll see les petits français in certain classic outfits. Striped Breton shirts, cashmere gilets (cardigans), wool coats, wellington boots, and, of course, the essential écharpe. (We’ll never understand why, but the French just know how to rock a scarf better than anyone else!) Ready to start building a chic, trendy, and traditional French kid’s wardrobe? Check out our must-have labels below!
By Sophia Millman
1. Petit Bateau: The French Brand Par Excellence
Petit Bateau is one of the oldest children’s brands in France. While Petit Bateau releases new clothes every season, there are certain staples that it’s been producing since the 1920s, including la marinière. (Yes, there’s a special name for the striped shirt all French people seem to wear!) The brand also makes classic yellow rain boots and many cirés–the most iconic is a yellow rain jacket with a white-and-blue-striped interior. If you like the look of these clothes, you’ll be happy to know that you can buy them for kids or yourself! The brand launched an adult clothing line in the early 2000s.
- Fun fact No.1: Petit Bateau’s name comes from the French nursery song “Maman les p’tits bateaux.”
- Fun fact No.2: Petit Bateau popularized the panties-style cotton underwear most people wear today. Read about the history of the culotte here!
- Over the years, Petit Bateau has created a variety of famous advertising campaigns, including their Marinette ads and their 1994 ad campaign that used Jacques Dutronc’s well-known song “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça.”
2. Jacadi: The Most Parisian of Brands
Created in 1976, the children’s fashion brand Jacadi Paris creates high-end clothes that have a traditional, yet modern look. This is a great place to shop for a flower girl dress or fancy shoes for children ages 0-12. You can buy classic essentials like their pleated collar blouse or iconic mary janes in their US store! Keep in mind that this brand is a bit pricey, so you should keep your eye out for their great sales.
- Fun French fact: The name of this brand derives from the popular children’s game “Jacques a dit,” the French equivalent of Simon Says!
3. Tartine et Chocolat: French Elegance at its Finest
Designer Catherine Painvin created this famous high-end brand in 1977. She has said that she was inspired by the elegant outfits the Kennedy children wore at their father’s funeral in 1963, and chose the name “tartine et chocolat” after her favorite childhood snack. Today, you can buy not only elegant, “retro-poetic” clothes (like this adorable salopette!), but also stuffed animals, bedroom furnishings, and strollers on the brand’s website or at melijoe. If you are looking for a perfume for babies, you should try Ptisenbon, the brand’s signature fragrance. It has subtle notes of honeysuckle, lily of the valley and jasmine and was launched in 1987 as a collaboration with Givenchy.
- The brand’s emblem, “Léon le Hérisson” (Léon the Hedgehog), is a plush toy that has been cuddled by millions of French children for over more than 40 years. He would make a perfect babyshower gift!
4. Cyrillus: For that Casual-Chic Look à la française
Cyrillus was created in 1977 by Danielle Telinge, who named her collection after her son Cyrille. While it was originally a children’s brand, it has now grown into an adult clothing and home furniture store as well. The brand is very eco-friendly, uses only natural materials, and respects its workers’ rights. Cyrillus makes adorable school uniforms and has a great lookbook. Liberty dresses, pleated skirts, tweed coats, gabardines, ribbed golf trousers… you can find all the classic French wardrobe staples with a zest of British style and 1970s colors. Unfortunately, there are few stores that carry this brand in the US, but you can order most of Cyrillus’s collection at melijoe.
5. Catimini: Colors Galore with a French Twist
Founded in 1972 by Monique and Paul Salmon, this brand’s goal has always been to make very cheerful children’s clothes. To remain innovative and original, in 1983 Catimini set up a research project made up of recent Beaux-Arts (France’s most prestigious art school) graduates. Catimini patterns are always playful, full of bright colours and mix-and-match iconic fabrics. Originality, escapism, generosity and expertise are the brand’s four key values. Check out their clothes (for kids ages 0-14) here!
6. Lili Gaufrette: Robes (Dresses) for All Occasions
Founded in 1998 by designer Catherine Wollner, Lili Gaufrette is a French clothing brand that makes dresses, jackets and accessories for girls ages 2 to 12, with meticulous finishing touches and natural materials. Blending simplicity, high-fashion and sophistication, the label offers a “preppy chic” look. You’ll find Eiffel Tower prints, houndstooth patterns, lurex swallows, gold bows, tweed shorts and pleated skirts. Overall, the brand captures the essence of that certain French je ne sais quoi. Check out Lili Gaufrette clothes here.
7. Sergent Major: High Quality French Clothes at Affordable Prices
Paul Zemmour created this label in 1987 in a nod to the classic fountain pen of the same name, used by generations of French schoolchildren. Sergent Major clothes are entirely designed and created in France and all patterns and prints are exclusive to the brand. Sergent Major combines style, comfort and safety all at an affordable price and ships all over the world. Check out the label’s website here.
8. Du pareil au même: Classic Prêt-à-porter
Created in 1986, Du pareil au même (also known as DPAM) sells clothing, shoes and accessories for children ages 0 to 14. DPAM is known for its amazing sales and is basically the French equivalent of the GAP. Check out the brand’s website here.
9. Pom d’Api: The Perfect Chaussures
An absolute classic, Pom d’Api has been making children’s shoes since 1870. What makes Pom d’Api shoes so successful is, above all, the quality of their craftsmanship. Starting at size 38 baby shoes, each Pom d’Api strappy sandal, bootie, or trainer is deftly crafted through over 200 different manufacturing phases. Patterning, cutting, moulding, stitching, and boxing make up just some of the iconic montage process. You can buy many of the brand’s adorable kids’ shoes here.
Other children’s brands we love:
- agnès b.: Sailor-stripe tops in every colour of the rainbow, snap-button cardis, and tons of indispensable kids’ basics. Very Parisian!
- Aigle: essential (and stylish!) raincoats and windbreakers as well as children’s rain boots. Yellow, vermilion, anise green, new pink… there’s a color that will delight every child!
- Bonpoint: Bonpoint maintains its chic reputation with unique outfits and expert tailoring. Check out the label for its sweet “Bonpoint Cherry” logo and famous Bonpoint Perfume.
- Carrément Beau: This label has a whimsical feel, in keeping with Parisian ultra-chic style.
- Wolf and Rita: Huge in the kids’ fashion world. Trendy and ethical fashion label that offers a wide array of must-have dresses, shirts, pants, and shorts.
- Zadig & Voltaire: Rock and roll cashmere sweaters for children, as well as jeans, dresses, jackets and nautical tops for girls and boys.
- Check out many more brands here, and, if you’re interested in buying clothes made exclusively in France, take a look at Marques de France and this site.
- Finally, if you’re ever in Paris and looking for places to shop for children’s clothes, stop by the Centre Commercial Kids. The clothes can be expensive, but the location and interior design alone are worth the trip!