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Cut from the Same Cloth

Inspired by the adult market, apparel for children, teens and tweens focuses on vintage styles, quality fabrics and earthy colors.

By Hilary Daninhirsch, Contributing Writer

July 23, 2019

They may be small, but children and teens/tweens have a big voice in the apparel industry and are influential when it comes to driving trends. However, the past several years have seen a shift, as fashion for children and teens has mirrored adult fashion trends — something that’s expected to continue this year.

“Inspired” is a word Jennifer Oleksik, design and merchandising manager, LAT Apparel, uses to describe children’s and teen/tween apparel for 2019.

“It is pulling so much inspiration from the adult categories and adding a playful spin, whether it’s through modified details or color stories. There has always been a niche in childrenswear and teen/tween fashion for the ‘matching’ pieces, but as trends evolve, apparel for younger customers is borrowing from the adult trends at retail. The idea of matching isn’t so prevalent anymore and it has evolved to more of a coordinated look.”

Kevin Miles, senior manager of sales operations, Alternative Apparel, says customer feedback indicated that companion pieces to the company’s best-selling styles were in demand.

Another industry buzzword for childrenswear and teen/tween apparel — extending to colors and fabrics — is “vintage,’ says Marcia Cumberledge, vice president of merchandising, TSC Apparel. Miles agreed, noting the across-the-board popularity of vintage and retro options, with kids emulating their parents by wearing such styles as baseball tees and joggers.

Still, kids are trendsetters in their own collective right. “While we see styles inspired from adult fashion, the kids’ trends are emerging with [their] own unique patterns and defining their fashion,” said Amit Gupta, CEO, Monag Apparel.

Kids are smart, savvy shoppers and want to make a difference; such is reflected in their interest in eco-friendly apparel, Miles says. In fact, he thinks the emphasis on sustainably made apparel should continue to grow as a key factor in this demographic’s purchasing decisions.

The ‘A’ Word
The athleisure subcategory is illustrative of how adult fashion plays a primary part in shaping children’s and tween/teen’s apparel. For example, Oleksik says racerbacks, longer-length bodies to be worn with leggings and design details that offer a better fit all are inspired by the athleisure trend.

“It’s important to look at how retail is addressing this trend and make sure we are following suit where we can,” she says. “Athleisure has become so popular because of the versatility of the garments, which is a great feature for any wholesale apparel to have as well.”

Gupta agrees, saying athletic styles, such as raglan shirts, will continue to gain traction because the combination of popular sports styles and classic fashion has created a fusion that is comfortable and stylish.

Quality, Fabric and Colors
Quality and fabric are important to consumers and will continue to shape childrenswear and teen/tween apparel trends for the balance of 2019.

“Right now, consumers are trending more towards quality garments, and that plays right into fabrication,” Oleksik says, adding that unique fabrics and those with exceptional hand-feel are doing well in the market. Moreover, in this day and age of e-commerce and Instagram, fabrics that have visual appeal are as important than ever.

“Quality also is a factor in the extra details that go into making a garment more than just a basic,”Oleksik adds. “Design details that we have found exceptional success with are side vents and drop tails, as these add to the visual [appeal] of the garment, as well as elevate the fit of the garment. Color blocking is another trend that just continues to evolve rather than disappear.”

In childrenswear, lush cottons and blends with a mix of weights, along with softness and durability, are important. “People don’t want that stiff or ‘boardy’ feeling; they want something that is soft,” Cumberledge says, adding that heavier garments are becoming popular again. “Four to five years ago, all tees were 4.5 ounces — which is still out there, but we’re starting to a see a move to 5.5- to 6-ounce shirts.”

Gupta says childrenswear has embraced different fabrics, which will continue throughout this year. “Basic and trendy styles are being offered not only in 100% cotton, but poly/cotton and polyester, allowing [design] and decoration options like never before,” he says.

In addition to poly/cotton blends, Cumberledge adds, TSC Apparel is seeing tri-blends that include rayon. “A lot of this is because [rayon] makes it softer and gives it more of an interesting look, like a heather, not a solid,” she says. Such a development will play out even more this fall, with fleece becoming softer and spongier because of the different fibers used.

Gupta says apparel color choices now are limitless, emphasizing that bright, vibrant and vintage colors are dominating the market. Pastel colors that previously had lost customer interest are again growing in popularity this year.

“The light shades with calm looks are trending now for childrenswear,” he says. Cumberledge says softer tones and a dusty palette, including sage green, slate blue, peach and mauve, are prevalent.

Oleksik says earth tones, as well as muted colors, such as olive, rose gold and natural, will be popular this year. “I think you will also start to see neons make a comeback,” she says.

Retail/Wholesale Channels
Oleksik says the wholesale market generally falls a year or two behind what is happening in the retail channel. “Faster-fashion items that are seasonal in retail won’t work for the wholesale market, so we look for trends that have a longer lifespan and cross multiple categories and markets,” she says.

Gupta echoes this. “It is [more] important than ever for wholesale channels to follow the retail trends, especially with the increase in retail online sales in the apparel industry,” he says. “Ultimately, it is the retail customer that drives the wholesale channel, even for childrenswear.”

Alternative is a retail brand, so its wholesale and retail teams work hand-in-hand. “Adults, teens, kids — everyone wants what they see in stores and across social media, so there is barely a demarcation,” Miles says.

2020 Vision
Oleksik predicts that fabrics, design details and cut lines will continue to evolve. “The wholesale market is becoming more competitive and it’s important to offer unique styles that give customers a reason to buy,” she says.

Cumberledge thinks trendy colors will extend into 2020. “Before, the market was very primary, with very light blues, bright pinks and light yellows; now, it is important to make sure you have the current colors, and I see that continuing,” she says.

Gupta pointed to already-trendy styles with vibrant colors, gentle flares, soft back tails, light ruffles and raglan sleeves, as well as the introduction of blended fabrics, continuing to evolve in 2020.

“The advances in sublimation printing, and enhancement in the polyester fabrics and design, have encouraged printers to design and print for youth compared to previous years.”

Hilary Daninhirsch is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. Her writing has been featured in a number of lifestyle and trade magazines. She can be reached at or