Build Your Business:

Kids Cozy Up to Comfort

Colors and a relaxed fit rule childrenswear as consumers search for comfort amid COVID-19.

By Jennifer Morrell, Contributing Writer

November 12, 2020

Each year, new trends surface in the childrenswear market while those from previous years persist — and 2020 is no different. What actually has changed is an apparel market that is functioning amid a COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last few years, children’s apparel has mirrored adult apparel, and this remains true in 2020. Although some kids have their own senses of fashion or style, many also will want to wear what their favorite adult is wearing — whether it’s a close family member, favorite artist or athlete.

“We launched the Alternative Apparel children’s line two years ago, because our customers wanted the same great adult styles in kidswear,” says Marcus Davis, product development manager, HanesBrands. “Once kids start to recognize the brands and styles that their favorite adult is wearing, it’s only natural that they would want to find a way to wear something similar.”

Amit Gupta, CEO, Monag Apparel, says childrenswear continues to mirror adult apparel in style and fabrics. “The adult styles, like raglans, flairs and fitted, have been added to the teen and childrenswear [categories], adding variety to the collection.”

Millennial parents have spurred growth in childrenswear because they want their kids to look their best on social media, says Jeanene Edwards, vice president, Fruit of the Loom/JERZEES. “That said, given the drastic societal change driven by COVID-19, the outlook for the apparel sector is uncertain, and the full magnitude and impact are yet to be seen.”

The most prevalent trends in childrenswear? Oversized and relaxed silhouettes and fits. “We are seeing oversized tees and sweat shirts have an impact in the market, especially in the tween category,” says Debbie Gonzalez, vice president of merchandising and brand management, TSC Apparel. “Other oversized items we are seeing in [the] wholesale and retail [channels] are joggers, boyfriend jeans and culottes.”

Even before the dramatic change everyone has experienced due to COVID-19, kids wanted to be comfortable. Davis says we can expect to see more relaxed and comfortably fitting clothes throughout this year and beyond.

Trend Drivers & E-Commerce
Celebrities and socialites, down to teens and tweens, will drive trends with relaxed looks and oversized styles. Gonzalez says hats and headwear also will remain popular.

“Hats have always been a staple in teenage fashion, and we think head accessories and headwear are here to stay beyond 2020,” she says. “However, the rule of thumb for headwear in 2020 is to stay as minimalistic as possible.”

Sustainably made products still will be a driver in the market as well. “Alternative Apparel’s youth fleece collection is a great example of this,” Davis says. “On-trend fleece crews, hoodies and jogger pants for kids will all be made with 100% recycled polyester by 2021, as will all styles in the Alternative Apparel line. The Hanes Youth EcoSmart T-shirt and fleece styles are also eco-focused and made with recycled polyester.”

Online convenience is becoming a dominant factor, especially for younger consumers who prefer convenient items that are easy to wear instead of trendy retail apparel. Although the retail channel continues to influence what shows up at wholesale, it may happen differently compared to just a year or two ago.

“Since more people are now shopping online, social media has a greater influence on the styles they want to see at wholesale,” Davis says. “Shoppers want the instant gratification of finding a style they like online and being able to instantly purchase it from the comfort of their home.”

Retail giants like Walmart and Target, which have been classified as “essential” during the COVID-19 crisis, are emerging as the big winners. “Non-essential retail stores have been hit significantly hard,” Edwards says. “For many shops, having an e-commerce site that allows customers to buy online and pick up ‘curbside’ has been the solution to staying afloat.”

Fabrics and Colors
Fabrics vary from heavyweight cotton and fleece to suede and denim in the retail market. “Knit fabrics that wash and wear well will be in high demand,” Edwards says. “Fortunately, most apparel brands in our industry can deliver newness with heathers, textured knits and novelty fabrics that are still easy-wear, easy-care.”

Gupta says polyester is popular because of certain decoration methods. “The popularity, ease and quality of sublimation printing has surely created a market for 100% polyester fabric,” he says.

Trending colors are monochromatic and bright in 2020, with inspired looks to meet dress-code rules that may require a single-color solution. However, natural and neutral, muted colors will continue to have a presence throughout the

“As people are looking for clothes that are made responsibly, they are also looking for colors that aren’t overly saturated or appear to have been dyed using harsh chemicals,” Davis says. “Examples could be cream or off-white shades, or light grays or tans that look like they took very little dye to create.”

Edwards says pastels and gelato colors will be popular. Gender-neutral colors like peach, lavender and mint will be seen in the market — as will earth friendly color tones in muted greens, blues and neutrals, such as ash and oatmeal.

Consumers will search for emotional comfort through the COVID-19 pandemic and color is a great way to deliver that feeling.

“Color is a great way to add some spark to a wardrobe and in basic apparel, that will now be easier for consumers to afford,” Edwards says. “Most apparel brands have expanded color assortment beyond traditional core colors into fashion colors, like mustard and mint. That trend will continue, especially as it can refresh and give new life to basic styles.”

Edwards also points to an increased demand for athleisure and comfort clothes, as consumers have transitioned to work-at-home and stay-at-home mindsets.

Gonzalez agrees. “We see tweens and teens wearing oversized sweat shirts with athleisure leggings or layering a comfortable T-shirt with a jean jacket,” she says. “We believe athleisure seems to be a part of almost every look this year.”

Texture & Retro
Childrenswear is seeing textured inspiration from suede; satin; heavyweight fleece or cotton; and denim, according to Gonzales. Voluminous details, such as lace and ruffles, are making it into the tween and teen looks. For instance, lace may be played up with a masculine piece.

Similar to the adult market, Davis says, heathers still are popular for providing texture and visual interest. “Kids may not know what it is, but they know they like it,” he says. “Patterns continue to grow in popularity.”

The retro trends from the 1970s and 1980s can be seen in today’s graphic prints at retail, Edwards says. “NASA, Kodak and Atari graphic prints are still selling strong and — for some consumers — may evoke a nostalgic feeling of more comfortable, secure times.”

The retro trend also can be seen in color, with the bright colors from the 1960s and 1970s sending vintage vibes reminiscent of your grandmother’s wallpaper, Gonzalez says.

‘Color is Here to Stay’
The oversized trend is here to stay, Gonzales says, since it is accessible and easy to wear for children, tweens and teens.

“We also believe color is here to stay, from bright geometric prints to color blocking and pops of neon,” Gonzalez says. “There will be no shortage of color in the next year.”

Edwards anticipates more antimicrobial and protective innovation in textiles. “Research, innovation and a higher sense of urgency to bring solutions to market will be in demand, whether it’s for adults or kids,” she says.

Gupta says we should expect partnerships across the board to deliver optimal products to end users.

“We see both the apparel and printing industries working together to provide better products to customers,” Gupta says. “In addition, both the retail and wholesale markets will tend to work together to meet new market trends.”

Jennifer Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jennifer at