Anyone who's ever whiled away a morning in Paris, watching children play with sailboats in the Luxembourg Gardens, has had to wonder: How is it that French kids always look so perfectly turned out?Here's your cheat sheet: an up-to-the-minute list of the shops that fashion-obsessed Parisian parents swear by. Whether you're after a look at the future of kids' togs or a sampler of impeccably stitched classics, or you hope to come home with suitcases full of cheap chic, there's no more exciting place to be right now than Paris. Who says you can't turn that motley crew of yours into model children?
CALESTA KIDSTORE Watch out! The nouvelle vague in children's design is breaking here, at this extraordinarily hip two-story emporium situated in the Marais. Calesta sells its own line along with an edgy collection of primarily Belgian fashions for clothes hounds up to age 10. There are also toys and lifestyle boosters, such as Matali Crasset's bluefoam-block playhouse, which can be reassembled into a sofa. GO FOR Vejas high-tops for babies ($55), indigo-washed jeans by Finger in the Nose (from $110), and red lacquered wood cars ($43). 23 Rue Debellèyme, Third Arr.; 33-1/42-72-15-59.
OVALE If sculptor Constantin Brancusi had lived to design baby clothes in the 21st century, Ovale would have been the result: cotton, cashmere, and linen ensembles in a year-round minimalist palette of sand, taupe, and ivory. One icebreaker: two giant plush polar bears, a mother and child, lounge on the floor in the back. GO FOR Knitted berets ($52), snap-crotch oxford shirts ($95), and the store's signature gilt-edged white box, trimmed with white ribbon and a golden O—the signal to French moms-to-be that they're in for the chicest of baby gifts. 200 Blvd. St.-Germain, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/53-63-31-11; www.ovale.com.
BONTON Catering to Paris's Left Bank bobos—Catherine Deneuve's daughter, actress Chiara Mastroianni, is a regular—Bonton specializes in beautifully made clothing, furniture, toys, and books for well-heeled squirts 10 and under. There's even a kids' hair salon. GO FOR Ruffled cotton bikinis ($34), mushroom-shaped night-lights ($37), and pixie-patterned metal lunch boxes ($25). 82 Rue de Grenelle, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/44-39-09-20; www.bonton.fr.
PRINTEMPS The department store's new children's area, in the Printemps Beauté & Maison building, is stocked with an encyclopedic array of French brands for babies to teens—and a bonbon bar. Big plus: Printemps has a free personal-shopper service and will deliver clothes and accessories on spec to your hotel room. GO FOR A one-stop look at kids' lines by Dior, Kenzo, Antik Batik, and the new Paul & Joe label. 64 Blvd. Haussmann, Ninth Arr.; 33-1/42-82-57-87.
WOWO One of France's hottest new children's labels, Wowo makes inventive use of African patterns, madras, and overprinting. The line is sold in top boutiques, but for the most choices make a pilgrimage to Wowo's store, near Les Halles. GO FOR Shaggy fleece vests trimmed with bright stripes ($80) and plum- colored dresses decorated with shiny gold bubbles ($86). 4 Rue Hérold, First Arr.; 33-1/53-40-84-80.