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.
LILLI BULLE The darling of French fashion editors—thanks to its jam-packed selection of clothes by young European designers—Lilli Bulle, located near the Bastille, is the only Paris children's boutique with its own blog, www.lillibulle.typepad.com. GO FOR Poppy-red dresses with flower appliqués ($104), dotted terry bibs (two for $20), and ladybug-patterned moccasins ($39). 3 Rue de la Forge Royale, 11th Arr.; 33-1/43-73-71-63; www.lillibulle.com.
YOUNLY A visit here practically qualifies as a cultural experience. In a gallery-style space, with white walls, white modular counters, and spotlights, Younly shows blue-chip children's lines: DKNY, Burberry, Kenzo, Elle, and Timberland. GO FOR A no-holds-barred designer wardrobe for your darling. 113 Ave. Victor-Hugo, 16th Arr.; 33-1/45-05-19-50.
So French—and Affordable!
OKAÏDI Give the Gap a French accent (and a bit more savoir faire), and you get Okaïdi, a French chain with a decidedly sporty edge and 10 locations in Paris. Check out the two-story flagship store near the Bastille. GO FOR Sawed-off pinwale-denim skirts ($24), surf-style swim trunks ($15), and padded baby sleep sacks ($36). 32 Rue Charles-Baudelaire, 12th Arr.; 33-1/53-33-88-86; www.okaidi.com.
DU PAREIL AU MÊME For two decades, savvy Parisians have been turning to DPAM for cheerful, unbeatably priced baby and kids' clothes, shoes, and accessories. The brand currently has a whopping 27 outlets in Paris; for the most complete DPAM experience, head to the three-in-a-row address below. Tip: DPAM, unlike most Paris kids' stores, accepts overseas Web orders. GO FOR Striped cotton button-down pj's ($12), Mary Janes and hiking boots (from $15), and bunny rattles ($12). 120–22 Rue du Faubourg-St.-Antoine, 12th Arr.; 33-1/43-44-67-46; www.dpam.com.
SERGENT MAJOR A chain that wants kids to look like kids, not baby rappers. Quality is great—and most pieces, for infants to 14-year-olds, are under $25. GO FOR Boys' windowpane-plaid shirts (from $18) and toddler button-front jackets with striped cotton linings ($25). 80 Rue Traversière, 12th Arr.; 33-1/44-74-88-22; www.sergent-major.com.
MONOPRIX Paris's beloved neighborhood department store—with 49 spots around town—carries well-thought-out baby and children's lines, often featuring the work of hot young designers. GO FOR Petit Bateau cotton T-shirts ($11), girls' quilted jackets (from $25), and denim cargo pants (from $20). 340 Rue de Vaugirard, 15th Arr.; 33-1/56-23-90-60; www.monoprix.fr.
The Classic Look
BONPOINT The last word in important-occasion kids' wear—think ring bearers and flower girls at royal weddings. The label has 15 shops in Paris; its just-opened flagship store, in a 17th-century building near the Luxembourg Gardens, offers a tearoom and its own garden. GO FOR Moiré silk party dresses ($294) and pinwale-corduroy plus fours ($85). 6 Rue de Tournon, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/47-42-52-63; www.bonpoint.fr. (Bargain hunters' alert: discounted past-season items are sold at Bonpoint Fin de Séries. 42 Rue de l'Université; 33-1/40-20-10-55.)
LA CHÂTELAINE In a marble town house not far from the Bois de Boulogne, this 60-year-old boutique sells layette items and handworked children's wear. GO FOR The finest smocked dresses ($148) and flower-embroidered crib linens (from $125) in Paris. 170 Ave. Victor-Hugo, 16th Arr.; 33-1/47-27-44-07.
LE PETIT B.B.; AGNÈS B. ENFANT Agnès B.'s schoolgirl charm translates extremely well into kids' lines for up to age 14. These two stores are across from each other, on a street almost exclusively dedicated to the Agnès B. universe—outfit the whole family. GO FOR Rompers patterned with gray hearts ($62), zebra coveralls ($92), and girls' snap-front cardigans ($86). Le Petit B.B., 19 Rue du Jour, First Arr.; 33-1/42-33-27-34. Agnès B. Enfant, 2 Rue du Jour, First Arr.; 33-1/40-39-96-88; www.agnesb.com.
Nadine Frey, an American writer and mother of two, is based in Paris.
Chic Shopping Paris (www.chicshoppingparis.com) guides groups on strategic buying sprees. A half-day tour for a family of four starts at $300.
More great kids' shopping in Madeline's hometown, including bargain basement source.
Tout Compte Fait At its 17 Paris locations, Tout Compte Fait (All Things
Considered) stocks sturdy basics up to size 12.
GO FOR: Zip-up sweaters ($25), lavender velvet apron dresses ($20), and chunky-knit
argyle sweater vests ($16).
128 Faubourg St.-Antoine, 12th Arr.; 33-1/43-46-94-32; www.toutcomptefait.com.
Judith Lacroix Blue walls, aqua and fuchsia Bohemian glass chandeliers,
and floral easy chairs in Lacroix's two Paris boutiques present the ideal backdrop for her
sophisticated farm girl-inspired designs. GO FOR: Flounced dresses with lace
inserts ($91) and print blouses with outsized French cuffs ($67).
3 Rue Henri Monnier, Ninth Arr.; 33-1/48-78-22-37. 61 Rue Bonaparte, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/43-26-02-58; www.judithlacroix.com.
Cyrillus If you see your son in cuffed shorts, or your daughter in a kilt
and a pom-pom beret, Cyrillus is for you. The shop has long been synonymous with a certain
GFF (Good French Family) style. GO FOR: Boys' zip-collared sweatshirts with
crest appliqués ($36) and lisle cotton girls' pajamas with lace-trimmed collars ($30).
16 Rue de Sèvres, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-22-16-26; www.cyrillus.fr.
Discount and Vintage Kidswear in Paris
Rue d'Alésia in the 14th Arrondissement On this outlet-packed street, the Cacharel Stock shop is particularly good for childrenswear. Look for round-collared dresses ($140) and shirts in miniature floral prints ($179). 114 Rue d'Alésia; 33-1/45-42-55-04; www.cacharel.fr.
Le Château de Ma Mère A children's vintage-clothing shop packed with neatly pressed items, especially for under sixes. You're likely to find 1930's white piqué cotton bibs with lace trimming ($10), hand-knit cardigans ($25), and, if you're lucky, blue Baby Dior coats with velvet buttons ($67). 108 Ave. Ledru-Rollin, 11th Arr.; 33-1/43-14-26-03.