Since my very first days as a mom, I have enjoyed searching for beautiful little dresses.
Most of the time, my girls are donned in secondhand play clothes. I'm frugal, and they're messy.
But for certain occasions, there's something so sweet about putting them in a dress. It feels feminine and timeless.
The bonus is they love wearing dresses. I can still picture the satisfaction Jane got from slipping into a festive new pinafore for her second-birthday party, her tiny torso wiggling with glee. And just recently, when I told the girls we were headed to a farmers market, Maria asked to wear her Sue-Sue's vintage dress and bring a basket. (Be still, my heart.)
Earlier this year I took it upon myself to search out the most exquisite little girl dresses on the market. I read web reviews, perused lookbooks and surveyed Instagram feeds, hopping from one to another. No stone was left unturned.
I discovered some truly impressive offerings, and I'm excited to share the very best with you here. They are classic with a fresh or whimsical twist -- the kind of dresses that please Grandma and delight a preschooler.
These dresses are keepsakes -- the kind you'll want to photograph your daughter in, the gowns you'll pull out for weddings and parties, the ones you'll want to save for her babies to wear. To me, that helps justify the price. But most of these brands can also be purchased secondhand -- or you can re-sell for almost full value.
Blue Dove Kids
Discovering this boutique felt like an epiphany. I didn't know dresses like this exist -- it was as if they had been lifted from my dreams. The detail, the whimsy, the embroidery, the cut, the colors. Yes, yes, yes!
Emily Franke, the visionary young mom who launched Blue Dove Kids in 2014, is truly inspired. Read her story here, including the touching account of what Blue Dove stands for. (Hint: The blue is for autism awareness, in honor of her sweet 7-year-old son.)
Since its founding, Blue Dove has released more than 60 designs. (Take a gander here.) The three-quarter-length sleeve is a wonderful (and rare) option among fine boutiques, often located in the South, for Minnesota girls.
Here are my favorites: "Wren" and "Oh Deer."
Stardust and Giraffes
Janalee Smith, a talented stay-at-home mom, has been sewing since she was 9.
Over the years, she gleaned many insights from dressing and shopping for her own two girls, all of which she applies to her handmade dresses sold through her Etsy shop Stardust and Giraffes.
Her ruffle dresses are sweet and simple. A classic, comfortable, solid-colored dress is a staple, and Jan's range of options allows you to pick coordinating dresses for sisters, cousins or friends at a reasonable price ($37.50). Her mint green is absolutely luscious. Among the finest luxury brands, it may be the color of the summer.
These are no-fuss dresses -- no zippers, no buttons, no struggle. They hold up well and look good after much wear; that was one of Jan's goals. #practicalmom
But the fun factor is also there. This is a frock to frolic in!
Frances Rose Boutique
Prepare to drool over the dresses designed by Frances Rose Boutique, a passion project for Allison and Kelly, the two brilliant moms behind the boutique.
These women were born to do this; one look through their Instagram feed makes it clear.
Their dresses will astonish you! They are remarkably well made: the pearls, the stitches, the French lace, the shadow embroidery. Swiss dots, dainty eyelets, ruffles and sashes and bows. And the collars! #ohmy
Allison and Kelly pour their hearts into every Frances Rose offering, including their exquisite doll line. (Their Lucy doll honors a very special baby and donates half of its proceeds to charity.)
That's just how these mamas operate; no detail is overlooked. These gowns burst with meaning, and even if you're not a dress person, you'll be inspired by their Instagram feed and the story behind each offering. Creative, passionate, driven mama-entrepreneurs rock.
Here are my favorites from Frances Rose's 2017 collections.
Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charmed reviews are entirely the author's opinion. Special thanks to the following vendors for supplying complimentary samples for review and photography: