September 20, 2006

Be Careful! Children's Clothing Safety

Two recent product recalls on children's clothing prompts me to issue a reminder. There are two major safety issues in relation to children's clothing. The first is drawstrings and the second is flammability.


It never fails. I have seen drawstrings in one form or another on children's clothing each season. The consumer product safety commission (cpsc) recently issued a recall for hooded sweatshirts with drawstrings. The fact that these products made it into a major department store shows multiple failures along the vendor supplier chain. Nearly all products sold in a department store must pass some form of inspection. If this is a private label for Kohl's, then the failure is even greater. A major department store chain usually has a technical designer and quality auditor over every division. A private label garment must be approved by a technical designer, who is responsible that the garment not only fits, but is safe. A quality auditor is supposed to ensure quality standards and compliance during and after manufacturing. Both individuals should KNOW of the safety guidelines on drawstrings which have been in existence since 1996.

Another layer of failure is at the buyer level. A childrenswear buyer should also know the rule and should not even consider an item with a drawstring. I can guarantee Kohl's will either severely reprimand or fire the buyers and technical designers over that division. Not only is this a major financial issue for the company, but an accident waiting to happen.

Most major department stores are so concerned about the drawstring issue, that they have self-imposed their own safety guidelines. In other words, they have banned any type of item that dangles beyond a certain point. Waist ties on dresses can only be so long. Bibs no longer have bias ties. No knots (trims, pom-poms, flowers, etc) on the end of strings. Those large, pretty sashes found on girls special occassion dresses have to be shortened. Hoodies have elastic in the hood hem instead of drawstrings.

Boutique and specialty stores do not understand this safety issue sufficiently, and I still see drawstrings on childrens clothing. If you are a children's designer, be sure to pay attention to safety issues!

Next time: Product recall on children's bathrobes.


  1. thanks for sharing this - as someone breaking into the industry, I really find this useful.
    Happy the bibs I just designed don't have bias tape :-)
    Thanks!! Interested in the whole flammability issue too - we manufacture baby blankets and will issue the "not intended for bedding or sleepwear" warning - but is that sufficient if they are not flame-resistant?

  2. I should probably clarify the bias tape ties on bibs. You can have bias tape but the ends have to be left raw or edge finished. One idea is to fold the tape once and zig-zag it down. In other words, the ties cannot have any knots or bumps (from folded fabric or stitching) which can be caught in anything. In the long run, it is probably safest to not have any ties and design the bib another way. Department stores are moving away from bibs with bias ties, although it is possible to still find them (bias ends will be left raw or finished as described above).

    I will try to answer your flammability questions in my next blog entry.