My expanding clothes and their shrinking labels


After a while you will think it less peculiar that I am so familiar with my family’s various clothing items.

I anticipate that you won’t be surprised that I’m taking some stereotypically male approaches to (a) long-windedness and (b) ideas for improvement.

Last week, as I was hanging out some of my clothes on the airer—probably most of my clothes, to be fair—I noticed something strange. They appeared to be getting bigger.

What could be going on?

Had the washing machine developed a mind of its own — or, perhaps more likely, lost its water temperature thermostat and programme selector  — and was now washing my clothes in bizarre ways that had stretched them to their new size?

Had one or both of my daughters been using them as a pull toy?

Had I shrunk in the wash?

Then it dawned on me… I’ve been spending so long washing, drying, ironing and filing (OK, putting away) clothes for a four- and five-year-old, that my sense of proportion has completely skewed.

Yes, I spend more time organising their clothing than I do mine. Partly because there are two of them, they have so many more clothes than I do, and they seem to get through them at such a high rate that I seem to be constantly doing something to sort them out.

And there we come neatly to the second part of my title… labels.

I’ve never really been one to pay much attention to labels. As far as I’m concerned, if I have a piece of clothing that needs any more special treatment than either (a) wash or (b) dry clean, it’s not worth owning. All the rest can go into the machine as and when required.

In fairness, I don’t pay much attention to what’s on the labels of my daughter’s clothes either. Not as far as care instructions are concerned. What I really want to know is what age the garment is designed for.

And this is where the British clothes labelling system fails me. Labels are found in multiple locations on different pieces of clothing, in different sizes, with different typefaces and varying information presented. Labels fade, tear, drop off, or provide me with no age information whatsoever.



I’m also at the mercy of having two daughters of similar age. Blessed though I am by them in nearly every other way, in organising their wardrobes… not so much.

I can sort the Peppa Pig garments — they’re the territory of youngest daughter (except when eldest daughter spies her with two seemingly identical PP tees and demands one for herself).

I can usually sort the Minnie Mouse garments — they’re generally the territory of eldest daughter, although both girls like most Disney things.

Our eldest daughter is quite tall for her age, so I have few problems finding labels with ages ranging from five up to eight.

Our youngest daughter still has a few pieces of clothing which she likes, and just about fit (which apparently depends just as much, if not more, on what mood she is in on any particular day, than whether they truly fit) labelled for age 3.

Then we have the dangerous and muddled middle ground — the place where most of the clothes live. Usually in big piles. Dirty piles don’t matter unless we have a school-uniform-not-washed-at-ten-the-night-before-needed-for-school moment. Things just get washed when our washing machine is empty and suitably tranquillised after the last batch.

It’s the clean clothes…

So, this item for a 4-5 year old. Does that belong to the older, the younger, or did it used to belong to the older and was handed down to the younger?

This jacket with a blank label… who exactly owns this? What are the chances of me guessing incorrectly, putting it in the wrong bedroom cupboard, and facing tears or an argument when it’s discovered?

How many items do I have to attempt to process before I (a) call my wife, or (b) call my children, or (c) simply put things away as best I can and wait for one or both daughters to tell me “daddy got it wrong”.

I am starting to recognise some other pieces of clothing, and who they belong to, but by the time I finally learn, the clothes are too small and new ones have been bought, starting the whole process again.

I am convinced that the people who design the clothing labels do not have children. I don’t have time for tiny fonts, faded inks and vague information. Please just stamp the intended age range of the garment on a sensibly sized garment, in at least 18-point Helvetica font, nice and black, on label material that won’t wash out. We (men) need it…