Designing Little Uniforms
When we decided to design and manufacture our little uniforms, we embarked on an incredibly steep learning curve. We did not have a background in textiles or manufacturing, we did not have connections in the industry, and we did not know what would be involved. We were going in blind. I was never quite sure whether we were being brave or foolish, I am still not sure, but we were determined to make it work. One of the lessons we quickly learnt was that everything takes a lot longer than you think or hope but that it is worth it in the end.
Guided by our vision and our values we set out on a journey that changed our lives and created something we are incredibly proud of.
Where to start
Our first job was to decide on what type of costumes we wanted to develop. This came down to one simple thing- what do children want? The same remains true today, we design based on requests that we receive. The design we were most asked for at the start was the scrubs and the lab coat. In 2020 the design we were asked for was the postal worker.
During the design phase, to make our designs are realistic as possible, we include as many details as we can. Details such as pockets, epaulettes, zips, and embroidery all contribute to the realism of the final uniform. Allowing a child to be fully immersed in a role, with a realistic uniform, facilitates all the benefits of dramatic-play. Of course, there are added benefits of encouraging independence and life skills in the use of zips, buttons, and snap fasteners.
Once we have finalised a draft design, we need to source fabrics and all the other raw materials that come together to make our little uniforms a reality. We work with European partners who supply the industrial workwear sector with Oeko-Tex certified cotton. To say they were “surprised” by what we intended to use the fabric for is a bit of an understatement, but they agreed to supply our little start-up business and we have not looked back.
Before materials can be used in costumes there is a significant amount of testing that must be completed so that they comply with the European Toy Safety Directive. Everything from flammability testing to torsion and tension tests. It is only when everything has passed these tests that they can move on to the production process.
You can read about our fabrics, how they are selected and tested here.
When it came time to work with a production partner, we wrote up a technical specification. It is a detailed document with drawings, measurements and lots of notes. It sets out all the details- how the seams are reinforced, the use of interfacing, how the hems are rolled and the turned finish on the pockets, plackets, and collars. Initially we were met with disbelief. “These are only costumes” was a regular comment we heard back from potential partners. We’ve heard it many times, but these are not only costumes, they are little uniforms. The professions they represent, and the children who wear them with wide-eyed pride, deserve that care and attention to detail. We were so excited when we met a manufacturing team who understood our vision and who shared our passion for detail. We have been working with our Polish sewing team from the very beginning and we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.
Testing and Revision
Once we have samples of our little uniforms they go out for testing. Who better to give some honest feedback then children? They test everything for size, for authenticity and of course for durability! There are always some tweaks to be made but after months of design, development and testing we can finally see the children’s joy as they transformed into little Vets, Chefs, Firefighters and Gardaí before our eyes. That is still by far my favourite part of the job- seeing the joy that our little uniforms bring to children as they transform into their role-models.
Learning through play
The final step of our design stage moves back to the desktop. For each of our little uniforms we worked with early years educators to develop a suite of resources that support and enhance the developmental benefits of dramatic play at home and in the classroom. Our themed resources are complimentary and do not require you to purchase a uniform, they are available to download in our themes section.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed creating them.