Rough pencil sketch of a Garda costume

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.

Where to start

Our first job was to decide on what type of costumes we wanted to develop. We knew we wanted to create connections between children and the people in their community, so it was always going to be career costumes. After that we choose each career and design based on feedback and requests from customers.

During the design phase we include as many details as we can to make our costumes are realistic as possible. 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 powerful role-play and a child can truly adopt a persona they recognise and aspire to. Of course, there are added benefits of encouraging independence and life skills in the use of zips, buttons, and snap fasteners.

Raw materials

Once we finalise a costume design, we need to source fabrics and all the other raw materials that come together to make our designs 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, 240-285gsm cotton twill is not what typically goes into your high street costume, but they agreed to supply our little start-up business and we have not looked back. You can read more about our fabrics, how they are selected and tested here. 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. It is only when everything has passed these tests that they can move on to the production process.

Details matter

When it came time to work with a production partner, we wrote up a technical specification. It sets out all the details- how the seams are reinforced, 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. We often receive messages on Instagram or emails sharing pictures of little Firefighters visiting Fire Stations or little Gardaí out on patrol in their community. 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

Play is the work of the child. Children don’t see learning as a structured formal thing that they have to do, they simply do it. We know that costumes are a gateway to play, allowing a child to fully immerse themselves in the role they have adopted. To support the immersive benefits of play, at home or in the classroom, we worked with early years educators to develop a suite of printable resources. The resources work with our costumes to create a print-rich play area where children can become the Garda in their own Garda Station or the Chef in their own restaurant. 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 your little ones love their new uniforms and have lots of fun and adventure with them.