Back-to-school shopping off the racks? So last year.
FashionPlaytes.com gift certificates are becoming popular birthday gifts for young girls, who can simply log on, choose an article of clothing, select a size and color, and then add as many embellishments as they choose, from logos and patches to rhinestones, lace and a customized label. Custom backpacks are now available, too.
"What little girl doesn't want to be a fashion designer?" asks the company's founder, Sarah McIlroy.
McIlroy, a tech-savvy mother of three who designed her own clothes as a child, launched the website in the end of 2009.
"The beauty of it is giving girls the opportunity to create something that is uniquely their own," McIlroy said. "It's a creative, empowering experience for them."
Camryn Knorr, a 9-year-old incoming fifth-grader at James H. Boyd Intermediate School in Huntington, proudly wears a sweatshirt she created on FashionPlaytes.com.
"It was fun," she said of the designing process. "I liked that I got to do it all myself. I felt in charge."
Simone Green, 8, an incoming third-grader at the Progressive School of Long Island in Merrick, has designed multiple outfits to add to her back-to-school wardrobe.
"I don't like having the same outfit as other people," she said. "I like fashion; I love glitter, sparkles and gems. My friends think it's really cool that I design my own stuff."
Prices rise depending on how much you add to your garment, but custom T-shirts, dresses and pants start at $14. Orders are delivered in two to three weeks.
ByKidsOnly, launched in 2009 by parent company Fun and Function, provides a tool that lets kids draw their ideas online or on a downloadable template. They are encouraged to make comments on fabrics and other details and then post their designs on ByKidsOnly.com to be voted on.
The designs that receive the most votes are interpreted by fashion designers and produced for sale. Entries for summer clothing are being accepted through Aug. 31.
"Kids often have strong feelings about what they want to wear and aren't always heard," said Daniela Weiss, Founder of YAFA Marketing and Consulting LLC, which represents the company. "They enjoy having their ideas taken seriously and seeing them posted online."
Entries are often made by schools who use them as class projects and parents who use them for sleepovers and birthday parties, Weiss said. Prices range from $14.99 for leggings to $39.50 for dresses.
Previously working in Los Angeles making custom designs for adults, Liz Geier launched Imagine This Couture kits in FAO Schwartz stores in 2004.
"I was always designing clothes as a kid, and I dreamed of making them for real one day," Geier said. "It turns out that lots and lots of kids have the same passion. This is the first company to take their designs and give them the same treatment that professional designers get."
Clients can now order kits at imaginethiscouture.com, which include art supplies, a size chart, a tape measurer, fabric swatches and a questionaire to cover the details. Mail in the design, and professional sketches will be mailed back to you. Once they are approved, the finished product will be received within six weeks. Kits are $895 and include the cost of the outfit.
Next month, Geier will launch Imagine This Kids, which allows young designers to choose from a variety of styles depending on what type of clothing they are creating with the option of a custom label. Imagine This Kids kits start at $95 and orders are shipped within 10 days.
"Kids learned that what they imagined could become reality," Geier said, "and what they dream up can be as good, or better, than adult designers."