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One man's shirt becomes a child's romper at Austin's Classic Childhood store

Rompers from Classic Childhood are made out of men's shirts, and many are reversible to create two options out of one piece.

Austinite Pamela Torres began Classic Childhood clothing line for babies to age 5 after she transformed one of her husband's old dress shirts into an outfit for her son.

When his job took the family to Spain for a brief time in 2017, Torres had time on her hands and her husband's discarded shirts.

Torres had grown up with an aunt who was a seamstress in Mexico and had taken a home economics course in junior high school, but that was her level of experience in sewing.

It didn't detour her. She figured out a pattern and made clothing for her son, Pedro, who was a baby at the time. He is now 4. 

"It was a very cute outfit," she says. "I was very proud of it."

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Her trip to Spain and other spots around the world where she would go into children's boutiques inspired her to want to create a quality children's clothing line in Austin using recycled fabric. 

Now she's opened a retail store in South Austin that doubles as her sewing studio for children's clothing and alterations. The store, which opened in April, had its grand opening on June 12. 

The store features circular fashion. Torres uses cotton clothing that people donate, taking it apart to create kids' clothing out of the fabric.

Pamela Torres opened a retail location for Classic Childhood, which offers rompers, shirts, dresses and more for kids made out of recycled clothing or sustainable fabrics.

Classic Childhood is recycling fashion

Classic Childhood makes rompers, dresses, shirts, shorts with removable straps and more out of these recycled fabrics. Out of one shirt, she usually can get two to three rompers. If the shirt is particularly stained or has holes, she can get smaller items such as a bonnet or a diaper cover out of it.

She has items made out of donated clothing for sale. People also bring her a favorite clothing item, and she will transform it into a clothing item for their child. 

Classic Childhood's clothing is built to last and many items are made to be reversible to give more than one look in an outfit. 

Torres was inspired to create circular fashion when she learned more about the fashion industry. About 85% of Americans' old clothing ends up in a landfill, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Even clothing that's been donated doesn't always make it to the next person. Reusing fabric not only saves the fabric from the landfill, Torres says, it saves water. World Resources Institute estimates it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton T-shirt. 

Torres has some items in the store that feature new fabrics, but she chooses fabrics and brands that are known for their sustainability.

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Classic Childhood makes rompers out of men's shirts. They sell for $42.

Building a business in a pandemic

Torres really got going with Classic Childhood in May 2019 after receiving feedback from a local pitch contest for entrepreneurs in which she won the people's choice award.

"This is something that might work," she says she thought.

She started the business in her house, working with local seamstresses to cut and sew the clothing. People would drop off fabric to her front door to donate.

Then 2020 and the pandemic happened. She had recycled fabric. She had elastic. Early on, people couldn't find masks. She had the demand. That March she quickly shifted from children's clothing to making masks.

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People saw what she was doing and wanted to buy her masks. For every mask purchased, she donated one to hospital workers. 

She kept her seamstresses busy and her housekeeper became her fabric cutter to keep her employed.

"It was crazy," she says of starting a business during a pandemic.

Torres kept the business afloat, but the children's clothing line was on pause.

Classic Childhood recycles men's cotton shirts and turns them into rompers for kids.

Moving Classic Childhood into retail

Even when she was making clothing, it was sold online, through Facebook or the website. 

This April, she opened her retail location, which doubles as her workshop. She needed work/life balance and that meant getting the business out of her house.

"Working from home, it was nonstop," she says.  

She took advantage of post-pandemic retail real estate pricing and found an empty store off Menchaca Road to transform into Classic Childhood. 

Now she's created the retail area up front with racks and tables of clothing, and she's built the workshop in a back room. 

She also diversified the business, buying a vinyl cutter and an embroidery machine to personalize products like bags, blankets and water bottles. When you personalize it, she says, you're making it last longer because you're more likely to hang onto it. Classic Childhood also offers alteration services. 

Her son, who was the inspiration for the business, has created his own space, which they call the cinema, in the store. Fabric panels cover a cozy area that includes a projector to watch movies on the wall when he's not helping his mother with watering the plants.

Torres' says she feels her success will be in more people discovering the store, either online or in person, and getting more people to upcycle their clothing into something really classic and sturdy for children to wear. 

"We're starting to see it build," she says. 

Classic Childhood

2005 Southern Oaks Drive; classicchildhood.com

Classic Childhood takes 100% woven cotton clothing or fabric to be recycled. Prices on items generally range from $30 to $42.

Grand opening: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 12