Friday, August 02, 2013

Back to School Shopping

In our fifth year of private schools, I no longer stuffer sticker shock at the school uniform store. These days, it's almost a relief to be able to walk into one small store, and buy a year's worth of clothes for the kids.

Uniforms had been a source of stress when my daughter started Kindergarten. Granted, that school was rather strict on some of the details.  They had one approved shoe style that could be purchased from one singular store in town.  She got a uniform violation one day because she put on a pair of white socks that had a thin pink stripe on them (oh, the horror of the non-conformist socks).

This school still has a uniform, a special plaid jumper, school-logo-printed-gym shorts (into which every child must change for gym class), etc. But we can pick our own shoes as long as they're mainly a solid color.  And for the non-logo items, we can go with some generic brands or buy from Lands End where they have a custom list setup on line for us to see exactly the items that our school approves of.

It helps that my kids are kinda small and don't blow through two or three pants sizes every year.  T-man will be wearing most of his shorts and pants from last year a second time, though I happily shelled out for all-new shirts for him.  The boys wear white polos--the uniform shop has them embroidered with the school logo.  Very sharp looking. Until they go out for recess. On a playground padded with black recycled tires. And then have ketchup for lunch.  I think you see my point. We go through a lot of oxyclean in this house.

I think I've spent about $600 so far on school clothes. Sounds like a lot but that included long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts for both kids (they both got around 8 tops--must have a full week's worth of clothes because we just don't get to mid-week laundry), all new jumpers for my daughter (they changed styles between 3rd graders and 4th graders, so she can't wear last year's), new belts for both of them, gym shorts for both of them (T-man needs them for the first time, and his sister wears them under her jumpers every day and had outgrown some older pairs), shorts for big sister for the rare fall days when she chooses not to wear the skirt.  Big sister got soccer shoes, her brother still needs a pair.  We lucked out and found two pairs of acceptable white tennis shoes for $12 each at Walmart for her. But the same Walmart had exactly one pair (not just one style, one pair) of workable shoes in T-man's size. 

We will have to go back for leggings for our daughter when the weather cools down, and maybe buy more pants for T-man around Christmas.  Some of last year's larger pants are now a good fit, which means he'll probably grow out of those mid-year this year. 

That $600 seemed kind of expensive, but after this, the kids only need weekend clothes until next summer.  My daughter's birthday is in August, so she can usually count on receiving a few cute fall outfits from that.  And T-man will probably be in sweats and/or his soccer uniform most Saturdays all fall.   And I figure that if we went to a public school and bought each kid a pair of basic jeans ($15),  a short-sleeved shirt ($10), a long-sleeved shirt or sweater ($15) for every day of the week (5), we're already at $400 worth of clothes ($200/kid), and would probably need to replenish after 2-3 months of weekly washings.  Kids would need clothes for weekends regardless, so I'm not counting those in my calculations.  With only a few exceptions, the school uniforms hold up really well. So well that when I can make it, I can usually find nice used pieces at the school's used uniform sale (which the have an annoying habit of holding at 2pm on a week day once a semester).

Some days I miss the pre-school days of shopping the sale and clearance racks, stocking up on adorable baby clothes (usually a year ahead of when we'd need them). But as I start hearing complaints from friends with kids in the public schools as they struggle with dress codes and arguing with their children about what the parents will allow the kids to wear, I'm quite grateful for the uniforms.  We have plenty of other things to fight with our kids about already :)