I’ve done the back to school ‘thing’ for seven years now. Just about to do my eighth.
I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about!
I’ve bought cheap and cheerful, I’ve bought eyewateringly expensive. I’ve bought in bulk, I’ve bought the bare minimum. I’ve bought weeks in advance, I’ve bought right at the last minute.
Basically, I’ve made all the mistakes so you don’t have to!
So what did I distill from all those years of
making mistakes learnings?
1. Buy early
Not the first week they break up early, but basically don’t leave it until the last three weeks because stocks will have run low, shops may have stopped their great offers on uniform and you may find some stores even stop stocking so much because they’ve moved on and are now thinking about their Christmas displays.
2. Don’t buy EVERYTHING on the uniform list
During September and October they’re really not going to need a winter coat or those chunky shoes.
Here’s what I learned; once they are through that school gate and are under the influence of their pals, they absolutely won’t want the expensive ski jacket you invested in from Boden. Because they will want what their friends have.
Just wait and buy it when it’s needed. And don’t make the expensive mistake I seemed to have managed to make for the past three years.
3. Spend more where you can
As in don’t buy 10 pairs of socks for a pound, because after wash upon wash they’re just not going to last.
You don’t have to break the bank, but if you go for quality over quantity you’re not going to end up with a pair trousers which look like something my husband uses to rub the car’s bodywork down with after a couple of washes. Or school skirts which lose their shape and pleats if you look at them the wrong way.
Marks and Spencer are brilliant for running offers over the summer break so keep and eye out.
4. Name everything
Yes just writing their name in Sharpie on the label seems like a good idea but a. it comes off in the wash and if it gets lost on the day you forgot to top it up you’ll be kicking yourself. And b. despite naming everything your child will still manage to lose/forget/swap with another child/give away various pieces of uniform so the bigger the name tag the better.
5. The shoe dilemma
I’ve tried everything with school shoes; measured and expensive, measured and cheap, supermarket, branded, online, clothes shop. Here’s what I found: cheap shoes just don’t last and you end up buying at least three pairs per school year. Well fitting, expensive shoes last the whole year and look as good as new with a bit of TLC and some good old fashioned boot polish.
I do wince when we have to buy the school shoes every year, especially given that both of my kids are very active and are really hard on their shoes.
I know it’s the issue that divides most parents, but we’ll be going with the higher end of the scale once again this year because even if I scrimp and save on school uniform I know their shoes will stay the distance.
I have one more extra one because I’ve been asked by Marks and Spencer to try out some of their school uniform ‘innovations’.
Mia is starting middle school in September and so needed a whole new uniform – from her shirts and skirts to socks, shoes, PE kit, bags and coat. So,
6. Buy clothes with innovations
This is a bit of a cheat for me as I buy a lot of our uniform from M&S anyway because I love the extras they’ve introduced such a easy to iron shirts, stormwear finish, permanent pleats, active sport and ‘staynew’
AND they actually do what they promise.
I love what Mia’s chosen. The Umbrella Print coat with Stormwear (£18-£22) is lightweight and packs away easily into her rucksack. The Buckle Detail skirt (£8-12) looks really smart, has permanent pleat (yesss) and has an adjustable waist. The two pack of Cap Sleeve Blouses (£9-£15) are slightly tailored and so look fabulous on instead of shapeless and cheap.
For PE she opted for a navy tracksuit top (£8-£12) and joggers (£7-£10) – she opted for the boys joggers because she prefers the cuffed ankle which the girls’ version doesn’t have – both of which have ‘staynew’ technology which sounds great to me, and the white Performance Panelled top (£7-£10) with ‘pure silver technology’ to keep moisture away from her skin.
The only item we didn’t like were the shoes. Mia loved the style (Freshfeet Leather Cross Bar, £26-£30) but found they weren’t roomy enough at the toe end and instantly dismissed them. But as I’ve said previously, I wouldn’t buy shoes like this normally – but it was worth a go!