Dreading school shopping? Try uniforms!

Filed under: Big Kids, Tweens, Shopping

Rachel Campos-Duffy

With the start of the school year rapidly approaching, many parents are dreading the annual ritual of school clothes shopping. First, they'll spend hours scouring the Internet and newspaper for sales and deals to fit their shrinking budgets. Then they'll load up the kids for a long day of fitting rooms and check out lines -- not to mention negotiations over what is and isn't appropriate attire for school.

I relieved myself of this torture several years ago when my husband and I decided that a school uniform was the easiest and most affordable way for our growing family to deal with hectic mornings, rising costs, and trends in inappropriate fashion -- especially for girls.

At the beginning of August, I size my kids up and call the uniform company to stock up on whatever items they need or have grown out of. On average, we spend about $80 per child and the entire thing is delivered to my front door. With an e-mail order in to Zappos.com for shoes, my school clothes shopping is done!

But what do you do if your school doesn't have a school uniform policy? It's a great question. One I asked myself when I first enrolled my child in a Catholic school that did not require uniforms. My first thought was to initiate an optional uniform program with other like-minded parents. When faced with resistance, I decide that if the school didn't see the benefits, I wouldn't let it stop our family!
So, I purchased my then kindergarten daughter the cutest red plaid jumper and matching headband I could find. Now, all my school-age kids (ages 8, 6, and 4) wear uniforms even though they are the only ones in their small Catholic school who do. Thankfully, they love it. They get up, dress themselves, and come down for breakfasts. No fights, debates or last minute clothes changes.

If your kids' friends parents agree that uniforms help kids focus on school and not clothes, then you could try to encourage them to join you. There is strength in numbers.

My kids' uniforms are attractive and wear like iron; the knees are reinforced and they are stain resistant so I can pass them on to other sibs and keep my laundry duties down to a minimum.

One of the benefits of not having a uniform policy in place at your school is that you and your child can decide on the uniform for yourselves. When my kids switched schools (to another Catholic school that also did not have uniforms), my daughter and son were old enough to have a say in which style skirts, shirts and pants they liked. If you don't like the traditional Catholic school plaid, you can purchase a solid navy blue or khaki skirt, skort or pant. Old Navy, JcPenny's, and Land's End have large supplies of these basics for the many public schools that are transitioning to uniforms.

Certainly, starting this early has made it easier on my kids. They just accepted it when we introduced the idea and have now grown to appreciate the ease and simplicity of always knowing what to wear on a school day.

That said, your child's school and temperament should always be taken into account. If your child is certain to be teased or psychologically affected by it, it's not worth it.

Last year my daughter's 2nd grade teacher overheard a classmate ask my daughter why she always wears the same clothes. My daughter responded, "It's a uniform." She answered confidently and nonchalantly and that was the end of it. Neither my kids nor their teachers have ever reported any teasing or harassment as a result of their uniforms -- a reflection of both the spirit of the school and my kids' ages and personalities. I'm grateful for that.

As long as uniforms remain a non-issue for my children, I will avail myself of traditional school shopping and take pleasure in the slightly less chaotic mornings it affords this mother of five.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.