Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 3, 2000. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Smart Shoppers Beat Back-To-School Blues
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As parents begin to prepare kids for the annual return to classes, their thoughts turn to financing and selecting school clothes.
Everlyn Johnson, an apparel and textile program leader with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, had some basic tips for all shoppers.
"One very good starting point is learning the characteristics of popular fabrics. For instance, cotton blends, unlike most 100 percent cotton, are extremely practical because they are less likely to shrink or require ironing, unless specially treated," Johnson said.
"The fabric content is found on the care label inside every garment. Labels provide valuable information such as the size, fabric content and washing instructions," Johnson said. "Don't make a purchase simply because an item is on sale, and always try garments on to check the fit."
Just because the price is reduced does not mean the price is reasonable. Justify your purchases by estimating the number of times you will wear the garment.
"Always sleep on the idea when buying an expensive item, such as a coat," Johnson said.
"When attempting to remain inside a budget, purchase quality clothes that fit and match several other items you already own. Think ahead to the care and maintenance required for a garment, because paying to dry clean it adds to the overall cost."
Shopping for back-to-school clothes can be torturous, but success is attainable.
Shopping For Pre-School Age Kids
Parents sometimes purchase clothes that are larger than their children need at the time, hoping to get more wear for the money. Other times parents purchase an entire wardrobe for the child including summer, fall and winter clothes. There are several problems that can occur when using these shopping methods.
"Clothes that are too big for children can be a safety hazard; they can inhibit movement and decrease a child's mobility and balance," Johnson said. "Purchasing clothes for several seasons at one time may not be as wise as one thinks. Children grow sporadically and can easily outgrow clothes before the season arrives."
Instead, purchase clothes with growth features, such as large seam allowances, Kimono or Raglan sleeves, stretch or knit material, and elastic or drawstring waistbands. Look for clothes that are easy to pull on and take off.
"Kids enjoy being independent and dressing or undressing themselves," Johnson said. "Encourage the independence of preschoolers by buying clothes with nickel-size buttons, zippers, snaps or simple designs in general."
For preschoolers, the best method is to purchase simply- designed clothing one season at a time. It can cut the back-to- school costs and the possibility of dissatisfaction with purchases.
Shopping For Elementary Age Kids
The wear and tear on clothes grows as children grow. Consider durability when purchasing clothes for elementary age children. The key to durability is found on garment labels.
"Labels provide all the information needed to keep the garment in optimal condition for the longest duration of time," Johnson said. "When shopping, take careful note of the care label on each garment. Make it a habit even before trying a garment on.
"A label that specifies dry-clean only can be very expensive for a child to wear. Avoid scene-causing decisions with routine label reading. You may want to limit the purchase of those garments that will have high upkeep costs," Johnson said.
Shopping For Junior High and High School Age Kids
"Pre-teens and teens are the age groups most concerned with current fashion. Choices made for a teen's wardrobe do not have to max out a credit card," Johnson said. "One solution is to teach your kids about the classic styles of fashion and maintain those as the core of your teen's closet to be accented with some fashion fads."
The classic pant usually has a straight leg. The most popular of these is the five-pocket blue jean, followed closely by the ever popular khaki pants. Classic items include blazers with jewel or V-neck collars and medium width lapels. Cardigans and wraps are the outer layer choice for classic wear. Choose basic colors and designs.
Straight, A-line skirts stand the test of time. Choose a skirt style based on the teen's body shape. A classic dress is an asset to any closet. Dresses that combine with blazers are also timely.
The list of classic clothing is just not complete without the ever popular T-shirt.
"Brought out in force in the 1980s, the T-shirt has spread into nearly every closet," Johnson said.
The classic shirt button-down, Peter Pan or notch-point necklines is chosen for a casual look, and classics like the Oxford cloth are available in the boy's or men's department. Blouses, which are usually made of a micro fiber or dressier material such as silk, can often go from casual to dressy.
Teens mix and match classic items to create a wide variety of outfits that will not be outdated in a few weeks.