Back to School Clothes Shopping

Updated on August 16, 2010
V.M. asks from Conneaut, OH
19 answers

I am getting overwhelmed. I should be able to figure this out but i need some outside opinions.
Our school has no uniforms, but kids are not allowed sweats or wind pants and no shirts with characters on them. I bought 5 pairs of jeans last year for my son and he had holes in the knees of all of them by christmas. now he is in First and my daughter will be in kindg.

What would you buy??? 8 pairs of jeans per kid?? do girls wear dresses to school??
I think i need at least 8 outfits per season where we live sept is shorts and nov is long johns.
so 8 short sleeve tops and 8 longsleeve tops and enough bottoms to mix and match. Do you go in a store and look for outfits (especially for girls) tops bottoms shoesor do you try to get things that would go with anything.
I feel like i am asking stupid questions, but i know i'll be back to work once school starts and now is the best opportunity for me to get stuff, i probably won't buy things after september, I don't want to get too much but i felt like last year i was really stretching it to have clean laundary all the time. They have some stuff already from my mil she buys ahead so i have a range of clothes in their closets in the next 2 sizes up but not much that actually goes together and not much in their current size. Do you make a list or just wing it???

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So What Happened?

Deep breaths, I will get through this, I am trying to arrange a trip to the outlet mall an hour away, and I'm also trying to go through their closets/ bins of clothes they are waiting to grow into, and i know i didn't buy enough last year. And I am very cheap, even though i am trying not to be, so right now when i walk into a store and see $2 summer tops that is what i want to buy, But since money and time were tight last year i didn't get to do that so I am faced with actually paying full price for stuff for this fall. So i need to not be stocking up too much for next year until i've taken care of this year. Which sucks. But i think i can get enough stuff for both of them for under $300. I'll try to hit the consignment stores before i head to the outlets. Thanks mama's you've talked me down from the ledge yet again.

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answers from San Diego on

My son (5 1/2) also attends a school where they don't allow characters on shirts but no matter. I started off two years ago dressing him nicely after about the first month that expensive shirt I liked was covered in paint that didn't wash off. So I learned that you need to be practical with kids this age especially boys. I go to Sears and buy toughskins jeans usually about 5 and shirts short/long sleeved that are at a good price. I'm not a matchy kind of person more monochromatic because it gives you a wider option. I also buy shorts since living in San Diego we still have good weather into October. I buy shoes (two pairs) at a Stride Rite outlet a year in advance. For winter clothing I also buy a year in advance when the sales happen the year before. Best of luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I tend to put off the "fall clothes" shopping until October or so. I'm in Pgh, and shorts/tops/light jacket usually gets you through til then :-)
I tend to buy mix-match stuff and am not a big fan of "sets" of clothes OR character stuff either.
Jeans, khaki pants, long sleeve tees, a sweater or two, a fleece pullover, a button up shirts, light jacket and winter coat usually gets my son through most of the school year. I have overbought in past years and I would prefer my son has a few nice pairs of jeans and pants, etc. that he wears a lot, rather than a lot of choices. I do laundry all the time though. And right now (going into 2nd) he's not really picky about clothes/brands yet.

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answers from Seattle on

Is there a JBF Consignment Sale near you? If so, you should check it out. It would be a great place to get the Fall/Winter stuff you need now! Best of luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Search for a Children's Consignment Sale near you! You can really stretch your budget there! Many moms are selling their kids' outgrown things and some moms just come to shop. It's an amazing event and there are thousands of them in the US. Here are 2 good sites for locating sales, if none are close to you in PA, you might find one nearby in NY or OH. To others who are reading, search on your state!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

Ok, let's not panic, lol. I'm in the same boat. I've never had more than 2 kids at the same time in school. My 23 year old is gone so I've had my 15 year old alone in school for a while. But this fall my triplets start kindergarten and I suddenly have to buy for 4 kids for school. All are boys but one girl.

First, when it comes to jeans and boys, they seem to wear out fast. Years ago I used to go to Sears and buy their Toughskins jeans. I think that was the name. Those are the ones with the re-enforced knees. If they wear out before he outgrows them they will replace them for free, same size! I'm not sure if they have the same program as years ago, but they used to have a kids clothing program where for every $100 spent you get 15% off your next purchase.

As for tops, I'd go with what you already have and just add to it. You can get inexpensive tees at Walmart or Target that are plain solid colors and can get several for $3-5 each. Same for winter tops, just a couple dollars more each.

I'm a huge fan of mixing and matching. I've found one problem though is that lately each of the stores have a different shade of colors which are harder to mix and match store to store. I tried to mix and match for my daughter this summer and the pinks from each store were different shades and I couldn't get them to match, lol! What's up with that? But their wardrobe will stretch farther if you do mix and match.

Remember, your kids are young and they don't need fancy, expensive clothes. Just get basics that you can mix and match and it'll be fine.

They can't wear sweats at school, but they can at home! Have them wear sweats at home on the weekends when you're not going out and that'll save on some wear time on the jeans. This is what I do because sweats, tops and bottoms, are less expensive and go a long way. With the elastic they can wear them a big baggy and will fit for more seasons, and they're just for play.

For your daughter, girls clothes are quite the money pit! I finally have a daughter after 17 years after my first. It's amazing how I can go to the boys department and buy inexpensive sports tops and plain tees but have to buy "outfits" for my daughter and pay more and can't mix them up to make them go further. What a racket! I do my darndest not to buy outfits that can mix with something else. My daughter is 5.5 and already thinks she's a fashion diva. She already knows she will not be wearing dresses to school. I don't want her playing and having to always worry about keeping her skirt down. I know many put bike shorts underneath, but then why bother wearing a dress? They don't learn to keep their dress down and it's like a super long shirt! Dresses, to me, are for occasions that call for it. I want my daughter to be able to freely run and have fun without worrying about keeping her dress down. There's plenty of girly clothes out there that aren't dresses. My daughter jazzes up her plain tops and shorts by wearing a plastic necklance that matches and putting cute hair ties or barrettes in her hair. She also wears cute socks with her sneakers that we get from the dollar bin at Target. She paints her nails too.

I do make a list to keep track when I go to shop. You have 2 kids so I'd have at least 8 complete outfits (mixed and matched however) to last a week so you only have to do laundry once a week since you work. You can always buy on clearance now for next summer too. I do that at the end of each season and pick up a few items. Every time you go into a store check the clearance racks so you can grab an item here or there for a dollar. Don't forget thrift stores, as long as you're not paying more than you would at Walmart. And ask your MIL or other family members who buy gifts to give one small clothing item for birthdays and Christmas. Tops are easier for others to buy and you buy a pair of jeans. Just give them a color or idea of what to get.

I have to buy more jeans this year for my daughter where before she could wear lots of leggings. Well, jeans are getting more expensive. (tops are cheap) Not sure how I'll manage jeans for her cuz even at Walmart they're $10-12 each. The boys jeans are less! But the girls are the sparkles and designs. I surely miss the toddler clothing and prices! LOL The big girl clothes are insane! I'll be requesting clothes from people who ask what to buy for birthdays this October and Christmas in December!

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
events and chat within 2 hour radius

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I actually do 5 pants and 7 shirts for school, then a fun outfit or two for the weekend. I have always had to get a new round by Christmas due to holes, stains, or they outgrow them. I also, buy a lot from Old Navy, they have amazing prices for back to school. We do have standardized uniform at our school so I am not sure what Old Navy has as far as no graphics on shirts and such but it is worth checking it out.

Good luck!



answers from Salt Lake City on

My son also gets holes in the knees of all his pants. I used to cut them off and make them into shorts. LOL Now, I buy at Sears. If he wears them out before he out grows them, they will take them back and exchange them for the same size pants. We just returned a pair. Simple and easy.
Jeans go with almost everything if the child will wear them. My son won't. My daughter will. If not jeans, pick one color for most of their clothes. Mine is black-almost everything goes with black. If your clothes are mostly within a color group, then matching will be easy.
My son doesn't seem to stop growing. He is 11 and 5 foot 5 inches. Most of his shirts still fit at the wasit but he says they are getting tight at the shoulders so he will be getting about 8-10 shirts when I get paid. His pants still fit around the waist but they are getting too short. I will be going to the outlet store withn a month or two and will buy his pants at the children's place outlet because I have a coupon for 20% off. Love coupons! Children's Place have good quality clothes that last.



answers from Fargo on

I've found that Children's Place has jeans that my son can actually wear for a year without wearing holes in them. They usually have really good deals on them before school starts. I usually make sure that each child has 6 pairs of jeans and a pair of dress pants to start the year. For shirts, I usually make sure to pick up 5 or 6 for the begining of the year and then buy a few more throughout the fall/winter. Typically, there are a few shirts from last year that are still "school worthy" that they can wear, too. Then each child gets new shoes. As for dresses, my dd always wore tights underneath. She also really loved skorts at that age.


answers from Allentown on

Hi, V.

Make a list of what you need.

Go shopping at the thrift stores in town and save yourself some
money buying good used clothing. You can replace any of the
clothing on an on-going basis without exhausting the pocketbook.

Good luck. D.



answers from Columbus on

I buy about 5 pairs of jeans for my daughter and about 10 shirts. Having that is like two weeks worth of outfits(making sure the jeans are washed over the weekend). I also get her a dress and maybe a shirt outfit. That pretty much lasts until Christmas when she'll get other outfits.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you live in PGH? If so, go to the Carter's website, and sign up for their email list. I got a coupon yesterday for 25% off of any purchase over $40, which means I'd save at least $10. They carry boys and girls to size 7, and always have stuff on a big sale or clearance. Their stuff is good quality, much better than most, and really lasts. My son has only managed to tear up the hem a small amount on the pants from there, and no knee blowouts at all. As long as they still fit length wise (he's skinny, but has super long legs) he'll still wear those pants this year.They have a store at the Waterfront in Homestead, which is super close to just about anywhere.

As for what to buy, I guess I never thought about only having a certain amount of pants/shirts. We don't have restrictions on what our kids can wear, so maybe that's why. Are the shirts to be only plain, or just no superhero/sports team type stuff? I know last year we got stuff that had writing on it (you know, Varisty Football, MVP, Bob's Surf Shop, that kind of hokey stuff) that will go with any type of pants that are put on. Also, try getting cargo style pants in khaki, or navy blue, or even camo. Camo will go with anything for boys under age 10!! And since boys tear through their clothes, it helps to have a handful more than the minimum.

For girls, I don't think it's super important to buy outfits instead of separate pieces. When I buy for neices, I buy clothes as an outfit, but I rarely buy things that only go with each other. For example, I may buy a cute little tunic with a matching pair of leggings, but the leggings will go with other stuff, and the tunic can be worn with other pants or jeans. I know I'm willing to pay a little more for something that can be worn with 2 or 3 other things rather than get one "outfit" for cheaper.

I saw Kohls suggested by someone else, and I'll second that. They have great clearance stuff, and if you have their store card (I know not everyone likes those, but some do) you get extra discounts at least once a month. I know this weekend in particular they are doing Kohls cash, $10 for every $50 you spend. So you could go there and get some big things done, like shoes and backpacks, get the coupon, then go back in 2 weeks when the coupon is in effect and pick up clothes from clearance or sale priced and save with the coupon.

Good luck! Hard to believe that school is coming up again so quickly!


answers from Williamsport on

I always buy just a couple of each TYPE of clothing item per season per child, maybe several Jeans and plain Hanes tees, but not too many. I cannot deal with mountains of clothes. I'd rather run a little express wash of clothes during the week, than have closets full of clothes, for example, I buy my daughter, 2-3 casual dresses, a few long sleeve shirts, a few short sleeve shirts, 2-3 pairs of jeans, 2-3 pairs warm tights, one pair of formal shoes, one pair of snow boots, one pair of rain boots, one pair of sandals, one coat, one son gets even less-a few shorts, a few jeans, and a bunch of plain tees. One coat one hoodie. One pair of each type of shoe. One set of hats and gloves for all. The cheaper the better.



answers from Minneapolis on

To help with the holes in the knees, when I buy jeans/pants, I iron on a patch on the inside of each pants leg over the knee. Helps them last longer :)

I still have 4 kids at home, ages 13, 13, 11, 9, three of which are boys. I usually only have 3-4 pairs of school pants on hand for each kid at any one time. Who knows when someone will have a growth spurt and grow of out clothes bought in Sept by Oct? I guess I don't see it as a big deal to wash clothes every day. When I worked outside the home, I threw a load in as soon as I walked in from work, threw it in the dryer after dinner, folded it before I went to bed, and put it away the next morning when I was getting the kids ready for school.

Usually this is the time of year that I go through all of my closets (actually did it last week). I figure out what fits who, what is in "school shape" and what is play, etc, etc. I get rid of everything that doesn't fit immediately so it isn't clogging up my closets. The stuff that is too big, goes in plastic totes by size and is labeled on the cover (like: boys clothes size 6/7) and put away for the next growth spurt. I don't like clothes hanging in the closets or dressers that don't fit. Each kid gets one brand new (right down to the socks and underwear) outfit for the first day of school. Then, I fill in the gaps for the start of school, if one kid needs one pair of pants, and another needs 3, so be it.

I also try to buy stuff "off-season." So, right now I am buying shorts and t-shirts for next year and last spring I put away a few sweaters, 1 jacket, and 2 prs of jeans for this fall. I mostly shop at Kohl's and they have great off-season clearance racks and have a good selection of non-character shirts (I am not fan of those either).

Good luck!



answers from Augusta on

go through their clothes first.
if they have enough clothes that are school worthy ( ie no holes, and follows school rules) for a week and a half to two weeks. Then go buy them a first day of school outfit and be done with it.
For "fall" I make sure the kids have shorts and a couple of pairs of jeans. For when the weather starts to cool off. Girls wear anything from dresses to shorts here. Makes sure it's not stuff you'd freak over if they got it dirty , or torn. Kids play hard at school. And short shorts to go under all dresses and skirts, alot of underpants can be seen at circle time.
When I go clothes shopping I try to get things that mix and match well.
Also I get them a new set of PE shoes every year , it's important for kids to have proper foot support.
Then when it starts to get cold go through their clothes again and start the process all over again .


answers from Dallas on

We don't do all of our buying before school starts.

Our daughter will buy a few things and then about 1-2 weeks after school starts, you get a feel for what kids are wearing and then she shops for what she likes. She is heading to 10th grade this year. Typically, it is cold in the classrooms so she dresses for comfort. She starts with a few pairs of jeans with 1 pair being the "hot" item and mix/matches a lot of tops. When she does wear a skirt, she still wears her cheer spandex under the dress. The cheer spandex are the little spandex boy shorts they wear under the uniforms.

In elementary where I teach (subbing) often, the little girls are asked to wear leggings or something under the dresses. Mainly for PE but it just helps.



answers from Charleston on

Not sure if this was mentioned but its yard sale season so start going on saturday mornings. My sister in law and I go almost every saturday morning and we outfit our kids for winter. Last saturday we got her girls (10 and 11) aeropostle jeans with tags still on them for $3 each and I got my 5YO daughter Gap jeans for $2 each with tags still on them. Got my son shirts for 50cents in like new condition too. We do this all summer and get ourselves clothes too. By the time school comes they have way too many clothes. I dug out my stash from all summer (I keep them in toats in my basement) last week to see what I still needed and my daughter has 24 pairs of jeans and I didnt pay over $2 for any of them. I also shop for Christmas I got my son a like new plastic basketball hoop looks like its never been played with for $5 and stuck it in my mother in laws basement.



answers from Nashville on

I suggest enough pants or shorts for a clean pair per day, knowing you will launder on the weekend. Hopefully the holes will start to be fewer as your son gets older, but I think it took a few years. Boys are so rough on their clothes! I'd have a dozen different shirts for school though, and try to keep them separate from playclothes. For your daughter - girls do wear some dresses, but I've found that they don't want anyone to see their panties - so have little shorts or leggings for underneath. My daughters stopped wearing skirts after kindergarten and would only wear skorts or shorts. Save the cute outfits for weekends.


answers from Philadelphia on

I don't know if they have them up there, I am down near philadelphia and we have goodwill stores, which I can usually find jeans for about $5 a pair, american eagle, hollister, etc.
Also, Plato's closet is one of my new found godsends....all brand name stuff, all in good shape, and all less than 50% what the stores charge.

My daughter prefers brand names, and I told her if we go to the thrift stores she can get the same stuff, only more of it. We have been getting her clothes there for a long long time, and noone has ever noticed or said anythig to her. Once a season I take her out to get Underwear, socks, bras, and a couple of outfits she wants from either hot topic or hollister (her two favorites). Other than that it is mostly used stuff we got real cheap!

Needless to say with cheap prices her closets (all 3) are completly full and she is always saying she doesnt have anything to wear, lol...Then I know it's time to clean out and restock.



answers from New York on

i buy at least 4 pairs of pants, one or two skirts, and then some plain tops.. maybe 4 and 2 with flowers on them for your daughter.. some new undies, some socks - pair of shoes and one pair of sneakers. Sears is a good place to look for good prices and Kohls. For your son, buy 4 pairs of jeans, one pair of tan pants or dark colored pants.. and few t shirts maybe 8... this is a good start .. it should get you thru until Jan. buy a sweat jacket or two for each.. so you can wash one while they use the other. Try also used clothing stores... sometimes you get so much .. and it's in such good condition. Shorts can be worn in Sept... Oct... good luck

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