Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back to school already?

Girls knit headband, $10.50 (for two); long-sleeve ribbed T-shirt, $12.50; knit skort, $16.50; Mary Janes, $34.50 and tight-fit leggings, $12.50; Lands’ End,

A timeless favorite takes center stage this year for back to school fashion. It matches everything and is always a good investment. It’s a budget.

We’re not talking bargain basement cheap type of budget, but the kind that means examining your finances, taking stock of what your children have in their closet and shopping smart.

Once you set the number, make sure you stay committed to meeting it. "Bring your child into the conversation and they’ll really learn," says Michele Casper, director of public relations for Lands' End. "It’s not the sky is the limit this season. … The idea is that kids need to prioritize and parents need to prioritize."

Identify big ticket needs first. Shoes can backpacks can have the highest price tags, Casper says. Are those new sneakers absolutely necessary if it means there will only be enough left for a few shirts?

Involve your children in planning before you get to the store. "Really working together with your children will give them a great understanding," Casper says. "Children will know the value of money, and it helps parents avoid temper tantrums while shopping. When you’ve got a pre-established agreement, children comprehend it."

Pick a color scheme and stick to it. You don’t want your child to end up with a closet full of items that don’t match anything, Casper says. If your daughter likes pink, look for complementary colors in the same family, add in a few prints or stripes, and you’re building an interchangeable wardrobe.

Buy better, buy less. Pay attention to construction and mate-rials and buy the highest quality your budget will allow, says Carole French, owner of children’s boutique Magic Windows. The clothing will wear better longer. Classic silhouettes in natural fibers such as cotton stand the test of time in wear-and-tear and fashion, she says.

Think outside the box. Adding layers over or under clothing is the key to giving a ward-robe legs, Casper says. For early fall, when the weather is still warm in the Carolinas, you could pair a short-sleeve graphic T-shirt with jeans for your son. As the weather cools, put a long-sleeve T-shirt under, a printed woven shirt on top or add a hoodie sweatshirt.

Don’t discount used. Not everything needs to be replaced every year. If you’re looking to eek out a few years wear out of backpacks and lunch boxes, go for solid colors. Sew on character patches or embellishments to personalize. Consignment sales (usually held in the spring and fall) are excellent sources of gently used children's clothing at a fraction of the retail price.

What are your tips for back to school shopping?

Read more about tax-free shopping in the Carolinas in Thursday's Style section.


  1. Greenheart carries a variety of goods including recycled accessories and handbags, home goods, gourmet treats, cookbooks, glassware, jewelry, toys, personal care, organic cotton t-shirts and more. Greenheart believes consumers have the power to affect positive World change by supporting sustainable and fair business practices in their purchasing choices.

  2. Rachel, your tips are great and align really well with our philosophy at - Buy Right, Care Right, and Sell Right in order to outfit your kids for virtually free. I love to help parents make thoughtful purchases when dressing their children.

    Adding on to your ideas for buying used: I am co-founder of, which is a resale (buying and selling) site customized for designer kids clothes. We just launched July 29th, and I would love it if you would stop by and take look.

    Suzanne Rielle