{Style School} Back to School Shopping Simplified & Revisited

July 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Last year around this time I wrote this post on my old blog, Mom. Me. Three. It’s also the first post in my Style School series where I’ll talk about inexpensive ways to find kids clothes, and how to use fashion and personal style as a learning tool.

Back to school is a busy time for kids and parents. Everyone wants to go back to school looking and feeling their best. Whether you have one kid or four, like us, back to school shopping can add up.

In this edition of Style School, I’ll share some of my tips and tricks for stretching a wardrobe and your dollars. Class is in session!

Pick Pieces that Work Together & Style Them Up

Back to School

Much like I would do with my own wardrobe, I try to buy pieces that are flexible and that work together. Things like leggings can be worn both as pants and also with dresses, skirts and shorts. Belts, sweaters, scarves, and funky socks and shoes can be used to personalize an outfit.

The example I styled above from last year was about $133 retail and did not include the sales that were going on at the time which would have made it even cheaper.

From these pieces I can come up with at least seven ways a mini stylista could wear this stuff (that’s a week of cool duds!):

  1. Dress alone with sequins flats
  2. Dress with knee-high socks, sneakers & sweater
  3. Dress over green jeans, sneakers & hat
  4. Dress over jeggings, sweater & belt
  5. Dress under shirt, belt & sequins flats
  6. Polka-dot top, green jeans, sequins flats, belt & hat
  7. Polka-dot top, jeggings, tennis shoes, sweater
Purple Rock Star

If you’re too lazy to be your kid’s personal stylist, hate shopping, or don’t feel like you have a great sense of personal style some clothing lines make cheat sheets. While we may not want our kids to cheat in school, cheating in shopping is A-ok!

These sets are from the fashion forward and always cute Tea Collection. You can totally find similar looks for less on your own, but these are reasonable priced and damn cute. 

tea-collection-spring-2013

If I was going to get something from Tea Collection, I’d go for their Great Wall 5-Piece Set for $128, or their Branch Blossom 6-Piece Set for $148 which has an Asian-inspired feel to it.
Boys are always a lot easier to shop for. You just need a few pairs of pants and can add different tops or vests and ties to make them a little funkier, so I’m not going to go too into deal for styling boys here, but will save that for a future post.
Back to School Sales!

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I’ve been getting emails in my in-box from all the children’s stores (Justice, Crazy 8, The Children’s Place, etc.) and major retailers like Target. There are always back to school sales.

My advice is to wait and not jump of the first sale you see unless it’s something unreal. Usually they’re offered several times.
Something else to consider is that many of the larger stores (Target, Old Navy, Burlington Coat Factory, etc.) will give you a coupon during back to school shopping that can be used after school has started.
If you can, don’t do all your shopping at once, and then come back with your coupon. Plus, most of the stuff is reduced even further once the back to school shopping rush has died down!
{Insider Tip: The return trip coupons often do not cover uniform stuff so read them carefully. Boo!}
Be Thrifty

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Use your children’s consignment and thrift stores! There are amazing deals and steals to be found. Before you turn your nose up at the idea of clothes previous worn and say “eww!” realize that there are good deals to be had and you can also find new clothes that have never been worn.

This is especially true the smaller the sizes when kids are going really quickly.

Find Your Sample Sales & Stock Up Before the Season

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Many places, such as Gymboree and Crazy 8, have sample sales that are not publicized. Call your favorite retailers to find out when and where these sales are.

Having been to one before, I can say it’s a little like the Cornucopia in The Hunger Games with everyone dashing for deals, but it’s worth it to pay $200 for $3000 worth of clothing. (Yes, I’ve actually done this!)

Call your favorite local shops as well and see if they have sample sales. A local children’s boutique in my area was having a $5 Tea Collection sample sale. Sample sales are good.
{Insider Tip: Be sure to check your sample sale items for flaws. Because they are samples, some may have imperfections. Don’t get so caught up in the frenzy that you forget to look for quality.}
You can buy things for your wee in a size or two up and wait for them to grow into them. The key with that is picking simple basic pieces that will still be in style for the next year or so.
Make Uniforms Fun
Macaroni’s starting a new school this year but last year she went to a parochial school with a very strict dress code.
The girls were only allowed wear a navy polo or white blouse, grey dress or skirt (in limited pre-selected styles), and navy sweaters.
To make it even more of a snooze (and pain in the rear for me) her shoes have to be all black or all white.
Tights needed be gray, navy, white or black, and socks should be the same colors.
To make uniforms fun when there are strict requirements you can use textured tights, or stripes, or polka-dots, shoes with glitter or shine. Take belts in approved colors and wear them over cardigan sweaters, dresses, and blazers.

When Stari went to school with a uniform requirement it was a lot more flexible.

The kids just had to wear white tops with navy bottoms (or dresses), and any shoes you want. Whether there is a strict or loose uniform requirement kids can still look fly and, most importantly, express their personal style.

So, there you have it. The key points to back to school shopping: buy versatile pieces, shop sales, find sample sales and buy ahead & take time to make uniforms special. Do you have any back to school shopping tips to share?

Class dismissed!

{**Note: Some items pictured above may not be veg*n (though most are). For my own children, I would try to buy veg*n, however I’m just showing examples of how to put pieces together.**}

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